Written by Eric Becker
Developed as a luxury grand tourer, the 1959 Mercedes-Benz 190SL – a prime example of which will be offered with No Reserve at the upcoming Barrett-Jackson Fall Auction – was entirely different from what was cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway at the time. By the late ’50s, the European model of luxury was beginning to take hold. The designs appeared sleeker, more athletic, less flashy. And in the postwar years there was a modicum of fascination with European luxury goods as the ultimate statement of understated class.
Unveiled at the 1954 New York Auto Show, the first 190SL prototype broke from tradition. The decision to debut the car first in the United States, instead of Germany, was unheard of prior to the 190SL’s reveal. Here was a car that brought the styling of a Le Mans racer to the streets of Greenwich Village. The 190SL presented an attractive and more affordable alternative to its hard-edged racing sibling – while still being an undoubtedly exotic automobile.
The 190SL didn’t opt for the 300SL’s cutting-edge tubular spaceframe. Instead, the engineers went with the highly reworked underpinnings of the Mercedes-Benz W180 “Ponton” sedan. Chopped 10 inches, the chassis – internally known as W121 – would share much of the “Gullwing’s” suspension componentry. Both models would utilize a fully independent suspension with double wishbones at the front.
The 190SL would even surpass the 300SL, using an all-new rear suspension design. In German the new rear suspension was known as the extremely Teutonic-sounding “Eingelenkpendelachse,” simply meaning a single-pivot rear suspension.
The powertrain, too, was similar to that of the 300SL, although the direct-injected inline-6 lost two cylinders and added twin 2-barrel side-draft carburetors. The 1.9-liter M121 inline-4 engine in the 190SL had an iron block with an aluminum head and chain-driven single overhead camshaft. In true Grand Touring fashion, power was sent to the rear wheels via a 4-speed synchromesh manual transmission.
Presented in a beautiful “eggshell” or off-white exterior, this 1959 Mercedes-Benz 190SL features an immaculate red leather interior lining the cabin and a black canvas top for when an open-air drive encounters chance precipitation. The stunning exterior features color-matched hubcaps with trim rings clad in whitewall tires. The front bumper is adorned with period amber HELLA Type 145 fog lamps. The cabin features the original in-dash clock and the driver gazes upon a set of VDO gauges. Additionally, the cabin offered both driver and passenger separate heater controls – an innovation at the time – and the turn signals are operated by the inner horn ring on the steering wheel.
This 190SL is ready to take on the scenic roads of America when it crosses the block with No Reserve at the 2020 Barrett-Jackson Fall Auction, October 22-24 at WestWorld of Scottsdale.
For up-to-date information on this vehicle, click HERE. For a look at all the vehicles on the 2020 Fall Auction Preview Docket (with more being added daily), click HERE. To register to bid, click HERE.