1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 190SL RoadsterView vehicle description
The Mercedes-Benz 300SL ‘Gullwing’ reintroduced the German company to the lucrative high-end sports car market. It was an immediate success, which left the company with a bit of a problem: while the 300SL was widely admired, it was simply too expensive for anyone other than the super-rich.
The answer was the 190SL, a cheaper roadster based on the R121 ‘Pontoon’ saloon’s monocoque chassis rather than the costly tubular spaceframe of its big brother.
Emulating much of the Gullwing’s styling, the resulting car was more of a grand-tourer than an out-and-out sportscar thanks to its short-stroke, four-cylinder variant of the 300SL’s straight-six engine. Developing 104bhp from its 1.9-litre capacity, it endowed the 190SL with a top speed of 109mph and a 0-60mph acceleration time of 11 seconds, which was heady stuff, back in the day.
Produced between 1955 and 1963, the Mercedes-Benz 190SL might have still been expensive at half the price of the 300SL but it was the ultimate GT in its day with no rivals to speak of.
Hugely popular in the United States, around 26,000 were sold in its nine-year production run. Now extraordinarily rare, the vendor believes that there are only four 1955 cars here in the United Kingdom – and of those four, we think this is probably the best.
The subject of a no-expense-spared, two-year rotisserie restoration by marque specialists Redcastle Classics, this incredible Mercedes-Benz 190SL has only covered around 3,000 miles since being completed in September 2012
Still in a staggeringly good condition, the overall fit ‘n’ finish is way better than it ever would have been in period with some of the best shutlines and panel alignment we have ever seen on any car at any price.
The quality of the chrome is beyond reproach too, as is the leather interior, and yet, for all its obvious charms it’s the attention to detail that impressed us most.
The owner is a self-confessed “fussy bugger” and something of a completist – at one point his collection included one of every model SL Mercedes has ever produced – nothing illustrates the care with which he has maintained his car than the installation of the stereo; with a four-figure bill for the labour alone, he refused to compromise on the sound quality – and yet the whole thing could be removed without leaving a trace in about an hour.
But please don’t conflate his willingness to judiciously modify his 190SL with a cavalier attitude towards its originality because nothing could be further from the truth. When you go and view the car – and you really must – please ask him to talk you through the details that mark this out as not only the best of its kind in the UK but possibly one of the most accurate and correct in the world.
In fact, Mercedes-Benz UK was impressed enough to give it pride of place at the head of the celebratory procession in 2015: as a very early ‘Edition A’ example from 1955 and the 729th car to be built, it was the oldest car at Brooklands on the day so was given the number 1 to wear.
Speaking of numbers, it is also a ‘matching numbers car’ that is stuffed full of period-correct early features including the two-part dashtop, Gullwing seats, absence of chrome in front of the rear wheel arches or on the eyebrows above the wheels, no clock, smaller rear lights, and much, much more. While many restorations succumb to the temptation to gild the lily, this is totally authentic and all the better for being so.
So authentic, in fact, that it is Mille Miglia eligible. Yup, that's right; buying this 1955 example gives you entry into what might just be the world's most exclusive and desirable motorsport event.
Only for sale due to a wrist injury that makes parking this non-PAS car painful, this museum-quality example isn’t going to be cheap - but then the best never is.
On the Outside
Originally white, it was resprayed red at some point in its life before being finally painted silver as part of its restoration by Redcastle Classics. Mounted on a rotisserie for complete access to even its most inaccessible crevices, the vendor believes that the panels are all original bar one wing that was too far gone to be saved.
As you would expect, the whole process was faithfully documented and photographed and this record will, of course, come with the car. Suffice it to say that Redcastle’s international reputation was hard-earned and the quality of this car, even eight years after being completed, vindicates it.
Rather than waffle about the panel alignment, tight and even shutlines, flawless paint, and the car’s impressive stance we will let the photos speak for themselves.
All we would add is that the doors latch shut with a precision we have rarely experienced; with a car of this quality it is easy to overlook the fact that it’s the small details that turn a great car into an exceptional one, and you will appreciate this diligence every single time you open and close a door.
Other delightful details include the fact that the immaculate wheels are fitted with four matching 6.40SR13 Michelin ZX tyres. And that it is unadorned by the chrome over-riders and trim of later cars; the rear lights are also the correct small units, the front indicator lenses are clear rather than amber, and the boot handle and number plate lights are the unassuming ones only fitted to the very earliest cars.
And just take a look at the red-tipped aerial; have you ever seen anything more glorious?
The black folding roof was new when the car was restored - and we were the first to raise it since the vendor bought the car. It fits beautifully, folds away easily, and is hidden from view by a gorgeous red leather tonneau cover. Utterly immaculate, the vendor has placed a rolled-up towel inside it to ensure the plastic rear window folds around a wider radius than normal to prevent creasing.
The hardtop that came with the car pre-restoration was the incorrect later type with the wraparound glass window. Redcastle and the previous owner found and imported the correct type from the United States.
Featuring the correct much smaller rear window, it has been painted to match his car but they wisely left the headlining original and untouched. Ultra-rare and now virtually unobtainable, it is said to be worth £15,000-£20,000 all by itself.
In summary, the exterior is nigh-on immaculate and needs nothing whatsoever bar, perhaps, a new seal around the fuel filler cap and neck to replace the perished one that is currently fitted.
On the Inside
Utterly wonderful and also in need of nothing, the interior is period-correct in every detail including the very early split dashboard, the absence of a clock, and the Gullwing seats plus a natty side-facing rear seat.
Beautifully trimmed in red leather, the restoration included modifying the driver’s seat runner to accommodate people up to 6’6” tall. It’s been very neatly done and massively increases the car’s usability for tall folk.
The only other modification is just as clever: the chrome speaker grill, which sits below the original Becker Europa radio, can be lifted off to reveal a modern Kenwood Bluetooth head unit. The speakers, which are situated deep in the footwells, are housed in custom-built enclosures that were built up from many layers of laminate before being painstakingly carved out to accommodate them.
A high-power amplifier sits under one seat with the other hiding a shallow sub-woofer; the whole thing is incredibly discreet and yet sounds amazing. The owner is something of an audiophile and refused to compromise on either sound quality or aesthetics.
Even the boot, often a neglected area on even the most carefully restored and curated cars, is in a fabulous condition. Home to the spare wheel, which is fitted with a new Michelin tyre, and the immaculate toolkit, it is neatly carpeted with the same material as that used in the cockpit.
The dashboard, dials, door cards, chrome controls and other trim are all equally impressive. But don’t take our word for it; why not pop along and take a look for yourself?
The care and attention to detail that runs like a thread throughout this amazing car extends to the car’s mechanical components.
Originally fitted with a pair of twin-choke Solex carburettors, this car has, like almost every other one out there, been modified with the more reliable and better-performing twin-choke Weber carbs. But (and you’re ahead of us here, aren’t you?) the originals have been retained and will come with the car.
Starting and driving well, the only fault we noted was a little blue smoke when the engine was first started. This is almost certainly nothing to worry about as it cleared very quickly after a short run down the road.
The engine bay is immaculate, as is the underside. This is one of those cars that just gets better and better the closer you look.
The SL’s MOT certificate expired in March 2015. It comes with a sheaf of invoices and bills to confirm the work that has been done to it over the years, along with its original owner’s handbook, photocopies of various instruction and specification sheets, three photo albums detailing its life and restoration, and two box files full of paperwork.
Incorrectly registered on the V5 registration document as having been built in 1956, the DVLA has confirmed that it would be happy to amend the logbook subject to them seeing a copy of the data card for the car, which will be supplied.
Please visit the documents section of the gallery of this listing where you will find photos of this and other paperwork to support our claim that this car has been restored and maintained to an incredible standard.
If you’d like to inspect the car prior to placing a bid – something we would encourage – then please use the Contact Seller button to arrange an appointment.
NB. We know that many of you will be limiting your social exposure over the coming days and weeks, so if you’d rather not come to see the car in person, please contact the owner and ask if they can shoot a personal video of the car honing in on any areas you’d like them to concentrate on.
What We Think
Values of the 190SL have long started to emulate that of the 300SL with prices having reached well over $340,000 in the United States – and that was back in 2014 and for examples we would consider to be less original than the car you are looking at here.
And that matters, because authenticity and originality are where the value lies for cars in this arena; if you’re investing the £165,000 to £200,000 we think this car will fetch, then it needs to be correct – and this one is.
But, please don’t take our word for it; we would urge any serious bidder to make an appointment to go and see it for themselves and to hear the vendor talk you through the reasons why his car is so special. As we mentioned earlier, he has an intense attention to detail and went to great lengths to find this car, setting a new UK auction record to make it his.
And remember, that when markets falter – and they do from time to time – only the very best cars have been immune to date - and Mille Miglia eligible cars are the very definition of the best of the best, which should give you some reassurance if you’re looking for a safe place to stash your money while you have some exclusive fun.
This particular car is located with the seller near Swansea; to arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.
If needed, please remember we have a network of trusted suppliers we work with regularly and can recommend: Classic & Sportscar Finance for purchase-financing, Footman James for classic car insurance Thames Valley Car Storage for storing your car and an array of regional providers for transporting it.
BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we never stop encouraging bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at the vehicles delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.
Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.
Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using simple cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.
Please note that this is sold as seen and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, the Sale of Goods Act 1979 does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.
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