Myth Buster Mercedes-Benz 190SL
Debunking the most common old wives’ tales
1 IT’S A BABY 300 SL
The 190 SL has gathered quite a bit of disrespect over the years because of this misunderstanding. Although there’s a family likeness between the two, they are utterly different. The 300 SL has a racestyle welded tubular aluminium spaceframe chassis and a powerful fuel-injected straightsix engine. These attributes were found on both gullwing coupé and the later two-seater roadster. The 190 SL, meanwhile, has twoseater roadster bodywork welded to the 190 ‘Ponton’ saloon’s standard floorpan and its fourcylinder 1897cc engine uses twin carburettors. 2 THE 190 SL WAS GUTLESS The 120bhp 190 SL, which made its debut in 1954, wasn’t dissimilar to the robust 190 saloon to drive. So it didn’t feel like a purpose-built sports car, and the swing-axle rear suspension wasn’t best suited to exuberant abandon. Top speed was 107mph and 0-60mph took 13.3sec. Certainly no supercar, then, but respectable by contemporary standards. The Daimler Conquest Roadster was the closest British equivalent, yet its less powerful 2.5-litre straight-six could only muster 101mph and 0-60mph in 14.5sec. None of the 3.0-litre Alvises could beat its performance figures, and the Triumph TR2 could only just pip it from 0-60mph. 3 LADIES ONLY, SOME SAID In the 1950s, sports-jacketed types were apt to dismiss the 190SL as suitable only for girls. But then again, Mercedes always intended it to be a usable tourer. To that end, it came with wind-up windows and a top-quality folding hood. Leather upholstery was available as an option and the dashboard was fully equipped and well laid out. There was plenty of luggage space and a 190SL, unlike an Austin-Healey, wouldn’t leave you jangled by the experience after a long trip.