25 December 2017

More than an old car #46: Mercedes W121 190 SL

Mercedes has always been a dream car for many, including me. By now, you would have deduced that my dream car has to be older than 1990, and yet practical enough to take it for a spin. This 1959 Mercedes W121 190 SL is one that I can only imagine being in my possession.

Mercedes-Benz as we know today was formed as a result of a merger between 2 companies in 1926: Benz & Companie Rheinishce Gasmotoren-Fabrik [founded by Karl Benz and others in 1883] and Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft [founded by Gottlieb Daimler in 1890]. The Mercedes name is Spanish for "godsend" and was the name of a buyer's daughter. Its three-pointed star logo signifies the company's goal of developing engines for "land, water and air". After the war, Mercedes focused its efforts on producing vehicles that would wow the world many times over, along with the buses that has served many of us today.

The 190 SL [with internal designation W121] arose as a result of pressure by Max Hoffman, the US importer of European cars. He desired a street version of the famous 300 SL and both cars appeared at the New York Auto Show in 1954. Perennially overshadowed by its more famous sister and lacking in power in comparison, it was relatively ignored back then. However, as prices of the 300 SL can easily exceed $1 million nowadays, the 190 SL has returned to the fore as a cheaper alternative for Mercedes' exquisite design.

The 190 SL did not excel on the track and was seen as a "lifestyle car for the road". However, it had an aesthetically pleasing styling with its aerodynamic bullet-shape, down to the "eyebrows" over the wheel arches. This car is the less vivacious, yet beautiful girl unnoticed by many, for a lack of better comparison. It was powered by a 1897cc inline-4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 180km/h with an acceleration of 12.7 seconds [0-100km/h]. It was 4.22m and weighed 1140kg.

Production ended in 1963 with 25,881 made, of which only 562 were in RHD. Surprisingly, I have seen at least 5 on our roads, which is 1% of the entire RHD population! It has a very unique style that is unfortunately not seen in cars today. The 190 SL is also associated with notable celebrities such as designer Karl Lagerfeld [who crashed it into a tree], Prince Rainier of Monaco and Beatle Ringo Starr. Although it may not be as sporty as the 300 SL, you could imagine yourself behind the wheel and enjoying the wind in your face. It set the groundwork for Mercedes to produce cars that never fail to captivate us along with the ubiquitous star. Do keep a lookout for them and appreciate the beauty of German engineering!

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