After World War 2, Mercedes-Benz returned to the passenger car market with the 170V, which it had introduced in 1935. In 1951, the Germans launched the 300 full-size luxury car, followed by the midsize “Ponton” series in 1953. One year later, Mercedes-Benz unleashed the spectacular 300 SL.
Inspired by the W194 race car that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Carrera Panamericana, the 300 SL was the fastest and most exotic production car of its time. It was also very expensive when most of Europe was still recovering after the war. So, the German company introduced a more affordable sports car in 1955.
Called the 190 SL, it was devoid of the 300 SL’s fancy gullwing doors and featured an inline-four engine instead of the latter’s straight-six. Still, the 190 SL shared its basic styling and engineering with the race-inspired grand tourer. And these feats made it much more popular. While Mercedes sold only 3,258 300 SLs from 1954 to 1963, the 190 SL found almost 26,000 customers over a similar period.
Come 2023, the 190 SL is nowhere near as desirable and expensive as the 300 SL, but it remains one of the most iconic Mercedes-Benz automobiles ever built. Pristine examples tend to fetch more than $100,000, so it’s already a six-figure classic. Not all 190 SLs survived to see 2023 as museum-grade rigs, though. The 1955 example you see here was abandoned a whopping 60 years in storage.
Documented by YouTube’s “WD Detailing,” this first-year roadster was reportedly parked in a basement garage sometime in the 1960s and did not emerge back into the light until 2023. That’s a sad fate for such a beautiful classic, but the find comes with great news. For starters, the car is very complete. Sure, the top has seen better days, and the front grille and the door panels are missing, but nearly everything else is where it should be.
Second, both the body and the interior are in surprisingly good condition for a vehicle that “slept” in a basement for six decades. Does it still run? Well, of course not, but the current owner wants to put it back on the road. And he started the process with a thorough detailing that removed all the dust and the grime.
Needless to say, the 190 SL looks fabulous, all washed up and polished, but the fact that it was repainted before going into storage also helps with the somewhat fresh look.
But here’s the really cool thing about this old Merc. Not only is it a first-year example, but it also sports serial number 5500008, which means it was the eighth production 190 SL built. And it might just be the earliest example still in existence.