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  • Preserved ‘as delivered’ and never restored, with original factory hard top
  • Finished in rare original DB 543 Erdbeerrot (strawberry red) with grey roof and 955 grey leather interior
  • Swiss registered and with all delivery documents and original owner’s manuals and tools
One family ownership and under 7,400km from new

1957 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL

“With some considerable experience with it during the period of five years since its introduction, we can state unequivocally that this machine is one of the finest two-seater coupés on the market today” American magazine Road & Track on the ‘miniature 300 SL’ in December 1960

Launched in New York at the same event at which the ground-breaking 300 SL ‘Gullwing’ was revealed to an unsuspecting world, the 190 SL was another high-tech wonder from the meticulous engineers at Daimler-Benz. This time, though, instead of occupying the high ground of Ferrari, Rolls-Royce and Bentley, it was more affordable, though still expensive: DM.17,650 with optional hard top (DM.16,500 without) vs DM.32,500 for the 300 SL.

Built with the precision of a WW2 fighter, to standards of quality and technology unknown to British competition from Austin-Healey, MG and Triumph, the junior relation to the other-worldly 300 SL Gullwing and later Roadster enjoyed a passionate following among the world’s elite until it was superseded by the 230 SL ‘Pagoda’ in 1963.

The Mercedes-Benz 190 SL

American buyers loved the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, bar two things. First, it was a coupé rather than a convertible and, secondly, it was eye-wateringly expensive. The 190 SL addressed both issues. 

Smaller, lighter and more accessible – financially and physically – than the 300 SL, the 190 SL was offered either as a soft-top convertible with optional alloy hardtop, or a pure roadster with only a hardtop. The stylish, well-appointed two-seater enjoyed a long and successful production run from 1955 right through to 1963, with demand remaining strong throughout.

Although the 190 SL shared much of the 300 SL’s advanced engineering, there were some fundamental differences. In place of the Gullwing’s futuristic spaceframe chassis, the 190 SL was a monocoque with a detachable sub-frame on which the refined four-cylinder, overhead-camshaft 1,897cc engine was mounted. Breathing through twin Solex downdraft carburettors, the M121 unit produced 105bhp at 5,700rpm, an output sufficient to propel the 190 SL to 60mph in 13.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 106mph. Its four-speed, all-synchromesh gearbox was built to Mercedes’ usual high standards and the 190 SL had all-independent suspension and servo-assisted drum brakes. Effortless cruising at 80mph+ coupled with safe handling made the beautifully put together, ‘junior SL’ a wonderful sports car for everyday driving.

Until the end of 1956, such was the demand for the 190 SL that just one colour was available: classic Mercedes silver-grey. From then onwards the usual palette of colours could be ordered.

Even the launch of the roadster version of the 300 SL in 1957 did little to dampen the sales of its little sister. They were, after all, targeting different levels of the market. The 190 SL made occasional appearances on the racetrack and in international rallies.  At the time of writing, a pre-1958 190 SL is eligible for the Mille Miglia retrospective.

With only small detail changes in trim, the 190 SL remained largely unchanged throughout its life. In total, from 1955 to 1963, 25,881 were produced.

This Motor Car

Mercedes-Benz 190 SL ‘501.399’ was sold new to Monsieur Charles Marcoux of 31 Rue de Lancy, Geneva, on 14 August 1957. The sale was handled by official agent Etoilauto SA, Rue de Hesse, Geneva. Mr Marcoux paid the ‘special price’ of 19,000 Swiss francs for the car, noted as 15,000 in cash and 4,000 in works, which we assume referred to either works he requested or works the car required after arriving from Germany. The original invoice dated 14th August 1957 and handwritten receipt dated 19th August 1957, both in perfect condition, accompany the car today.

The original contract of sale (also with the car) dated 29 May 1957 evidences the order and the car’s particular specification of DB 543 ‘grenadine’ with 955 grey leather interior and grey soft top. A copy of the factory data card details this specification and the factory hardtop present with the car today. The paperwork notes that Mr Marcoux will collect the car in Zurich, where it was imported on 3 August 1957: even the original customs receipt is with the car.

The original service booklet confirms servicing work at 518km (9 September 1957) and 2,181km (9 March 1961). Also present are the original ownership manual, spare parts catalogue ‘B’ (1957), European dealer directory (with fold-out map inside the rear cover), and typewritten factory technical advice (dated July 1956), all contained in their beige vinyl wallet. Everything is almost ‘as new’.

The 190 SL was kept largely unused by Charles Marcoux until his passing, when it was inherited by his daughter. She lent it for long-term display at the now closed classic car museum near Geneva airport where it was first spotted by Simon Kidston, who organised auctions there from 1997 onwards. In 2016 Mr Marcoux’s daughter instructed a local garage, Garage Blaise Fischer, Chemin de Grange-Collomb 14, 1212 Lancy, Switzerland, to perform a major post-storage service on the Mercedes, a job that cost 14,959 Swiss francs. At that time the odometer read 7,060km.

Today, that figure is just over 7,400km, and a letter from Mrs Marcoux dated 6 February 2021 confirms this figure to be the total distance covered from new. She also states that, to her knowledge, the car has never been totally repainted.

Kidston SA finally collected the car recently from Mrs Marcoux, finding it stored behind boxes and boats in a garage near Geneva. Its spare wheel still has the original Firestone tyre fitted. The suspension still has its red and yellow factory markings. The upholstery is original and looks like that of a two-year old car. Engine compressions are all between 8.5-8.8, and the underbonnet labels and finishes are untouched. The factory lubrication sticker is still on the windscreen. Unsurprisingly it drives like a new car.  

Genuine ‘one owner, very low mileage’ classic cars are the Holy Grail of collecting. This ‘time warp’ Mercedes-Benz 190 SL, with by far the lowest mileage and best documentation we have ever seen, is surely unique.

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