The Mercedes-Benz 190 SL, an open roadster, was introduced in 1954 at the New York Auto Show along with the 300 SL. It became an international benchmark, setting the style for sporty elegance.
The German roadster 190 SL was the “younger brother “of the legendary 300 SL (W 198) and was produced from 1955 to 1963. Even though the main star of the New York Auto Show was officially considered a truly sporty 300 SL, 190 The SL was not lost at all against its background, invariably interesting to the press and visitors. The official dealer of the German automaker in the USA, Maximilian Hoffmann triumphed. After all, it was his idea to risk his name and capital by insisting on the development of a new class of roadsters for the American bohemia. Hoffmann boldly threw these vehicles to conquer the complex American market, dominated by huge “monsters” and did not lose. The audience greeted the models with a bang and stood in line for new cars. Moreover, if the 300SL was a finished car, the 190SL was still too raw, and its final version was presented only at the Geneva Motor Show in 1955.
At the turn of the 1950s, the German automotive industry and its prominent representative, Mercedes Benz, gradually recovered from the Second World War. The company already felt that pre-war models, “urban” sidecars, and budget sedans were not enough for customers. The company started a broad wave of lineup updates and attempted to revive the national motorsport, looking for new, richer markets that could accept new products and invest in further developments. In general, for the European car industry, the North American market was an attractive one, where Germans turned. While the racing version of the famous 300SL was slowly gaining popularity in motorsport, a few road versions were exported to the States, increasing the company’s ratings in showrooms. One of the official dealers of the company in the United States was Maximilian Edwin Hoffmann, who offered the company to produce a similar car, only at a more affordable price and on a simpler chassis. His proposal was heard, and by the end of 1952, the development of a “junior” supercar began. The aerodynamic design was developed in September 1953 by designers Karl Wilfert and Walter Häcker, and stylistically repeated the streamlined body of the 300SL (unlike the latter, it received a load-bearing body instead of a tubular space frame).
In 1955, Mercedes-Benz released a simplified model 190SL (W121): with an external resemblance to the “three hundred”, it had a completely different platform and a 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine, unified with the W120 / 121 series sedan cost-cutting. About 26 thousand of these automobiles were produced against about three thousand 300SL. “Geneva” Mercedes-Benz 190SL was significantly different from New York. The serial of the model received a new engine, lost the air intake protruding above the hood, the rear lights were completely changed on it, as well as the shape of the front and rear fenders. Preparation for serial production was carried out at the Sindelfingen plant from the beginning of 1955, and already in mid-May, the “One Hundred and Ninety” went into series. The car was equipped with a 1.9 liter, 4-cylinder, carbureted, gasoline engine with an overhead camshaft, with a capacity of 105 hp. It developed 100 km/h in 14.5 seconds, reaching a maximum speed of 170 km/h. It was the best achievement for a roadster of that period.
Rosemarie Nitribitt with her 1955 190 SL
Source: Please Kill Me
In Germany, the car was nicknamed “Nitribitt-Mercedes” after its “most famous” owner, Rosemarie Nitribitt, who was an elite prostitute based in Frankfurt. Her client list included wealthy and powerful people of high society. However, being a protege of these people didn’t spare her life: in the fall of 1957, 24-year-old Nitribitt was found dead. No trace of the killers (or rather customers). Whether she knew too much, or she was blackmailing someone powerful, nobody knows. But this was one of the first scandals in the Federal Republic. Nitribitt’s association with this automobile in some way spoiled the reputation of the model. Even a film was released in 1958 about this woman, which again led to a noticeable but temporary drop in demand for “One Hundred Ninety”.
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