This one, as they say in real estate, had "great bones" and just a little mechanical sorting over the winter should make it a nice summer cruiser

The 190SL was born from the rich tradition of excellence and distinction so firmly adhered to by Mercedes-Benz. After the success of the powerful 300SL series, Mercedes executives and designers decided it would be advantageous to introduce a smaller, lower-priced example. The 300SL's "little brother" made an impact on the motoring world, selling over 25,000 units by the final days of its eight-year production run.

The 190SL gained quite a following-it is rumored that it was the favorite car of the alluring Grace Kelly. In effect, the 190SL was far more practical than its more severe alternative, and was better designed to suit the everyday driver and enthusiast. It was as impressive to the eye as the 300 series and still offered adequate performance.

The car came in two versions, the soft-top convertible and a removable hardtop version. Under the hood was an inline four-cylinder engine with a chain-driven overhead camshaft and two side-draft carburetors. All of this helped deliver a sufficient 105 horsepower to propel the monocoque-chassis 190SL to ample driving speeds.

The 190SL Roadster pictured here, with a known history from new, is strikingly presented with solid black paint offset by excellent chrome and whitewall tires. The panelwork is exemplary and the soft top fits well. Underneath, the car is clean and rust free. The interior is equally smart with black leather upholstery, dash surround and trim throughout.

The car has its original steering wheel and also has a period Becker Europa radio fitted. The indicated mileage shows just over 60,000. Altogether this appears to be a highly impressive example of the marque.

SCM Analysis


This 1963 190SL Roadster sold for $41,125, including buyer’s commission, at the Christie’s Pebble Beach Auction on August 17, 2003.

It’s hard for me to be a big fan of 190SLs, as I find them to be generally over-carbureted and buzzy machines that are often rusted beyond reasonable repair due to their unit-body construction.

Though the auction catalog makes the audacious claim that 190SLs were in some ways better than their “big brothers,” no one is going to mistake one for a 300SL, a car that brings seven times the money. Indeed, the 300SL is an entirely different car, one that shares about as well as most older brothers do with their younger siblings. In other words, it offers the 190 only its outward appearance.

Because of their relatively low value, many 190SLs are improperly repaired and heavily undercoated. To be fair, the build quality of these cars was first rate, as were all Mercedes of the period. But that’s part of the problem of finding a good one now-they are expensive to restore correctly so most “restorations” are amateur at best.

190SLs were equipped with two side-draft Solex 44 PHH carbs. These are simply too much for the car at slower speeds, so low-end torque suffers. The accompanying “monkey cluster” throttle linkage is a bear to adjust properly and keep in tune, leading many owners to switch over to Webers, which provide little more power, but are easier to tune properly.

The best-running 190SL I’ve ever driven had a single downdraft carburetor and manifold from a Mercedes 190b installed, which made the car much more responsive around town.

All that said, I had the opportunity to go over this particular example quite thoroughly at the auction preview, and it is one of the finest I’ve seen. As with 356 Porsches, you start looking at 190SLs by lying on the ground to check out the floor pan and trailing arm mounts. This car was solid as can be, with not a hint of rust or accident damage. The fuel and brake lines were in excellent condition, and-surprise, surprise-no undercoat at all, a rarity.

Checking the trunk revealed the same virginal condition under the rubber mat. A fingernail tap test showed no filler on the body, and the door, hood, and trunk gaps were perfect. The paint and chrome were both very good. The interior was excellent with the proper Roser-style German leather and correct crease in the seat bottoms. And, of course, the Roadster was finished in the always-attractive triple black.

I went for a test drive, however, and everything I ever disliked about 190SLs was true: The engine thrashed noisily without producing much power, the steering was vague and the brakes pulled, while all wrapped in the imitation 300SL package. Despite this, I must admit to liking this car for its good body, paint and cosmetics. This one, as they say in real estate, had “great bones” and just a little mechanical sorting over the winter should make it a nice summer cruiser.

At $41,000, this 190SL sold for about 10 percent over the high SCM Price Guide value. These cars have been appreciating of late, and there’s nothing wrong with paying this kind of premium for such a solid example of a car you’ve decided you absolutely must have. This was a car I would have liked to buy, and given my disposition against 190SLs, that’s saying something.-Alex Finigan

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