Mercedes-Benz 190SL RoadsterW121 1955 - 1963 More
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  •   Quentin Willson reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    MONTH IN CARS / #Barn-Finds / #1960-Mercedes-Benz-190SL / #1960 / #Mercedes-Benz-190SL / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes / #Mercedes-Benz-W121 / #Mercedes-Benz-190SL / #Mercedes-Benz-190SL-W121 / #Mercedes-Benz / #1961-Mercedes-Benz-190SL / #Mercedes-Benz-SL / #Mercedes-Benz-SL-W121 / #Mercedes-Benz-190SL-Roadster-W121 / #Mercedes-Benz-190SL-Roadster-W121

    UK Merc – this time a 190 SL – joins in the auction action

    Mark Bryan of H&H’s Classic Motorcycle department was on a trip to Solihull to value some bikes when he was shown this – an unrestored 1960-Mercedes-Benz-190SL in an old lock-up garage.

    The car is an original #UK-registered , right-hand-drive example and appears substantially complete, if rather rotten and rough. Until recent months such a car would be expected to fetch no more than £20k-£25k but a startling result at CCA’s auction at the #NEC-Restoration-Show in March altered perceptions – a 190 SL barn-find estimated at less than £30k sold for £73,700 despite significant rust and a steering wheel on the left.

    The car here goes up for sale at H&H’s Duxford auction on July 26, estimated to sell at ‘up to £50k’ but offered with no reserve. The 190 SL has risen sharply in value but even this may not be enough to cover the high restoration costs that owners of 190 SLs find themselves facing.
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  •   Theo Ford-Sagers reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    1961 #Mercedes-Benz 190 SL Ads on test (Buying) Price UK £124,995

    A matching-numbers 190 SL that’s crying out for a long drive following its recent US restoration, reckons Mike Le Caplain.

    This 190 SL’s previous owner imported it from Morristown, New Jersey a couple of years ago. The vendor bought it in 2015 before having it inspected by the Mercedes-Benz Club UK last August. Cross-referencing it with the original build sheet proved that it is a matching numbers car with all of its original body panels, though whether the hardtop is also original to the car has yet to be established. There are hundreds of photos of the restoration work carried out in the US within the thick history file and the car has been resprayed in its original special order blue (paint code DB-317).

    The bodywork is in excellent condition with few paint blemishes. The chip and hook-shaped scratch in the offside rear wing are the most obvious, but it takes a sharp eye to spot the near-invisible touched-in stone chip inside the nearside front wheelarch and the small paint run in the forward edge of the nearside rear wing. All will be rectified before sale.

    Minor pickling to the nearside front hubcap aside, the chrome is perfect including – amazingly – the stone guards ahead of the rear wheels, but the nearside rear reflector is loose. Tyres are matching deep-treaded Vredestein Sprint Classics, including the new-looking spare in the boot. The black-painted exhaust also looks new. Door and bonnet seals have yet to bed in – the doors in particular need a good slam for them to latch properly.

    The dark blue hood looks in fine order and the immaculate half-toneau has the correct fixing poppers, but no retainers for them to attach to on the rear deck. This will also be addressed before sale.

    The engine bay contains what appear to be original ‘Made In Western Germany’ and VIN plates. The original twin Solex 44PHH carburettors were replaced by twin Webers during the car’s restoration and are fed via braided hoses. The radiator shows no evidence of leaks and the battery is a new Deka. There’s a shallow thumb print-sized ding in one of the exhaust manifolds but the oil is clean and to maximum and all pipes and wires look sound.

    The most obvious flaws in the stylish interior are a curious smattering of marks on the inside of the driver’s side windscreen and some scuffing to the driver’s door card below the window winder. Delightful original details include cool chrome-rimmed translucent sun visors, self-parking wipers and a working Becker Mexico AM/FM radio, but the clock doesn’t appear to work and the speedometer glass is a little cloudy.

    The SL starts instantly and settles to a muted idle with no ominous exhaust smoke. It splutters a little and doesn’t run entirely cleanly, possibly as a result of its lack of recent use, but the gears engage smoothly and quietly and the brakes pull the car up straight and true. It will be tuned, serviced and MoT’d before sale.

    The price is on the high side, but the car’s overall condition would seem to justify it.


    Prototype 190 SL debuts at the 1954 New York Auto Show. Production car appears in May 1955 on a shortened W121 180 saloon platform with new bonnet, bumpers, sidelights and radiator grille, and eyebrow trim over the rear wheelarches. Body options comprise a coupé with a detachable hardtop and a roadster with folding roof and optional hardtop. Engine is a 105bhp 1897cc M121 four-cylinder allied to a four-speed manual gearbox.

    Thicker cylinder head gasket (2mm compared to 1.5mm) fitted from April 1955. Pressed steel hardtop replaces aluminium original in February ‘1956 with a wider rear window from ’1959. Seat belt anchor points fitted from 1961. W113 Pagoda 230 SL replaces 190 SL in 1963.

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #1961 / #Mercedes-Benz-W121 / #Mercedes-Benz-190SL / #Mercedes-Benz-190SL-W121 / #Mercedes-Benz / #1961-Mercedes-Benz-190SL / #Mercedes-Benz-SL / #Mercedes-Benz-SL-W121 / #Mercedes-Benz-190SL-Roadster-W121 / #Mercedes-Benz-190SL-Roadster-W121

    Price £124,995
    Contact Total Headturners (, 01992 827157)
    Engine 1897cc, ohc, inline fourcylinder
    Power 105bhp @ 5700rpm
    Torque 105lb ft @ 3200rpm
    Performance Top speed: 112mph; 0-60mph 11.7sec
    Fuel consumption 25mpg
    Length 4290mm
    Width 1740mm
    Quote £505 comprehensive, 3000 miles per year, garaged call: 0333 323 1181

    190 has retained its special order paint and comes with a detachable hardtop.
    Interior condition is almost perfect.
    Weber carburettors replaced original Solexes during US restoration.
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  •   Adam Towler reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    Classic choice 190SL


    With a rare factory hardtop, this 190SL can be transformed from a traditional roadster into a headturning coupe, only adding to its appeal. Words Richard Truesdell. Images Richard Truesdell/Daimler AG.

    When #Mercedes-Benz unveiled the SLK I and SLK II concepts in 1994, it wasn’t lost on marque enthusiasts that the manufacturer was reviving an idea from its illustrious past, that of the smaller, more lightweight, grand touring cars that lacked the power and pace of the maker’s most expensive two seaters, but were less hard on the wallet and still had the good looks and elegance of their bigger siblings. When the production ready R170 SLK was introduced in 1996, complete with its clever vario-roof, it ushered in the modern era of more affordable sports cars and two seaters with retractable hardtops.

    Of course, Mercedes’ original compact roadster was the W121 190SL , which made its debut at the New York International Motor Sports Show in February 1954 alongside its 300SL Gullwing stablemate, from which its enviable looks derived. It was presented as a prototype and after further testing and refinement, the final production version premiered at the Geneva show in March 1955. Yet while the 190SL shares styling elements with the 300SL , structurally it has much more in common with the Ponton saloons.

    The 190SL ’s chassis is a shortened version of the Ponton’s, its more modest performance meaning the 300SL ’s tubular space frame chassis was not necessary. Instead of the 2,996cc, 212bhp/203lb ft torque six that the powers the 300SL , under the 190’s bonnet is a 1,897cc, four-cylinder unit developing 104bhp and 105lb ft torque. Paired with an all syncromesh, four-speed manual transmission using a floor mounted shifter, the oversquare unit’s pace was leisurely but adequate, giving a 0-62mph time of 14.5 seconds with a top speed in excess of 100mph. Its as delivered price in the US (New York) at its 1955 introduction was $3,998, the optional hardtop a $300 extra. The 190SL enjoyed a long production run until February 1963 with 25,881 units produced before it was replaced by the W113 230SL Pagoda. This figure includes the coupe version built alongside the roadster.


    All of this serves as background for this feature car, a #1959 / #1959-Mercedes-Benz-190SL owned by Nelson Jones of San Marino, California. After viewing this pretty, silver roadster at the 2012 San Marino Motor Classic, we pursued it because of its most distinctive feature: the rare, removable hardtop that has a wrap-around rear window. Looking closer, we noticed ‘190SL’ script adorning each side. In researching this feature we discovered that cars built before 1959 lacked the wrap-around glass. And all of the factory photographs, including one dated 1959, show the roof without the distinctive 190SL script found on this example. In fact, extensive research did not turn up a single 190SL with a removable roof featuring this 190SL script, which left us wondering if it was something added at some point in the car’s life, maybe during the roof ’s restoration.

    Nelson Jones and his wife Mimi are now retired, but in his working years, Jones was a developer of commercial retail properties and his automotive passions are eclectic. He owns several pre-war Packards, an exact duplicate of his first car which was a 1950 Chevrolet convertible, a fully restored, heavy duty Chevrolet truck from 1940, an original 1993 military Humvee and several tractors, but Jones is also drawn to cars bearing the three-pointed star. In addition to the 190SL featured here, he also owns a flawless 1956 300Sc Coupe, similar to friend Vin Di Bona’s (Mercedes Enthusiast February 2012) except that it lacks a sunroof. He certainly has a diverse collection!

    Jones acquired this 190SL after seeing it in the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center USA’s Pebble Beach display in 2009. After Pebble Beach, he visited Mercedes’ classic showroom in Irvine and began negotiations to buy the 190SL and at the same time asked if it would be possible to locate the rare matching hardtop. With its worldwide resources, the Classic Center was indeed able to source a hardtop, albeit one that was in need of total restoration.


    “I wanted a car that had a matching coloured hardtop,” begins Jones. “It’s my opinion that with the factory removable hardtop, the automobile does not look like a convertible but instead looks like a coupe from its inception, a very handsome thing to view, in my opinion. But, the car under consideration did not have a hardtop available. No problem, the Classic Center went out into the marketplace and acquired a hardtop for my future car. It was necessary to do a full restoration on the hardtop including new headlining. After some discussion with the staff at the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center, I acquired this automobile from them. The odometer reading was approximately 46,000 miles which is believed to be the original mileage.” And does he know anything about the origins of the script on the hardtop? “During the restoration process of the roof, in talking with the Classic Center they asked me if I wanted to retain the 190SL script on the hardtop,” he tells us. “As I liked the look, I asked them to attach the script using double-sided tape instead of permanently attaching the trim to the hardtop.”

    So while this 190SL’s rare hardtop was purchased for purely aesthetic reasons – and it looks very handsome and has great presence with its hardtop in place – it is wonderful to learn that this Mercedes-Benz wasn’t just bought to be looked at and polished. “I attempt to drive all of my automobiles on a monthly basis as it is my opinion that this procedure keeps them limbered up, which is very desirable,” Jones tells us. “While I have not yet taken the Mercedes on any extended trips, I don’t hesitate to drive perhaps 100 miles or so to a meet or show. I belong to the Mercedes-Benz Club of America, the International 190SL Group, Gull Wing Group International and the Classic Car Club of America.”

    When photographing the car at Jones’ ranch two hours north of Los Angeles where he stores his collection, we were struck by the fact that the car lacked carpets. He explained that the rubber floor mats in front of the seats were period correct, something that was verified by looking at factory photographs of the interior, as all the 190SLs pictured lacked carpet as well.


    With its modest performance compared to its bigger engined brother, the 300SL, the 190SL was always much more a grand touring car than an out and out sports car, something apparent in reading contemporary roadtests from both sides of the Atlantic. Yet 49 years after it went out of production, the 190SL still has that special appeal that made it the darling of enthusiasts when new. Its charm captivated many and famous 190SL owners included Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Sinatra, Sandra Dee, Tuesday Weld and Grace Kelly. And we can’t forget that singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow auctioned her personal 190SL last year at Pebble Beach for a charity that benefited tornado relief in Joplin, Missouri. It sold for a then record $143,000 (around £90,000), exceeding the pre auction estimate of $100,000, setting a new benchmark for 190SLs.

    Looking at this gorgeous, compact, classic roadster, it seems unfair that the 190SL has been in the shadow of its 300SL sibling for so long. With its neatly proportioned body that oozes 1950s glamour, cool and suave, any 190SL that has survived the ravages of time (and rust) will surely be a delightful motorcar to be enjoyed and cherished for decades to come. The enthusiastic owners of the many surviving 190SLs are very lucky indeed.

    This roadster has the rare, removable hardtop that features a wrap-around rear window.

    I don’t hesitate to drive perhaps 100 miles or so to a meet or show in my 190SL.

    JUST THE FACTS #Mercedes-Benz-190SL-Roadster-W121 / #Mercedes-Benz-190SL / #Mercedes-Benz-190SL-W121 / #Mercedes-Benz-W121 / #Mercedes-Benz-SL / #Mercedes-Benz-SL-W121 / #Mercedes-Benz-M121 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes /

    Engine #M121 1,897cc 4-cyl
    Power 104bhp @ 5,700rpm
    Torque 105lb ft @ 3,200rpm
    Transmission 4-speed manual, RWD
    Weight 1,140kg
    0-62mph 14.5sec
    Top speed 106-112mph
    Fuel consumption 32.8mpg
    Years produced 1955-1963


    Today this pretty, diminutive, classic SL is still as charming as ever Figures for a 1959 190SL as pictured; the weight quoted is without the hardtop fitted; fuel consumption determined at ¾ of top speed (not more than 110km/h, 68mph) plus 10 per cent.

    Removing the heavy top is a two-man job.
    Do Mercedes dials get any prettier than these?
    The SL’s two-valve, 104bhp M121 motor.
    The attractive, original radio remains.
    The origin of the roof’s script is unknown.
    Only from 1959 did hardtops have this elegant, curved glass.
    The sleek, low roof gives the 190SL a racy, seductive, coupe look.
    Mimi and Nelson Jones enjoy their SL.
    The cabin is in fantastic condition.
    The 190SL and 300SL debuted in New York in February 1954.
    A spare wheel and a decent sized boot come with this handsome, classic SL.
    The Mercedes-Benz Classic Center USA sourced and restored the rare hardtop.
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  •   Richard Truesdell reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    Richard Truesdell updated the cover photo of the group
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  • Richard Truesdell created this group

    Mercedes-Benz 190SL Roadster W121

    Mercedes-Benz 190SL RoadsterW121 1955 - 1963
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