A prototype of the Mercedes 190 SL was first shown at the 1954 New York Auto Show. It was sold alongside the faster, more expensive Mercedes-Benz 300SL, which it closely resembled both in its styling, engineering, detailing and fully independent suspension, both cars having double wishbone suspensions at the front and swing axles at the rear. However, the 190SL did not use the 300SL's purpose-built tubular spaceframe W198 platform, but was built on a shortened and monocoque platform that was modified from the small W121 small saloon.
The 190SL was powered by a new, slightly oversquare 1.9 litre straight-four SOHC engine that developed 105 PS that earned itself a reputation for not running that smoothly mostly due to the difficulty in properly synchronizing the twin-choke dual Solex carburetors, and that, in detuned form, was later also used in the W120 180 and W121 190 models.
During its first years the 190SL was available as a sports-racing model with small perspex windscreen and spartan one-piece leather covered bucket seats and aluminum doors, although any competition aspirations were modest. In 1959, the hardtop's rear window was enlarged.
Both the 190SL and the 300SL were replaced by the Mercedes-Benz 230SL in 1963.
The car is such a perfect example of European design of the era, and all that chrome exudes so much raw class it actually makes you feel woefully underdressed when standing next to it!
It's not exactly a ground-breaking design, but it all works together so well. There's hints of Ghia in there, and the flowing curves and heavy chrome even suggest an American influence, but the overall package is tight, clean and elegant. The flashes over the wheelarches directly mirror the 300SL's and give a nice bit of distinction to the car, and the color-coordinated hubcaps are just perfect.
The dash is full of lovely early-60s chrome dials and controls, almost all of which are unlabeled, making the dash a sea of glittery confusion. It's easy enough to figure out what does what, but it's a good reminder that back in the day the assumption was that you were a car enthusiast – at least if you owned a sports car!
Infamously the 190 SL acquired the nick-name “Nitribitt Mercedes” after a high class German prostitute, Rosmarie Nitribit owned one.
The car featured here has been meticulously restored by the Akbarallys and usually resides with the rest of the collection of fine automobiles at the Akabarally property in Bolgoda.
The Nitribitt Infamy
Born in Düsseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia, "Rosemarie" Nitribitt and her two younger half-sisters were raised in poor conditions by their mother in Ratingen and Düsseldorf. Rosemarie moved to Frankfurt am Main, where, after a brief interlude of waitressing and modelling, she took up prostitution and was arrested at the Frankfurt railway station in 1951.
According to people who knew her at the time, Nitribitt tried hard to disguise her humble origins in order to be able to keep up conversation in posh society and to attract more sophisticated customers. For example, she started learning English and French.
One of her regular customers gave her a car - a used Opel Kapitän - as a present. Others invited her to spend a Mediterranean holidays with them. Consequently, she became very wealthy rather quickly, a fact which she demonstrated by buying a black Mercedes 190 SL (a roadster which was to be colloquially referred to as the Nitribitt-Mercedes) with red leather upholstery in 1956. She would drive around in Frankfurt in this car to solicit customers. Also in 1956, she moved into a luxurious apartment at Stiftstr. 36. The police later estimated that she had earned about 80,000 DM in 1956 (building a family house cost about 25,000 – 30,000 DM in Germany at the time).
Production (1955-1963) 25,881 built
Assembly Stuttgart Untertürkheim,
Body and chassis
Class Grand Tourer
Body style Roadster
Layout FR layout
Platform Mercedes-Benz W121
Related Mercedes-Benz W198
Engine 1,897 cc M121 SOHC I4
Transmission 4-speed manual, fully
Wheelbase 2,400 mm (94.5 in)
Length 4,290 mm (168.9 in)
Width 1,740 mm (68.5 in)
Height 1,320 mm (52.0 in)
Curb weight 2,552 lb (1,158 kg)
Successor Mercedes-Benz W113