1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 190SL RENNVERSION
Chassis No. 1210 42-5500569
Silver metallic with red leather interior
Engine: four cylinder in line, overhead camshaft, twin Solex carburettors, 1897cc, 105 bhp at 5700 rpm; Gearbox: manual four speed with synchromesh; Brakes: four wheel hydraulically operated drum; Suspension: front independent by wishbones and coil springs, independent rear by low pivot swing axle with coil springs; Left-hand drive.
Introduced at the New York Show in February 1954 and designed very much with the American market in mind, the 190SL was a rather more sophisticated quality sports tourer than the simple English sports two-seaters that were selling in their thousands in the USA. Based on a shortened version of the 180 saloon's platform chassis and with the same engine and suspension, it was given a curvacious body with strong overtones of the Mercedes-Benz 300SL open sports racer of 1952. The 190SL was solidly built to typically high Mercedes-Benz standards and was more noted for refinement and elegance than outright performance, even though its maximum speed was a good 110 mph. Early versions had 300SL styled seats , there were wind-up windows, the well tailored hood disappeared below the body and when lowered was concealed by a tidy cover. Gently curving tail contours ensured a spacious boot. The ride was quite hard, but cornering and handling were exceptional and with well-finned brake drums the 190SL's ability to shed speed was reassuring. It was natural that some owners would want to race their cars and to meet their needs, Mercedes-Benz announced at the 1954 New York launch that a kit to enable the car to be lightened for competition work was available. It was, they considered, suitable for the Grand Touring racing class and they showed a car so prepared on the stand.
Although there were some class successes with varying degrees of works support, in fact the 190SL was not greatly used in competition and there was limited demand for the Rennversion kit. This 190SL was delivered to the New York Mercedes-Benz distributors in the standard trim in September 1955. There it was fitted with one of the original, now ultra-rare kits and is presented in correct works approved Rennversion form. Bumpers, windscreen assembly, hood and frame, doors, heater and other minor items were removed. In their place went a low racing screen, and a light alloy door without external handles and with lowered top line, all identified with tags by the factory. The boot lid was also of light alloy. As is their way, Mercedes provided detailed instructions and drawings for the conversion and photocopies of all this material will be made available to the purchaser. By the beginning of 1956, the sports authorities ruled against the homologation of the kit, which was then withdrawn from the market. It is believed that about eight such kits were sold and that two cars with fitted kits survive, one of them being the example on offer. For those with a serious interest in the Mercedes-Benz marque, this unusual variant of one of company's most admired open models will have a great appeal.
This unusual 190SL has been in the care of the present vendor for eight years and is understood to have been fully restored to its original specifications, including colour and trim.