The Overview

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 # 12104010018793 is presented today as the perfect combination of originality and correct refurbishment, as needed, while conforming to its original build specifications. Thanks to The Mercedes-Benz Classic Center we know that this example was delivered exactly as follows per its original Data Card which is included in the sale:


Engine number:                         121 921 10 018915

Transmission number:                01016

Front axle number, l:                 19031

Front axle number, r:                 19033

Rear axle number:                     011607

Steering box number:                19089

Exterior color code:                  050 – white

Interior color code:                   1079 – red leather

Soft-top color:                          872 – black

Hard-top color:                       050 – white


Exact early history is not entirely known, however we do know that the car was sold by its long time and possible first owner residing in Bethesda, Maryland to a Virginia based collector in August 1991; the mileage at this time was reported to be 81,357. During this ownership the car was treated to its first and only respray, which was completed to a very high level. The engine was also reported to be rebuilt at this time as well. Twenty-two years later the car found its way to its current custodian in 2013; a Philadelphia based collector and enthusiast. Upon his acquisition the car showed 90,958 miles, which is believed to be the original mileage. Seldom used over the years, the current owner engaged the services of Bob Platz’s Precision Motor Works to bring the car to a top level. Mr. Platz, a well-known 300SL/190SL expert, put the car in proper order with paid receipts totaling over $30,000. The scope of work included a total re-commissioning of the mechanicals, show detailing of the engine bay/undercarriage and any other refinishing that was needed. Anything showing age or warranted replacing was completed with appropriate attention to detail and correctness as per Mercedes Benz factory standards.


Today, the car presents beautifully in White exterior color and contrasting Red interior as originally manufactured. The paint is consistent throughout in both texture and sheen and no obvious flaws are noted; this 190SL is easily show worthy and has all of the hallmarks of an excellent original example. The panel fitment is factory correct with excellent door gaps and hood/trunk fitment, straight down the sides, the metal is thin and true, and there are no signs of rust repair or accident damage. The contouring of the fenders where they meet trim pieces is precise and snug; a quality that is often only found in original cars or expert restorations. The bright work is completely original to the car and in some areas could warrant minor refinishing to achieve concours perfection. The metal shines well but does show some signs of aging around the windshield and the front bumper. The rubber however was recently replaced including the windshield surround, door rubber, hardtop seals and elsewhere as needed. The glass is also original to the car and is the correct “SEKURIT” type. Everything about the cosmetics qualifies it as a superb, very high-end driver at the very least and a show contender at the very best; exhibiting the appropriate qualities of an excellent unrestored but properly updated example.


The interior exhibits clean door jams and sills and the seats are perhaps the most interesting aspect that support the car’s originality. While the interior appears to have minor refinishing at some point, it was done with true correctness in execution. The interior includes the proper square weave carpeting, and the dash fascia, dash top, door cards, and all chrome accents, knobs, pulls and switches are all present and in excellent condition. Any and all gauges or accessories are in proper working order without fault. In summary, the interior is both correct and of very high quality that could be considered show quality. Small hints of originality constantly remind one of how good this car has always been. The originality is further enhanced by the factory chalk marks showing the body number still present on the driver and passenger seat frames. The black soft top is in excellent condition and of the correct German canvas. The matching white factory hardtop is in excellent condition and still retains its original factory headliner.


The engine bay on a 190SL is the number one place to gauge the level of care these cars have received as well as the point where a 190SL’s correctness can be defined. This example truly excels in presenting as extremely correct and original. The car is currently fitted with Weber carburetors, however should a new owner want to show the car, the original Solex carburetors are included in the sale. Additionally, the last three digits of the body number, “181” can be noted as matching on the hood. The engine bay shows the correctly cad plated items where originally installed, all the correct clamps and hose routing, and factory correct finishes throughout. Everything is colored coded where required and presents as factory correct, and could easily be judged at any 190SL group event with confidence.


The trunk is of the same caliber, nicely finished with no issues noted. Original trunk floor and spare wheel well shows nicely as original but refinished. The same consistency is carried to the undercarriage where original floors can be noted as well as the structurally sound chassis. Many 190SLs suffered from rust intrusion making an original metal car like this 190SL difficult and challenging to find.


Power from this example is considerably better with the Weber carburetor conversion and it delivers plentiful revs instantly with no inconsistency. The hydraulic systems are in good order, the suspension is free from any noise and plush and firm as it should be. The car brakes and stops correctly, and the shift lever, fitted with new bushings, is pleasingly firm and precise. Overall, a very pleasing and complete mechanical package with a dialed in feel that is definitely turnkey.


Perfection in today’s 190SL market can easily mean spending well over $200,000 in restoration costs if one opts to properly restore an average 190SL. Finding a quality example that genuinely looks and drives beautifully with all of the hallmarks of an original is difficult to locate. While not a true concours car, this 190SL is an excellent example of the marque and represents a wise acquisition for an astute purchaser. Presented in its original and handsome colors, with all work performed by marque specialists, it is a car to be driven, enjoyed, and perhaps shown. Complete with original books, data card, spare, jack and two tops this 190SL is sure to please its next caretaker.


Available Documentation: (Click on the links below to view the file)