Mercedes SL 190

A story of success

The 190 SL model was a symbol of the economic boom and a requisite in numerous German movies in the 50’s and 60’s. Drive topless as a Roadster, representative as a coupe – its diversity, its sporty touch, the easy handling and the in comparison to other touring sports cars undemanding serial production turned the 190 SL model into a complete success. This was reflected by a total of 25.881 sold vehicles.

In 1954 the 190 SL prototype was introduced at the “International Motor Sports Show” for the first time. The vehicle was met with great enthusiasm by visitors as well as the specialized press. In 1953 the U.S. importer Hoffmann suggested the Daimler Benz management to introduce two different sports cars instead of the more conservative kept Mercedes models by then to increase U.S. business. As a result of his thoughts the 300 SL model as well as the 190 SL model were put into production line.

While in 1954 the 300 SL model was fully developed soon and could be produced, the New Yorker 190 SL model design had undergone a couple of changes by Walther Haecker and Hermann Ahrens. The 190 SL model design and performance should move closer towards the 300 SL model designed by Friedrich Geiger.

For this purpose the air scoop on the hood top of the vehicle was removed and the flashing lights, radiator grill, bumper, back mudguard and dashboard were retouched. The front mask, bumper bars, headlight and parts of the hood as well as tail lights and chassis components of the Ponton models were adopted. Corresponding to the time spirit the 190 SL model had been generously chromed and had been provided with bumper horns in the United States production line.

The new 190 SL model design was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 1955. In June 1955 the 190 SL production line had been started in Sindelfingen. The same place where the 300 SL model had been in production.

In early brochures the 190 SL had been offered as a sports car thinking to use it at hill climbs and rallies. However with a weight of 1180 kg (with hard top part 1200 kg) the vehicle was too heavy. To increase the driving performance the weight of the vehicle had to be reduced. For this purpose bumpers and top could be removed, the windshield and doors could be replaced by a Plexiglas shield and light metal doors without windows.

The result was a sports Roadster. However only 17 models had been sold and production had been discontinued in 1956. The majority of the 190 SL models had been Roadsters. There were a total three vehicle versions that were introduced as touring and sports cars by Daimler Benz:

  • May 1955: Roadster with folding roof
  • December 1955: Coupe with hardtop part, (without folding roof)
  • Coupe with folding roof and hardtop part

The 190 SL had been a model in the upper price category. Back then its price was comparable to be half of the price of an one-family house. It was also a car that was likely to put into one’s collection. Numerous celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Alfred Hitchcock and Grace Kelly were buyers, too.

One buyer that mainly became well known after her violent death was the prostitute Rosemarie Nitribitt from Frankfurt. She was murdered in the age of 24 in 1957. The causes of her death could not be found. To her clients should have belonged well known politicians and personalities from the economics. However they could never be identified. There were rumors of a high cash amount and sexual motivated intrigues because of her death that covered tabloids for months. Her story was filmed in 1958. The movie “Das Mädchen Rosemarie“ was a blockbuster movie that was focused on the double standards of the upper class.

Since she owned a black 190 SL in her lifetime it got a rather sad popularity under the name “Nitribitt SL” and Daimler Benz suffered a fall in sales – supposedly due to disreputable image.

The 190 SL and 300 SL models are the most common Mercedes Benz models that have been reconstructed worldwide. A couple of these reconstructions asserted itself successfully like the ones from Scheib and Gullwing.

The Mercedes Benz 190 SL is a perfect example of a high quality vintage car. It counts to the most wanted classic cars in the vintage car market, with a price rising sharply. There is an estimated existence of about 2000 vehicles worldwide and the search for original models in good conditions is not an easy part. Lovers that are looking for Mercedes Benz spare parts will find a full range of products from the technology through to the chassis, the engine, the breaks and down to the interior in the Niemoeller online shop.