Thursday, June 3, 2010

Street Parked: 190SL

This head turner grabbed my attention one morning on the automotive portion of my commute. I yammered on about its coolness to my lovely bride until we reached our parking spot, and then beat feet up to Fairview to see if it was still there. It was; parked across the street from Inner Chapters Books.

Hey look! It's a 300SL! Oh wait, it isn't...

These cars look like the iconic 300SL. Those rain gutter-like fender flares never cease to grab my attention with thoughts of Stirling Moss, John Fitch, and stories of racing glory in the Mille Miglia. However, comparison to the legendary 300SL is not fair to this car. This little fellow is a stylish grand tourer in its own right.

Wide and low, it presented an aggressive and modern face compared to its European contemporaries, the Jaguar XK140 and MGA. It is perhaps similar in market mission to the Ford Thunderbird, as a personal luxury car. I think the styling of the 190SL roadster presents a more sporting flair than the Thunderbird, and more modern performance than was offered by the British.

So many curves in one sheet of metal.

The sleek 190SL shares its chassis with the upright and dowdy Ponton benzes instead of the bespoke tube-frame 300SL exotics. That doesn't stop these cars from having an arresting presence, perhaps in spite of the level of performance they offered.
That's too short to be a Ponton benz.

This car was not particularly athletic with a 1.9 liter 104 horsepower 4 cylinder engine saddled with toting 2600 lbs across Bavarian hills and dales. For its time (1955 to 1963) this level of performance was acceptable.
I'll show my tail lights to British cars and poorly tuned minivans.
This car is the quintessential sports model. Built on a sedan's running gear, it put its best face forward. And does so quite well. I can imagine this car idling stylishly through the pedestrian traffic of Florence, carting some ersatz supermodel to a gig.
What secrets remain untold under that canvas top?

Even with its saloon car roots, this nonchalant grand tourer is worthy of a longing glance when seen parked on the street.
Is an emblem askew similar to a beauty mark?


Solracer said...

As you know my dad had a 300SL Gullwing so I've always had an appreciation for this design. Back in the '80s I saw a 190SL advertised in the paper for just $2700 so I called on it immediately. Turned out that the car was being sold by Sig, our favorite Mercedes mechanic and 300SL owner and the reason it was so cheap was it was right-hand drive. Unfortunately someone had beat me to the punch and the car was already sold but if it had been available I would have grabbed it up immediately!

Bret Dodson said...

I've always liked 190SLs. The year I went to high school in Tacoma, there was an older fellow who lived a few blocks from my dad who had two white 190SLs that were parked on the street. They both ran. Being a cub auto enthusiast at the time, I assumed they were convertible 300SLs. I lusted after them for their looks and my perception of their performance.

I've got to get some non-German cars up here!