The basic shape of the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 190SL design was arrived at almost immediately. It featured headlights mounted at the leading edge of the front fenders, small strakes over the front wheel arch, a graceful curve up and over the rear fender to a sloping rear trunk, and, of course, the "open mouth" front air intake with the floating three-pointed star within.
The 190SL sat on a 94.5-inch wheelbase, coincidentally the same as the 300SL, but was much leaner in its lines. Wheel tracks were 56.3 and 58.3 inches front and rear, respectively, and overall length was 166 inches. Body width was a wide 68.5 inches.
It was a prototype 190SL that was displayed at the 1954 New York Motor Show to gauge buyer interest. The reaction was positive and development, particularly of the body style, continued.
For its second premiere at the Geneva Salon in March 1955, many styling touches from the prototype were modified in preparation for series production. Detail changes included:
- A redesigned hood with a smooth, full-length bulge replacing an ugly air scoop. Furthermore, the hood opening was shortened and hinged at the front.
- The grille shape was more rounded.
- Front fender profiles were altered slightly to raise their line into the doors.
- Strakes were added over the rear wheel arches, matching those at the front (Mercedes publications referred to these styling elements as "splash shields").
- Round front parking lights replaced rectangular units.
- The fuel filler was shifted from the lower right rear corner under a flap to a normal locked cap protruding from the rear panel to the right of the license plate.
- Mercedes-Benz scripts were removed from low down on the front fenders.
Inside, the dash was altered, too. The prototype's instrument binnacle was flat, shallow, and wide, with the minor gauges positioned between the speedometer and tachometer. For production, the binnacle projected slightly, was much taller and narrower, and the ancillary gauges relocated in a line below the two major dials.
The dash top was extensively padded to reduce sun glare and increase occupant safety. (An early press photograph even showed the 190SL with a column gearshift lever.) A neat touch, and perhaps an indication of how Mercedes-Benz marketing folks really saw the 190SL, was the provision of two sets of heater controls -- one for the driver and another for the passenger. This required two heater matrixes under the hood and two sets of air trunks.
For more on the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 190SL, continue on to the next page.
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