The car shown in this article is the 1957 Mercedes-Benz SL190 which was an is a popular vintage sports car. The 1957 Mercedes was the automaker's first widely sold sports car. The S represented "Sports" and the L meant "Light". The SL190 was sold at the same time buyers could purchase the more costly but faster 300SL.
Both cars were very similar in overall design. Some referred to the 190SL as being the "Little Brother" to the 300SL. In fact, the beginning of the Mercedes-Benz SL's go back to the Mercedes Gullwing model with it's two doors that would swing open to the roof line. The car was seen in a James Bond movie and is considered quite rare. Only about 1,400 were ever built.
This car shown, the 1957 Mercedes-Benz 190SL, was imported into the United States by Austrian businessman Max Hoffman who directly distributed the automobiles to U.S. dealers. He began with his Hoffman Motor Company in 1947.
During the 1950's Hoffman also distributed Volkswagen, Porsche and BMW's into the U.S. Hoffman was credited with bringing many European sports cars to America. He was the man who helped make these names and more household words in the United States. Hoffman also had an automobile showroom designed for him by well known architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
The 1954 Prototype
After first being introduced as a prototype in 1954 at the New York Auto Show, the Mercedes-Benz SL190's were in production from 1955 through 1963.
Several modifications were made between the introduction of the prototype in New York and the beginning of production. After 1963 the 190SL and the 300SL were replaced by the Mercedes 230SL. The Mercedes 190 SL could be bought as a Roadster with a soft top convertible or with a removable hardtop roof.
Mercedes-Benz After the War
The Mercedes-Benz factories were essentially destroyed during World War Two. Some were totally destroyed and others heavily damaged. The company was essentially put out of business. The fact that Mercedes-Benz were a big part of Germany's industrial complex it was a prime target for Allied bombers in World War II.
When the war ended in 1945, Mercedes-Benz had to rebuild under tough circumstances and going into production with just about any type car was essential to bringing in badly needed funds.
The 1950's Sports Car Market
Sports cars were quite popular with the general public beginning about the middle of the 1950's. When World War Two ended the market was right for sports cars and the automakers jumped into designing. The economy was growing rapidly and car buyers were in the sports car mood. After going through the Great Depression and then the war, Americans were looking to indulge and owning a new sports car fit the bill. With good employment numbers and rising wages there were many more potential sports car buyers.
During the 1950's Ford Motor Company came out with their Thunderbird models and Chevrolet was having good success with their Corvettes. On the higher end there were Morgan or Aston Martin.
1957 Mercedes-Benz 190SL Specs
This car was produced with a 1.9L straight four cylinder engine capable of delivering 104 horsepower. The engine block was a smaller duplicate of the 300SL six cylinder engine.
The 1957 190SL came with a four speed manual transmission and a weight of 2,734 lbs.
The Mercedes 190SL was initially priced at around $4,000.
Links to two additional AutoMuseumOnline photo articles you'll enjoy include;
The Mercedes-Benz 190 SL as a Collector's Car
The Mercedes-Benz 190 SL’s make terrific collector automobiles and the cars are relatively inexpensive when compared to some other vintage sports cars. As of this writing, prices for 1957 Mercedes 190SL's in excellent condition are strong and can be in the $100,000 range.
Merdes-Benz enthusiasts will also enjoy the book Mercedes-Benz (First Gear) by author Dennis Adler.
(Photos are from author's collection)