The Mercedes Benz 190SL was introduced in 1954 at the New York Motor Show as a less expensive, more practical, and smaller version of the illustrious Mercedes Benz 300SL. Not lacking in any of its big brother’s technical refinements, the 190SL offered plenty of capability and race-bred technology to those enthusiasts considering a sporting roadster. From its initial production in 1955 through its replacement with the 230SL in 1963, nearly 26,000 would be produced with only a fraction in existence today. The 190SL was also the start of the “options list” for Mercedes-Benz. Never before could a car be tailored like a fine, custom suit the way a 190SL could have been. Everything from elaborate color schemes, tops, accessories, seats, and even a very rare sports-racing option was available. This nimble two-seat roadster with its iconic, forward styling was the first Mercedes-Benz convertible to truly resonate with the U.S. market and started a full-fledged frenzy, one that has yet to end 58 years later.
The example on offer here, Chassis # 12104010019556 is presented today as a totally restored example recently completed by 190SL Specialist, Bruce Adams. Thanks to The Mercedes-Benz Classic Center we know that this example was delivered exactly as follows per its original Data Card:
Chassis number: 121 040 10 019556
Engine number: 121 921 10 019690
Transmission number: 19785
Front axle number, l: 19815
Front axle number, r: 19827
Rear axle number: 12429
Steering box number: 19865
Ignition key code: W 4614
Trunk/glove key code: SR 159
Door/tank key code: TB 097
Exterior color code: 40 – black body / 158 – white grey hardtop
Interior color code: 1079 – red leather
Soft-top color: 872 – black
55 128 soft-top for coupe supplied loose
10 009 – 121 sealed beam headlamps
55 087 side view mirror, left
55 031 bumper guards
55 096 Becker Europa radio, with antenna
10 142 white wall tires
Known history beyond this example’s production details begins in 1985 with a Mr. Rosales who owned the car for some years before embarking on a total restoration in preparation for the 1986 190SL Group Nationals which the car placed 2nd. As this was not a good enough result, the car was sent to Bob Platz of Precision Auto Works in Camden, NJ to complete restoration as needed in order to be a concours winner. In 1987, Mr. Rosales proudly achieved 1st place at the 190SL Group convention; a testament to both hard work and a properly restored 190SL. Shortly thereafter Rosales became the 190SL Group President, and again took another best of show award at the 1990 190SL Group nationals and yet again in 1993 as well. After racking up 3 Best of Show awards at 190SL National Conventions this example went on to win a variety of Best in Class awards as well as Best in Show awards at a variety of events, including an AACA Senior award. No doubt an impressive run that has solidified this cars pedigree as a winner. Around 1995 the car traded to its next caretaker who owned it briefly before it passed through 2 more collectors before eventually making its way to a Mr. Lehman of Boca Raton, FL via Alex Dearborn in 2004.
From Mr. Lehman’s ownership, receipts are present in excess of $110,000 for restoration work completed with GK Restorations Inc. of Tallahassee, FL covering just about every aspect of the car. By 2007 the car was with famed 190SL restorer Bruce Adams and further finish work was competed and the car was kept with Bruce Adams in storage after completion. Under Bruce’s care the car traded hands again and upon the new owners acquisition, it was decided that further perfection was desired to bring this 190SL to an even higher level. Bruce Adams was contracted to complete a total nut-and-bolt restoration to factory correct standards, but with minor upgrades that appealed to the current owners tastes for both usability and show worthiness (restoration records present and available for review). It was decided that the car would be finished in DB172 Anthracite Grey over Gray Leather. Performance upgrades included a port and polished head, Club Starter, Club Spin On Oil Filter, Club Alternator, Club Racing Sway Bar, Radial Tires, Modern Seat Belts, and a 123 Distributor with programmable ignition. All tastefully integrated without detracting from appearance or the overall value, as they are easily removable for originals, though these upgrades ultimately make for a much more enjoyable 190SL experience. Accessories and options that should be noted on this 190SL include a Becker Radio & Tube Amplifier, 7-day Kienzle Wind Up Clock, Kinder Seat, correct large window hardtop (with stand), 3-Piece Color Matched hard luggage set, and of course a set of original books/documentation as delivered new with matching toolkit, Jack, and spare. All in all, a comprehensive finished product from the workshops of Bruce Adams and a very complete 190SL that stands to impress at any concours.
The cars condition today is exemplary of a concours condition car and a number one condition example overall. Just before it’s consignment with LBI Limited, the car placed at the 2015 190SL Group conventions national meet, achieving 98/100 points (judging sheets available). Cosmetically, the car shows incredibly well with perfection as the baseline to judge this car, one needs to nitpick. If nitpicking is to be done the following items can be found under intense inspection. There is but one faint crack in the paint near the ignition key, and the driver’s side outside mirror. Otherwise the car is laser straight down the sides with excellent gaps and panel fitment throughout. The chrome is spectacular with no items skipped and the rubber, fitment, and glass matching in quality and consistency with absolutely no attention required. The entirety of the window felts, small rubber items, escutcheons and specific trim items related to this car are all present and restored to the same high standard as the rest of the car. The paint is deep and is a fantastic original Mercedes-Benz color that while not original to this specific car is a superb choice which complements the 190SL body lines. The hardtop matches overall but as is common with hardtops, it has never been mounted on the car and remains a restored accessory. The top is new and the correct German canvas type and fits well to the properly restored bows with only one or two slight wrinkles on the rear ¼’s that could stand adjustment if deemed necessary.
The easy and solid opening of the door reveals equal consistency and little contrast to the exterior as the interior is of the same quality with an understated but stylish Gray leather interior. Again, another period color, and while not the original, it works well with the exterior colors and presents wonderfully. The seats are correctly covered with proper pleats in the right places. The trim throughout is nicely tended to and the floors finished off with proper rubber mats (instead of the commonly incorrect carpet) with the period optional coco mats overtop. The doors, kick panels, rear carpeting and dash are all-free of blemishes and are superbly finished to match the rest of the car. All of the handles, pulls, knobs and accessories have been restored or addressed in some fashion. Additionally, they are all in working ordering with nothing out of place or not working. The only place that is perhaps of contrast is under the dash, which structurally remains unrestored and original still retaining original insulation and other such items; testament to this cars good previous original state.
The engine bay on a 190SL is always the number one place to instantly identify the quality of the example on offer, but also the amount of attention paid to correctness and authenticity. For us, we are always very fond of and attentive to items of correctness no matter how minute. The engine bay of this example is a work of art in many respects. While anyone can buy a sticker kit and make things look correct, this engine bay has had the attention that dials it in as extremely correct. All of the coatings from the proper medium flat black to the gold and silver cadmium plating is all in the right spots; hints of other colors are where they should be, textures correct, even the wiring was laid with concern to its routing per correct standards. Additionally, the battery itself was addressed to have a period look. It is the little things that add up and qualify this example as truly show worthy.
Much like the engine bay, the trunk, a place seldom reviewed, is still completed to a high standard in matching the rest of the restoration. Again, finished in the correct version of medium flat black and spot welds visible throughout with proper mats on the trunk floor as well. Inspecting the panels from the inside, it is apparent that the car has never been hit and all is straight and sound as it should be. The underside, a place seldom seen, continues the trend of thoroughness. Once on a lift the first item noted is the color of the underside. This “coffee brown” color is indeed the correct factory color that these cars were given, perhaps not as perfect, shiny or consistent as this example, but they were this color none the less and received this near the end of the production process. Seldom seen but on completely original examples or correctly restored examples, it is a testament to the research completed and the mark of a true 190SL expert. Moving throughout the underside, various colored paint/torque marks exist on nuts-and-bolts and the correct flat black is again applied where it is supposed to be. The floors are straight and if replaced were done properly and show nicely. The exhaust system is new as are many other components. Inspecting the wheels reveals an interesting sort of army green color applied to the wheel backs. Research indicates that 190SL’s indeed received this color on the backs of the wheels during the production process as a protective finish, but green was used specifically as it was in abundant supply after WWII and became an inexpensive color to be used. Otherwise, clean, tidy, restored, correct and everything one seeks on the underside of a properly restored 190SL.
Cosmetics and presentation is what commonly wins shows, but it’s the true mechanical condition and ability that rounds out the cars overall value and usability. In short, just as much was invested in the mechanical aspects of this example as was invested in the cosmetics. The turning of the key starts the car instantly with smooth and strong running, very quick throttle response and plenty of power (as much as a 190 can have) available. The steering and suspension is firm and feeling new with strong brakes and handling. All in all, excellent road manors and a car that feels like it has only had the attention of experts.
190SL’s are technically not rare with nearly 25,000 produced from 1955-1963. They are available in many colors and conditions. Only a few tend to stick out however, the low mileage original paint examples in perfect preserved condition, or, perfectly restored examples that exude quality craftsmanship. The word “perfect” is the part to pay attention to because it is only this category that demands true investment potential and value. This example is nothing short of spectacular. Known enthusiast history coupled with an expert restoration has attributed to a well-optioned 190SL in stunning colors complete right down to the luggage. A wonderful opportunity for any collector looking to round out their collection with a 300SL little brother, a must have, and a worthwhile pursuit of true enjoyment.
Available Documentation: (Click on the links below to view the file)