alfa-romeo-giulietta_cTintin’s adventure in “The Red Sea Sharks” has come to a happy end. The villains have been caught; though Rastapopoulos escaped in a shark shaped submarine; feigning his own depth in a boat accident at sea. The last scene depicts Joylon Wagg’s Vagabond Car Club rally and number 11, parked in the lawns of Marlinspike is a white Mercedes 190SL.

The 190SL was a Grand Touring (GT) car manufactured by Mercedes Benz from 1955 to 1963. It was designed by Karl Wilfert and Walter Häcker.mercedes-190sl_4 It was offered in only one body style and that was a roadster. The car was first revealed at the New York Auto Show in 1954 alongside the flamboyant 300SL with gull-wing doors. It was internally  designated as W 121. The production ready cars were displayed for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show in Mar 1955. Though the lesser powerful sibling of the very sexy 300SL, the 190SL went on to become one of the most coveted dream cars of its time. It set standards for a culture of comfortable travel with style and sporty elegance.  Mercedes were able to sell 25,881 of these cars between 1955 and 1963.

mercedes190sl_1These cars were particularly popular with female drivers as they offered sporting styling with an engine which was not intimidating and an open air feeling which was standard with the roof down. It was the first SL from Mercedes which offered complete protection from the weather when required thanks to the easily retractable cloth-top roof or an optional hardtop. These cars represented the good times after the horrors of World War II and the economic misery before that. They became popular due to the strengthening of individual mobility as more and more people could afford to buy their own cars, thanks to the booming economy of the 1950s. The 190SL was shown in a number of light hearted German movies of the time representing the good and fun life.

mercedes190sl_2The 190SL was based on the shortened monocoque floor assembly of the saloon Mercedes 180 with self supporting chassis components. It had fully independent suspension all round which included double wish bones, coil springs and stabilising bars in the front and swing axle and coil springs at the rear. Initially a racing version of the 190SL was also offered. In this version, the fenders could be replaced completely and the doors were made up of lighter Aluminium without wind down windows. This 190SL was offered with a single piece leather covered bucket seat and a small plexi-glass windscreen replaced the panoramic windscreen provided on the original. Only 17 of these were built.

mercedes-190sl_5Mercedes offered the 190SL with a naturally aspirated inline four cylinder petrol engine displacing 1,897 cc (116 Cu-inch). Each of the cylinders breathed through two valves per cylinder, operated by a Single Over Head Cam (SOHC). They were fed petrol through twin carburetors. This engine could produce 103 BHP at 5,700 rpm and could also churn out 155 N-m (114 Ft-lb) of torque at 3,800 rpm. This power and torque produced by the front positioned engine were transferred to the rear wheels using a 4-speed manual transmission. mercedes-190sl_3This engine could push the 4,290 mm (168.9″) long, 1,740 mm (68.5″) wide and 1,280 mm (50.4″) tall car weighing 1,440 Kg (3,175lb) to a top speed of 174 km/h (108 mph). 0 to 100 km/h was achieved in 12.4 seconds while 0 to 60 mph took 11.7 seconds. On a drag strip, it could cover the quarter mile in 18.4 seconds, crossing the finishing line at a speed of 120 km/h (75 mph). Stopping power was provided by four power assisted  230 mm (9.06″)  dia drum brakes.