In 2008 when car collector Richard Mott contacted Hot Rods and Custom Stuff tuning shop in California to discuss upgrading his stock 1961 Mercedes 190SL with a more powerful engine, better brakes and lowered suspension, neither parties could even begin to sense the wrinkle in time that was about to happen.
Generally, improving an older car mechanically under the skin while retaining its original factory appearance on the outside is known as “retromodding” – a practice that’s as old as the automobile itself.
After careful consideration and much study of the original 190SL’s engine bay, chassis and mechanical components, the shop decided it would be simpler to start with a newer car altogether and use that as platform to transfer the original ’61s exterior panels over to.
A low-mileage 2004 Mercedes SL600 was obtained and stripped of all exterior panels. Because it was longer and wider, modifications were made to the 190SL’s original fenders and doors at 5 points in order to artfully “stretch” and “bend” them onto the newer car’s platform.
That “bending” of the 190SL’s old body panels onto the ’04 SL600’s frame gave rise to the car’s nickname and customized hood label which reads “Mercedes-Bent”. After 13 months of work the new creation was ready for the world in early 2010, and quickly went on to win an Excellence In Automotive Design award at that year’s SEMA show in Las Vegas.
Looking closely at the slideshow below, you’ll notice the “Bent’s” 8-inch increase in length and 6-inch increase in width compared to an original 1961 190SL.
The 2004 SL’s 6.0-liter V12 engine with twin turbos was retained, but sent to tuning house RennTech where the intercooler for the turbo and water pump were upgraded to handle larger coolant flow. In turn, this increased cooling capacity allowed a turbo pressure boost from 14.5 to 21 psi. All these changes along with remapping the engine control computer allowed a horsepower increase from 493 to 650 and a torque rating increase from 590 foot-pounds to 750.
The new donor car’s front brakes were upgraded to 16.2-inch discs with 8-piston Brembo calipers, and rear brakes were upgraded to 14.2-inch discs with 4-piston Brembos. To handle the increased brake fluid pressure, stainless steel woven-mesh brake lines typically used in racing applications replaced factory issue ones.
The donor car’s original 5-speed automatic was disassembled and rebuilt by RennTech with heavier duty clutch packs to handle the higher power load. The transmission control unit was reprogrammed in order to adapt shift timing and response sensitivity for the best mix of fast shifts under heavy acceleration while maintaining the factory’s relaxed feel at lower speeds around town.
The ’04 SL’s factory-issue limited slip rear differential was replaced with a customized unit which locks both rear axles together 100% under heavy acceleration in order to ensure rear tires don’t melt completely before actual forward motion begins.
Clever suspension modifications abound on the Bent. RennTech added revised toe links and adjustable camber bushings. Because the donor ’04 SL already featured a computer and mechanicals to change ride height in subtle increments, reprogramming of controls allowed those new suspension parts to drop the car to low rider levels. And bring it back up to standard 1961 height at the push of a button.
The custom-built original wheels were fabricated by wheel maker Evod. Inspired by the original 190SL’s wheel shape, ventilation holes, and center cap…the new creation’s 20-inch wheels feature center pieces embossed with the Mercedes star logo. The best part – those center wheel parts do not spin with the rest of the wheel, and allow the star emblem to always remain pointing upright. Very clever. (We at Classic Cars Today Online sincerely hope Mercedes-Benz wakes up and takes inspiration from Evod’s great modern interpretations of a classic.)
SLIDE SHOW: CLICK ON ANY OF THE PHOTOS BELOW TO ENLARGE TO FULL SIZE. USE ARROWS UNDERNEATH PICTURES TO SCROLL BACKWARD OR FORWARD.