After the huge success of the legendary W198 300 SL, Mercedes was persuaded by its North American importer, Max Hoffman, that a more accessible open top and similarly styled motorcar could have become extremely popular among American customers.
The 190 SL was introduced for the first time at the 1954 New York Auto show, and it soon became one of the most popular cars on display among visitors. Production began in January 1955, and the sales of this model remained very strong for 8 years without undergoing any major technical and mechanical changes.
Although it didn't share the 300 SL's blistering performance, the 190 SL was still capable of reaching a top speed of 172 kph and offering a high level of comfort. It was known by its internal name W121 because it was based on the shortened version of the famous W120 180 "Ponton" sedan platform. Sharing the 180's fully independent coil spring suspension with swing axles, the 190 SL was set to be a comfortable cruiser capable to tolerate a moderate sporty driving.
Powered by a 1.9 liter inline 4 cylinder engine producing about 105 horsepower with twin Solex carburettors and mated to a 4 speed floor-mounted gearbox, the 190 SL was good for a top speed of 172 kph. Costing less than half of the price of the 300 SL, the 190 was an instant success and it rapidly became one of Mercedes' top sellers. Its great luggage space, supple ride and less performance-oriented character made it a favourite among those who privileged creature comforts in an elegant 2 seat motorcar.