The First SL"R": 1955 190SL w/ Factory Rennsport Options

It’s not often we’re asked to write up 190SL’s so when one of our subscribers, Harold Hodnett in Atlanta, Georgia, told us he currently had one of the rarest examples listed, we had to jump at the opportunity. This specific 190SL has been written about and discussed time and time again in the classic Mercedes groups and forums. Ed Bertrand, proclaimed 190SL aficionado, even wrote a piece on this car back in 2005 titling it “Rarest of the Rare.” The car has also been featured in STAR magazine along with other prominent online publications and has taken home multiple awards from the local MBCA Concours.

First, we have to discuss why this car is so important and the answer lies within the factory datacard. Two options (SA55039 and SA55056) set this car apart from all other 190SL’s in the fact that this specific SL was optioned from the factory with SLR options or the “Rennsport Kit." For enthusiastic or spirited drivers who didn’t have access to the 300 SL, Mercedes decided in 1955 to produce a specified "customer competition" version of the 190SL. The Rennsport kit, which was available from Mercedes-Benz for the first year of the 190SL, included special aluminum doors (SA55039) without windows and door handles accompanied by a small plexiglass windscreen (SA55056). A 190 SL fitted with the complete kit and without redundant trim weighed about 2300 lbs and was capable of 130+ miles per hour.

From our conversations, it’s speculated that no more than 5-7 190SL’s left the factory with these options and most conversions were ordered after the initial delivery through the dealer. Harold's car is particularly special in that it even predates the factory-developed race car delivered to Sindelfingen in 1956. Bertrand speculated this car may have been the first 190SL ever to be ordered with the Rennsport options. That being said, it’s extremely unusual to find this listed on any data card. Even more unusual, the doors and windscreen weren’t installed at the factory but shipped with the car and denoted as “furnished loose”, most likely intended for install at a later date by the dealer or owner. The project was short-lived from Mercedes-Benz: it seems that as the car was refused for the GT class, the 190 SL”R” was found only in the "Sport Series", which reduced its chances of success. Unfortunately for this 190SL, but not surprisingly, these doors and windscreen have been misplaced over the years as they were never installed by the original owner but given the datacard designation, this 190SL remains no less special or unique.

Indications of rarity aside, this 190SL has undergone a complete professional restoration and is truly one of the nicest examples we’ve seen. Finished in Medium Blue (DB-350) over Natural (1068) Leather “Gullwing-style” bucket seats, this SL presents itself as a truly special automobile. The entire package is accented by a Dark Blue soft top and, as one would imagine, prominently displays a multitude of other interesting factory options. These options can bee seen on the datacard and include the following: Becker Le Mans Radio with Reims Adapter, Brake Booster, Electric Antenna, Kinder Seat, Flash to Pass Headlight Switch, Windshield Washer, Locking Glove Box, Left Side Heater Blower, and Bumper Guards. Altogether, we haven’t come across another 190SL this heavily optioned.

According to Harold, more than 1,250 individual parts have been used in the complete restoration of this 190SL and when we say complete, we mean nut and bolt-out restoration. The kind of work that demands a complete odometer reset because the car is no longer used based on the sheer amount of parts replaced, details refinished, and details tended to. From the engine to the interior and the top, all components have been broken down and restored pin by pin and bolt by bolt. For a complete list of parts replaced in this restoration, please contact us. We’re happy to share any details.

Harold currently has the 190SL listed for sale for a very reasonable asking price of $126,000 and as well as we can convey the shape, condition, and sheer road presence of this car, it achieves these marks ten-fold in person. The 190SL has certainly seen a nice upswing in value over the last few years and although some examples seem to be leveling out, we expect exceptional examples like this one to keep climbing. If someone out there has a set of Rennsport doors and a windscreen we would assume the value of this car to significantly increase just through the addition. As any of our readers want to reach Harold about this special 190SL, please contact us through our website and we’ll be happy to connect you.



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