Product: Mazda’s Miata wasn’t the first small drop-top to gain popularity in the U.S. market. Way back in the 1950s and early ’60s, Mercedes-Benz created an iconic roadster, the 190 SL.
This wasn’t the first famous roadster either, but it was a big hit for Mercedes. The 190 SL set the styling trend for upscale, two-seat convertibles for the better part of a decade.
Autoart’s new 1:18 version was bathed in a creamy white, which accentuated the smooth elegant lines that captured well-off drivers’ attention and cash during those heady classic car years.
Like the Miata today, the 190 SL had a removable hardtop ($4,295), but also was available with a soft top, that model going for just $3,998. Remember, in 1953 a new Corvette started at $3,490.
The SL rode on a short 94.5" wheelbase, was just 168.9" long and weighed 2,552 pounds. Its engine was a 1.9-liter straight 4-cylinder rated at 104 horsepower, so not a rocket, but an elegant touring roadster.
Performance: As with past Autoart models, this 190 SL was well-executed, starting with its silky cream finish. There was a clip-on black convertible top that dressed up the Mercedes, but if you choose to display it with the roof down, you will better see the gorgeous interior detail. And there were two clip-on tonneau covers to choose from for a static display.
What shined was the elegance of the black leather interior teamed up with the creamy dash and steering wheel, with its chrome center ring and horn hub. The seats looked great, and there were map pockets in the doors. This car came out long before U.S. car makers ever dreamed of such a feature. The doors, which opened, also featured chrome window knobs and door releases, and between the bucket seats was a simple gear shift lever with a white knob on top.
The dash was a classy blend of chrome and creamy enamel, with great detailing on the gauges and radio. Plus, there was a small rearview mirror atop the black dash. Overhead were clear, but fake, metal-framed sun visors, a rarity even in those days.
Yes, the trunk opened to reveal a full-sized spare tire, and the rear-opening hood revealed a nicely detailed I4 motor. The hosing and wiring was complete with a red distributor and black battery. Being a smaller car, the SL’s detail was all somewhat shoe-horned under the lean hood.
The head and taillights looked realistic and accurate, and the badging on the black mesh grille and hood looked sharp. The chrome bumpers were nicely shaped with big bumper blocks in the front and rear. Folks who examine the model closely will also appreciate the protruding gas-filler neck and cap on the right rear, just above the bumper.
The wheels also were steerable, and there was some detail, especially on the suspensions, under the car. The tires were non-branded and featured black sidewalls, cream wheels and small hub caps with the Mercedes logo emblazoned on them.
Overall, this was a quite elegant-look- ing model.
Marketing: Selling this classic roadster won’t be hard, especially among your Boomer buyers. If your shop is in an area, such as the East or West Coasts, where more of the high-end roadsters were popular in the 1950s and ’60s, this will be a prime seller for you.
As always, think bigger than just displaying this in a main display case. Build a display with other roadsters, either of all eras or specifically the 1950s and ’60s. Combine 1:18 and smaller-scale die-cast cars into a display, and don’t forget plastic models of roadsters or sports cars. These are good alternatives for folks who can’t spend $150-plus for a quality die-cast car. Acrylic display cases, especially ones that could hold two cars, are good add-ons.
Product: Mercedes-Benz 190 SL (white)
Stock number: 76117
• Excellent detail
• Iconic roadster
• Popular brand