This week we join Michael Potiker for a ride back in time in his tastefully modified Mercedes 190 SL as he wheels around Los Angeles in the low-cut period-correct roadster.
For most, the gorgeous Benz offers more than enough personality in stock form, and would be no difficult feat to become attached to, but to achieve an even deeper bond with his machine Michael hasn’t shied away from adding some custom touches. After acquiring the 190 SL following a serendipitous stroll down his father’s street where the pair came across the car for the first time, he went about researching the legacy of the model to discover what they were used for, trying to ascertain their place in the era from which they came.
Though often shadowed by its older brother the 300 SL, Mercedes also offered packages for 190 SL owners who were looking to go racing, and upon learning of this option Michael went about sourcing parts and finding builders to transform his car into a Southern California-style racer while also paying homage to the original Rennsport kit (which Mercedes would sell to customers separate from the car, with the owners adding the pieces themselves).
On the experience of driving the resulting slice-like Mercedes roadster, he explains that for him, “It’s not even about the roads and the scenery, it’s about rowing the gears and operating this absolutely ridiculous vehicle.” While it’s nice to enjoy our cars in ideal settings, we have to agree with Michael on what’s paramount in all of this, and that is the actual act of driving, regardless of where it’s happening.
There are certain cars, like this one is for Michael, that have that kind of pull on us that can turn any drive into an activity that reaffirms your original passion for the car. And when you use such a thing regularly? That’s even better, and in keeping with his idea that it’s important to use cars like this, because it’s “about experiencing something that’s drastically different from the everyday,” even if you’re still using it every day.
Beyond the lowered doors and windscreen, the “cafe road racer” look is achieved through an interesting shade of green applied to the body and unadorned steel wheels, a subtle and appropriate livery, and some prominent Marchal driving lights mounted at the corners of the classic ovoid Mercedes grille. On the performance side of the changes, the 190 SL’s inline-four has been fitted with some hotter Webers, which leaves you with what is “effectively a pedal that’s an on-off switch,” and as Michael goes on to explain, “It changes the way you drive because you look for these opportunities to be flooring the car.” In order to keep the thing planted in this pursuit of full-throttle driving, the suspension components have been upgraded to stiffer and newer pieces to cope.
On the joys of using a car like this often, Michael remarks that it’s like being in “a cosplay time machine as a 1950s racing driver.” If a car can elicit those kinds of wondrous child’s-imagination-come-true feelings and turn that into a regular reality, that’s Driving Tastefully®.
Also published on Medium.