In the immediate post-World War II period Mercedes was struggling to get back on
its feet. With almost three-quarters of its factories being destroyed it was not until
1948 that the company was able to start making cars again.
Initially these were pre-WWII carry over models which continued until 1953 when the
company released the 180 Ponton saloon. It was this car that formed the basis of the
190SL. The first prototype was built early in 1954 but underwent considerable
reworking before the production model appeared in March of that year.
The 190SL was considered a glamourous car even though its small wheels gave it
the appearance of being over-bodied. From its finish it was obviously a Mercedes.
Even the painted hubcaps smacked of Mercedes quality. There was none of the
ruggedness of British roadsters or the delicacy of Italian thoroughbreds.
Inside the 190SL was markedly opulent with its painted dashboard, chrome-bezelled
white-on-black VDO gauges in the main facia and even the clock mounted on the
glove box lid. It had a foot-operated wash-wipe button, but many unlabelled knobs,
switches and levers for headlights, sidelights, indicator lights and rear lights tended
to bamboozle the new owner.
The large bakelite steering wheel with its chrome horn ring was characteristically
Mercedes of that period.
Those who drove it quickly came to the conclusion that the 190SL was sporting
rather than being a sportscar. Certainly, they reported that driving one was an
enjoyable experience. The gearbox was described as a delight with an affirmative
long throw movement to select the four speeds. Although fitted with synchromesh on
all gears it didn’t like to be rushed on down-changes.
Throttle response was described as positive and the clutch action light. In conclusion
it was described as an easy car to drive with effortless, yet never vague recirculating
ball steering and was found to be much more friendly than many cars of this vintage.