PKW4091 Type 190 SL (W 121), 1955 - 1963

Type 190 SL (W 121), 1955 - 1963

In a way that resembled the construction of the 300 SL model, which had been put together from existing structural components, another sports-type car was developed on the basis of the 180 model. In contrast to the famous wing-door coupé, the roadster 190 SL was not designed to be a true sports car, but an elegant and sporty two-seated GT car. The body, designed by Karl Wilfert and Walter Häcker had stylistically been derived from that of its older brother. The shortened framework of the 180 model served as chassis; a sophisticated space frame like that of the 300 SL was not required, because of its less extreme driving performance. The single joint cross shaft axle of the 220 a model ensured a high standard of driving safety, a fact that met with much praise among the press and motoring public. Front axle suspension including the sub-frame concept had been taken over from the 180 / 180 D Types. The 190 SL was powered by a new 1.9-liter four-cylinder unit with overhead camshaft which spawned a whole engine family and was also incorporated in derated form into the pontoon-type saloon 190. As in the saloons 180 D - 220 a, the engine rested on the sub-frame only at its front; from January 1956, however, a modified sub-frame was used, which featured two additional supports for the engine and, in slightly modified form, was also built into the new Types 190 und 220 S.

The 190 SL was presented to the public eye together with the 300 SL at the "International Motor Sports Show", which took place in February 1954 in New York. While the 300 SL was almost ready for serial production, the 190 SL model was still a prototype, which had neither been tested technically, nor was it stylistically refined to an adequate level. Both aspects had been carefully revised, so that serial production did not start until January 1995 (preseries) and May 1995 (main series) respectively. The final version was presented at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1955 for the first time with marked changes to its exterior: The most significant change was that the model now came without the stylised air inlet device on the bonnet. There were lancets above the rear wheel arches as well as modified bumpers and indicators or reflector lights.

The 190 SL came in trhee different version: as roadster with a hood, but without a hardtop, as a coupé with removable hardtop, optionally with or without a hood. Another version, which was presented in the first brochures, a 190 SL with more pronounced sports-car characteristics with light-metal sports-car doors and a small plexiglass wind screen was no longer advertised after spring 1956. A car with the sports-type accessories mentioned above, would have been rated as a serial sports car in competitions and would have had absolutely no chance. Because of the decision of FIA that a Gran Turismo, too, had to have a roof which could be closed completely, a condition, which the revised version of the SL clearly would not have fulfilled, a rating as a GT-car was out of the question.

Of the numerous improvements in detail, which were untertaken on the 190 SL during its time of production, some can be clearly distinguished from outside: In March 1956 broad chrome trims were fixed to the upper door rim and in June of the same year the 190 SL was fitted with the bigger taillights of the 220 a, 219 and 220 S models. In July 1957, illumination of the rear number plates was transferred to the bumper guards, so that the new broader number plates could be mounted easily. Thus the rear bumper guards, which before had been serially fitted on the US-models only, now became part of the basic equipment but were at the front bumpers still only available at an extra cost. From October 1959 the coupés were equipped with a new hardtop with enlarged rear window, guaranteeing much better vision. Last but not least, the boot lid lock was changed in 1960; at the same time, the bow-type handle was replaced by a recessed door handle, which was also attached to the 180 Db - 190 b models.

Production numbers demonstrate, how successful the 190 SL really was in its time: Between May 1955 and February 1963, as much as 25,881 cars were built in Sindelfingen, the majority of which were destined for the US market.


  • 89789
    Mercedes-Benz 190 SL Roadster mit Coupédach mit vergrößertem Heckfenster aus dem Jahre 1959
    Mercedes-Benz 190 SL
  • 89792
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster mit Coupédach aus dem Jahre 1959 (vergrößertes Heckfenster)
    MB Baureihe W 121
  • 96700
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster aus dem Jahre 1955
    MB Baureihe W 121
  • 96706
    Armaturen des Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster. Ausführung ab 1958.
    W 121
  • B89F159
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster, 1955
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster
  • B89F160
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster, 1955
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster, 1955
  • B89F161
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster, 1955
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster
  • 2001DIG25
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL der Baureihe W 121.
    Mille Miglia 2001
  • 1998DIG24
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL, 1959-60 (Coupédach mit vergrößertem Heckfenster; Kofferraumdeckel mit Bügelgriff)
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Coupé
  • 2003DIG7
    Mercedes-Benz 190 SL (W 121), Lötschberg (Switzerland) in 1955.
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL (W 121)
  • 2003DIG771
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL, 1955-63; Zeichnung aus dem Prospektblatt von 1956.
    Typ 190 SL
  • 2005DIG775
    Douglas Steane mit einerm Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster an der Mercedes-Benz-Vertretung in Hongkong. Douglas Steane gewinnt das Rennen im Großen Preis von Macao, November 1956.
    MB-Vertretung in Hongkong
  • SI55687
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Coupé, 1955 - 1963.
    190 SL Coupé
  • 1998DIG23
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL, 1955-63; Zeichnung aus dem Prospektblatt von 1956
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster
  • 83F57
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL-Roadster
    MB Typ 190 SL-Roadster
  • 83F58
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL-Roadster
    MB Typ 190 SL-Roadster
  • 83F59
    Contemporary advertising photo of the 1950s depicting the 190 SL on the German holiday island Sylt in the morning sun. The 190 SL quickly finds its status- and design-conscious public as an elegant and reliable dream car that remains financially affordable.
    190 SL roadster
  • 83F60
    Mercedes-Benz 190 SL Roadster (W 121). Contemporary advertising photo of the 1950s depicting the 190 SL on the German holiday island Sylt in the morning sun.
    Mercedes-Benz 190 SL Roadster (W 121)
  • 83F61
    Mercedes-Benz Type 190 SL roadster, series 121
    Mercedes-Benz Type 190 SL roadster, series 121
  • 83F62
    Mercedes-Benz type 190 SL roadster, series 121.
    190 SL roadster
  • 83F96
    Mercedes-Benz type 190 SL roadster, series 121.
    190 SL roadster
  • 83F118
    Mercedes-Benz SL-Sportwagentypen von 1954 bis 1985
Von links, Mercedes-Benz 190 SL-Roadster der Baureihe W 121, Pagoden-SL der Baureihe W 113, SL-Roadster der Baureihe W 107, 300 SL-Roadster und  300 SL-Coupé der Baureihe W 198
    Mercedes-Benz SL-Sportwagentypen von 1954 bis 1985
  • B44439
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster, 1955 bis 1963
    MB Baureihe W 121
  • SI56287
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL, 1955-63; das dreitausendste Fahrzeug lief im März 1956 vom Band.
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Coupé
  • 61216
    Prototype of the 190 SL, which was shown in 1954 in New York. The unique characteristics of the prototype are recognisable, such as the engine bonnet down to the radiator grille with the small air scoop, differing radiator grille proportions and sleekly shaped rear wings without the characteristic fins. By the start of production in 1955, Walter Häcker reworks these details of the 190 SL's shape.
    Typ 190 SL Roadster
  • 61243
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster (Vorserienmodell) aus dem Jahre 1954.
    Typ 190 SL Roadster
  • 62043
    6 - 14 February 1954. International Motor Sports Show in New York. Presentation of Mercedes-Benz 190 SL and 300 SL sports car models.
    International Motor Sports Show in New York
  • 66364
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster aus dem Jahre 1955 (Einstieg, Türausstattung und Armaturen)
    W 121
  • 68543
    The Mercedes-Benz 190 SL in the basic version is initially available only as a roadster. The jacking points on the sides are not even covered yet.
    Mercedes-Benz 190 SL
  • 68893
    Mercedes-Benz 190 SL Roadster with coupé roof from 1955
    MB Baureihe W 121
  • 68894
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster mit Coupédach aus dem Jahre 1955
    MB Baureihe W 121
  • 68896
    Mercedes-Benz 190 SL Roadster with coupé roof from 1955
    MB Baureihe W 121
  • 73820
    Mercedes-Benz 190 SL Roadster
Baureihe W 121, 1955 - 1963
Zeichnung, Coupé gestrichelt
    Mercedes-Benz 190 SL
  • 75368
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL, 1955-1963
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL
  • 75369
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL, 1956-1957 (Ausführung mit großen Rückleuchten; Kennzeichenleuchten auf dem Heckabschlußblech)
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL
  • 78704
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster mit Coupédach aus dem Jahre 1955
    MB Baureihe W 121
  • 80889
    Werk Sindelfingen, Typ 300 SL-Linie, 1958.
    Werk Sindelfingen
  • 80893
    The final assembly line of the 190 SL at the Sindelfingen plant. A lot of manual work characterises the production process – and women are also equally involved in the production of this woman's car.
    Werk Sindelfingen
  • 82558
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster mit Coupédach aus dem Jahre 1958
    MB Baureihe W 121
  • 82559
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 190 SL Roadster mit Coupédach aus dem Jahre 1958
    MB Baureihe W 121
Loading