1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing news, pictures, specifications, and information
Alloy Coupe
Chassis Num: 198.043.5500208
Engine Num: 198.980.5500218
Sold for $4,620,000 at 2012 Gooding & Company.
If not for ÚS importer Max Hoffman and his passion for a sports coupe based on the highly successful W194 series race cars, the Mercedes-Benz immortal 300 SL line would never have come to production.

The racing success of the factory team was having a positive effect on Mercedes-Benz sales in the ÚS. However, without a car clearly related to the race-winning machines, the marketing advantage of the immensely costly racing effort was limited. Accordingly, Mercedes-Benz management approved the 300 SL project after Mr. Hoffman's firm made a commitment to purchase 1,000 of the cars for ÚS distribution.

Integral to the marketing plan for the groundbreaking new sports car was the expectation that the cars would be used for competition by private owners in order to bolster sales in the showrooms, and the factory ensured that the 300 SL was accepted by the FIA for international competition.

As a result, the production Gullwing could be ordered wîth an all-aluminum body. When chosen, many additional competition upgrades followed suit. A competition camshaft was fitted along wîth stiffer, shorter springs that lowered the car and enhanced peak performance, while racing-specification tires on wider rims promoted better adhesion. Plexiglass windows and vented brake drums were also featured in the package. The cars were nearly 200 pounds lighter than the standard steel-bodied version. In all, just 29 of these aluminum-bodied cars were ordered and built – approximately 2% of the total Gullwing production.

This Car
Derived for sport, this aluminum Gullwing did not see competitive use. Completed on April 20, 1955, 5500208 was appropriately finished in metallic silver gray over a blue leather interior. The 300 SL was also outfitted wîth Rudge wheels, the NSL motor and Plexiglas windows per aluminum-build specifications.

On May 27, 1955, the Alloy Gullwing was sent to Rotterdam where it was loaded aboard a Holland America Line ship for transport to New York. Úpon arrival, the Mercedes-Benz distributor sent 5500208 to the West Coast for ultimate delivery to Veron Holz of Bonita, California. The new aluminum-bodied Gullwing would have been an extravagant machine on the roads of San Diego in the late 1950s.

Although the early history of this Gullwing is not known, there is no apparent race record for 5500208. In March 1980, the 300 SL resurfaced in San Diego and was sold through a motorcar locator to Hans Dieter Blatzheim of Bonn, Germany. The purchase price was an astonishing $57,000 for an unrestored car, which the seller most likely assumed was steel. The invoice for the purchase still exists, indicating the alloy chassis number 198.043.5500208.

In need of some attention, the Alloy Gullwing made its way to the well-known restoration shop Hill & Vaughn in Santa Monica, California. Phil Hill and Ken Vaughn had gained a reputation for their high-quality restorations and were frequent winners at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Disassembly of the car began in April 1980, and the car is accompanied by a significant file of numerous invoices and photographs documenting the work performed by Hill & Vaughn.

The invoices identify the completeness of 5500208, as well as its solid state, which was no doubt a benefit of having spent 25 years in Southern California. Some necessary aluminum work was addressed and the meticulous fitting of the doors, hood and deck lid are thoroughly outlined. Additionally, the engine and gearbox were sent to AMG Motorbau in Germany for rebuilding. Subsequently returned to Hill & Vaughn in early 1982, the project was nearing completion. By mid-year, the car was ready for paint and assembly.

For unknown reasons, Herr Blatzheim requested that 5500208 be packed in a sea container and sent to Germany. The car was loaded and loose parts were thoroughly inventoried before shipment in November 1982.

The completion of the restoration was conducted in Germany, but not before the body was stripped and prepared again for paint. Photos dated October 1983 show the bare aluminum skin in outstanding condition, proving straight and showing good panel fit. Further photo documentation shows the restoration and assembly of the chassis and completion of the car in silver wîth gray leather.

In May 1984, the 5500208 was sold to Markus Ahr of Germany. During his ownership, work was performed by Daimler-Benz Aktiengesellschaft including a rebuild of the engine. Herr Ahr kept the car well into the 1990s, at which time work was performed by Kienle Automobiltechnik. Photo documentation shows a rebuild of the transmission, rear end, brakes and suspension. Retaining the silver-over-gray finish, detail work was conducted on gauges and other ancillary components and the project was completed in 1998. Not long after, the Alloy Gullwing was sold to Friedhelm Loh, a noted German collector wîth a passion for significant Mercedes-Benz.

In 2009, Ken McBride of Seattle, Washington, was given the opportunity to buy 5500208. Having had a handful of Gullwings, Mr. McBride appreciated the importance of an Alloy and, for the first time in his many years of collecting, had the chance to own one. Although his collection was significantly diverse, Mr. McBride had always focused on Mercedes-Benz and had acquired a 540 K Special Coupe, a 540 K Cabriolet A and eventually a 380 K Erdmann & Rossi Special Roadster.

After some serious thought, and perhaps a little family persuasion, the Alloy Gullwing was bought for the collection. In the company of a J Duesenberg Murphy Roadster, a Ferrari 410 Superamerica and other significant cars, the 300 SL was more than a notable entry, it was a dream come true for a man who had an Alloy Gullwing high on a short list of cars to own.

In late 2009, Mr. McBride fell ill and the newly acquired Mercedes-Benz took a back seat. At that time, the Gullwing was sent to noted 300 SL restorer Rudi Koniczek at Rudi & Co. for some necessary sorting. Mr. McBride wanted certain aspects of the car corrected, predominantly the shade of silver and the interior. In the months to come, the Alloy Gullwing was stripped to bare metal and repainted in its original silver (DB 180). Necessary body work was conducted and a methodical process was undertaken to ensure proper assembly and fit of the aluminum body. The gray leather interior was removed and the correct blue leather was installed. Some additional mechanical work was conducted, as well as detailing of various components. One deviation from the original was the addition of seat cushions upholstered in plaid, acknowledging the lightweight car's racing alter ego – they are a marvelous touch.

In mid-2011, Mr. Koniczek had finished the restoration but, sadly, Mr. McBride passed away before he could see the final masterpiece. The result was truly spectacular! Shortly after, Mr. McBride's wife Patty and the rest of the McBride family chose to show the Alloy Gullwing at the Kirkland Concours d'Elegance where it rightfully won its class.

The finish of the 300 SL is of the highest level and the car retains a very correct appearance. With a livery that is a tasteful yet bold statement, the quality of the work and attention to detail is obvious and further inspection reveals the purity of this Alloy Gullwing. The original engine remains, correctly stamped NSL, and the body number can be found stamped on the left wheel arch in the engine compartment. Additionally, the Gullwing has belly pans, its chrome Rudge wheels are original, the luggage is properly finished in natural pig skin, the Becker radio is correct, the grille has the proper 'curved star' – the list goes on.

Furthermore, this Alloy Gullwing is accompanied by a tool kit, a knock-off hammer, a jack, comprehensive documentation, the Mercedes-Benz Certificate, an owner's manual, an instruction manual, a spare parts catalogue, a service book and Becker radio manuals.

5500208 is a sensation to drive. Its road manners are what one would expect from any beautifully engineered motorcar. The true excitement, however, is when this supercar comes on cam. With abundant power and torque, and precise gearshift, this Gullwing is simply addictive.

In recent years, these ultra-rare, competition- specification cars have come to be recognized by collectors and enthusiasts for what they have always been – truly the best of the best. They are a tiny group of factory-built, lightweight racers, constructed wîth the express intention of increasing the public visibility of one of the greatest sports cars ever constructed.

Gullwings are routinely acknowledged as favorites in a collection of any size. They are prized for their magnificent engineering and build quality, purity of design and outstanding driving experience. Aluminum-bodied examples – all 29 of which have survived to this day – are very seldom offered for sale.

As one of the most iconic motorcars of all time, it can easily be said that the Alloy Gullwing is the most significant road-going Mercedes-Benz of the post-war era.

Source - Gooding & Company
Coupe
Chassis Num: 1980405500601
Sold for $770,000 at 2008 RM Auctions.
Sold for $1,375,000 at 2011 RM Auctions.
Success, in most cases, comes down to being in the right place at the right time. Part of the mystique of Meredes-Benz's 300SL comes down to that fact. It was the right car for the right time. The price almost didn't matter because of it. That's the   [Read More...]

By Jeremy McMullen
Coupe
In 1926, Benz & Company and Daimler Motor Company signed an 'Agreement of Mutual Interest,' thus beginning an automobile empire. Prior to merging, both companies experienced success in the realm of European auto racing.

After World War II, the Daimler-Benz factory was in ruins, however, beneath the rubble, many of the factory machines were intact. By spring of 1946, Daimler-Benz resumed manufacture of automobiles and trucks. In the early 1950s, bringing Mercedes back to the exalted position it held in motor sports during the 1930s became a priority. The culmination of that effort is this 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe.

The 300SL began its life as a sedan (the Mercedes 300), was morphed into a race car, and then converted back into a production car. This automotive alchemy was orchestrated by the company's development engineer, Rudi Úhlenhaut.

Úhlenhaut and his team designed an innovative frame consisting of a myriad of small tubes welded together in a very complex pattern. The design of the frame left no room for traditional doors. Race rules required that cars have operational doors, bud did not stipulate how they should open. The resulting 'gullwing' doors are the most distinctive feature of the 300SL Coupe. The aerodynamic body style was described by one critic as having 'the look of power but without brutality.' Indeed, there are no protrusions such as door handles, and the rear view mirrors on this car were post-factory add-ons.

A car described by one enthusiast as being 'as dangerous as romance' could not afford to be slowed down by anything as practical as a door handle. Adventurous drivers could close in on 150 MPH if conditions were optimal, thanks to fuel injection, which was introduced to production cars by the 1954 Mercedes 300SL.

Zsa Zsa Gabor, Ralph Lauren, and Sophia Loren are among the famous owners of the very desirable 300SL Gullwing Coupe.

Source - The Frick Car and Carriage
Alloy Coupe
This car is the first of only 29 Alloy 300SL coupes produced. The car came fitted with a lighter body and windows, along with a higher performance engine, special gearing, racing suspension, larger brakes and quick-change wheels.

This low mi  [Read More...]
Coupe
A Lovely Lady with Bolted-on Eyebrows
By 1951 Daimler-Benz had recovered enough from World War II to establish project W194 and raid the 300 sedan parts bin to develop nine cars for the 1952 racing season. With these cars, Mercedes-Benz ac  [Read More...]
Coupe
Chassis Num: 1980405500409
Sold for $726,000 at 2007 RM Auctions.
In 2007 this 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing was brought to the Monterey Sports & Classic Car Auction presented by RM Auctions, where it had an estimated value of $550,000-$650,000. It was offered without reserve. It is finished in silver with   [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2007
Probably best known for its 'gullwing' doors, the 300 SL is one of Mercedes most well known automobiles. It's powerful six-cylinder engine helped to push the horsepower to well over 200 and would be its reason for success in an accelerated racing era and would also be the fastest production car of its time. Because of the smaller sized frame, the engine had to be squeezed to make room, which of course would directly effect the interior space. To help with this over-all problem, a folding steering wheel was installed which made it easier for the driver to enter and exit the vehicle. Exterior colors such as black, blue, and red proved to be most successful, but the default color was the ever-popular silver metallic. The 300 SL's performance would undoubtedly be at its best, with a unique tubular frame that withstood fierce driving styles. Helping with handling, its weight would be just under 2,850 pounds. The gullwing SL has become a very sought after collectors piece, with some buyers paying over a half million dollars.

Kyle McMullen
Coupe
This Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing was introduced in 1954 when only 146 units were produced.  [Read More...]
Coupe
Max Hoffman, who also persuaded Porsche to build its Speedster and BMW it 507, persuaded Mercedes-Benz to build the 300SL Gullwing. Austrian-born Hoffman was the driving force behind the importation of interesting European cars in the early 1950s.   [Read More...]
Coupe
Chassis Num: 1980405500503
High bid of $375,000 at 2009 RM Auctions. (did not sell)
This 300SL Coupe was purchased new from dealer Heinz Zegke of Spokane, Washington by Ed Atchinson. It was then sold to a doctor in Great Falls, Montana. It would remain in his care of only a short period of time before it was sold to Mr. Waldenberg  [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2009
Coupe
Chassis Num: GW1006
The 300SL is a very rare car and fortunately for enthusiasts, there are a few tributes, or replica gullwings that were well constructed in recent years.   [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | May 2009
Coupe
This 300SL Gullwing was originally purchased by Clifford S. Heinz, Jr., the grandson of Henry J. Heinz, founder of Heinz Foods. The SL stands for 'Sport Light.'  [Read More...]
Coupe
Chassis Num: 4500016
This first owner of this unique Mercedes 300SL Coupe was Adrian Conan Doyle, the youngest son of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes mysteries. His comfortable royalty income allowed Adrian to dabble in racing in the 1930s with Bugattis  [Read More...]
Coupe
Chassis Num: 198043.5500464
This 300SL, the 18th of the 29 lightweight coupes, was completed on the 29th of June 1955. It was destined for the Mercedes-Benz distributor in New York and later Foreign Motors Boston. The car stayed in Massachusetts through several owners until tra  [Read More...]
Coupe
Chassis Num: 1980404500032
High bid of $460,000 at 2010 RM Auctions. (did not sell)
This example is the 32nd 300SL built and was delivered new to Zurich, Switzerland. The original engine was rebuilt by the factory in the 1970s and updated with a newer oil system. Mr. Steve Levy of Riverwoods, Illinois purchased the car in 1987 and k  [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2010
Coupe
Chassis Num: 5500712
Sold for $550,000 at 2010 RM Auctions.
Sold for $632,500 at 2012 RM Auctions.
The 300SL was the first Mercedes to be introduced in the United States before it was shown in Germany. It was unveiled on February 6th of 1954 in New York. It had a multi-tube space frame construction and a fully-independent suspension. Power was fro  [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2010
Coupe
Chassis Num: 198.0404500143
Sold for $676,500 at 2011 RM Auctions.
Max Hoffman requested 1,000 300 SL Gullwings but production soon exceeded that figure of the semi-hand-built car. Production reached 1,400 units. The 300SL Coupe was discontinued after the 1957 model year and remains one of the most coveted of all sp  [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2011
Alloy Coupe
This 1955 alloy-bodied 300 SL is the fourth produced in a limited run of 29 aluminum-alloy bodied 300 SLs designed for competition and sold to privateer racers. This car was delivered to Formula 1 champion Juan Manuel Fangio, who requested the car be  [Read More...]
Coupe
Chassis Num: 198.040.5500637
Engine Num: 198.980.5500630
Sold for $847,000 at 2013 RM Auctions.
Mercedes-Benz produced 1,371 steel-bodied and 29 alloy bodied 300SL Gullwing Coupes between 1954 and 1957.   [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2013
Coupe
The Mercedes-Benz 300SL was introduced in 1954 as a two-seat sports coupe with distinctive gull wing doors and later offered as an open roadster.  [Read More...]
Coupe
Chassis Num: 198.040.5500368
Engine Num: 198.980.5500388
Sold for $2,530,000 at 2014 RM Auctions.
Chassis number 198.040.550368 was completed on May 31, 1955 and delivered as a special order on July 6, 1955, by Max Hoffman's distributors in New York. The car was originally finished in Ivory (DB 608) with an interior in Red (1079) leather, the sam  [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2014
Chassis Num: 198.040.5500545
Engine Num: 198.980.5500542
Sold for $1,375,000 at 2015 Bonhams.
Widely regarded as the greatest sportscar of the 1950s, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Coupe, with its iconic gullwing doors, established a precedent for the post-war sportscar. Immediately recognizable, the 300SL set the imagination aflame. It was, in many  [Read More...]

By Jeremy McMullen
Coupe
The Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing story begins with the 1952 Carrera Panamericana, when a W194 300SL coupe driven by Karl Kling won that grueling road race. Max Hoffman, the impresario of imported cars on New York's Park Avenue approached Mercedes wit  [Read More...]
Alloy Coupe
Chassis Num: 198.043.5500786
Engine Num: 198.980.5500728
Mercedes-Benz built just twenty-nine aluminum-bodied Gullwings. This example was ordered new by Rene Wassermann of Basel, Switzerland. Mr. Wasserman ordered his new alloy Gullwing with many special options, including special high-gloss white paint, a  [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2015
Coupe
The Mercedes-Benz 'SL Gullwing' was the fastest production car of its day. This example is an early model as the SL grand touring car was introduced in 1954. Though later offered in roadster form, it is the Gullwing that is most distinctive and recog  [Read More...]
Coupe
Gottlieb Daimler formed the Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft - DMG - after having patented the first internal-combustion-powered automobile in 1886. Impressed with the Daimler-built engines in the 1894 Paris-Rouen race, Viennese banker Emil Jellinek soon  [Read More...]
Coupe
This Gullwing was the inspiration for its original owner, Ernie Spitzer, to found the Gullwing Club of America in 1961. Ernie owned and maintained his car from 1955 to 2012 while keeping fastidious records regarding maintenance and mileage which now   [Read More...]
With a top speed of 130-155 mph, depending on the axle ratio, the 300SL was one of the fastest vehicles of the 1950's. Its performance, design, reputation, and futuristic Gullwing door's were all responsible for the success of the vehicle. The 'SL' represented 'Sport Leicht' or 'Sport Light'.
An American Max Hoffman is partly responsible for the mass-production of the 300SL. He had urged Mercedes-Benz to create the vehicle for the American market. In 1954, the vehicle was officially presented to the world at the New York Auto Show. This was not its first appearance. It had been raced in several international events that included Mexico's Carrera Panamerican road race, Berne, Nurburgring, and the Mille Miglia. Prototypes had been entered in the 1952 24-hours of Le Mans where they were victorious. These successes on the race track, including endurance runs, guaranteed a reliable, fast, performance machine.

In 1955, the famous Stirling Moss drove a 300 SLR to victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia where he averaged a speed of 157.6 km/h for 1,600 km. (97.9 mph for 994 miles). A 300 SLR was leading the 24 hours of Le Mans when it was withdrawn from the race. A horrible accident had occurred where a car had killed 82 spectators during the race.

The 300 SL was powered by a fuel-injected, overhead-cam, six-cylinder engine and produced around 215 horsepower at 6200 RPM. It was the first vehicle to ever use fuel-injection with a gasoline powered engine. The large drum brakes, independent suspension, and four-speed manual transmission helped give this vehicle super-car status. The silver color was by far the most popular. Other color options available were dark blue and black. Leather interior was optional with cloth upholstery being standard equipment.

The Gullwing or butterfly-wing doors were well received by owners and spectators. They added a distinctive quality that could not be found in any other vehicle at the time. The Mercedes 300SL was first a race car. It was built using a tubular space-frame chassis and conceived by DBAG's chief developing engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut. In an effort to keep the vehicle as light as possible and to retain the necessary strength, Gullwing doors were used. The doors were not without their problems though. Getting into and out of the vehicle was rather difficult. Due to the doors, the vehicle was proned to leaking and difficult to repair. As a result, after 1,400 examples had been produced, the Gullwing doors were replaced by the 1957 roadster. The roadster with its conventional doors, updated suspension, and convertible roof proved to be more popular than the previous design. More than 1,800 roadsters were sold.

Disc brakes were added in 1961 as was the alloy block.

Throughout the seven year production of the 300SL, the car endured major changes both mechanically and aesthetically. Throughout it all, it retained its race-breed heritage and super car status.
By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2010
The Mercedes-Benz 300 was produced from 1951 through 1958 and is one of the most graceful and classic creations of the post-World War II era. The style was both classic and modern and built to high standards. They were constructed from fine materials using the latest in technology and achieving minimal weight with a high degree of strength.

The 300 was built on a traditional body-on-frame construction as many other marque's, including most of the Mercedes-Benz line, had switched to unit-body construction. The body-on-frame construction was ideal for maintaining a high level of quality for vehicles produced in limited quantities. The front end was suspended in place through the use of an independent suspension with A-arms and coil springs. The rear was the tried-and-true swing axle with coil springs.

Under the bonnet was a 2996-cc six-cylinder engine with Bosch mechanical fuel injection that produced 175 horsepower. Considering the modest wheelbase size and the overall low weight of the vehicle, the 175 horsepower was more than enough to carry these custom-built vehicles at highway speeds with little effort. The car was fast, luxurious, safe, and comfortable.

From November of 1951 through March of 1962, there were 11,430 examples of the Mercedes 300 constructed. Most were built atop of a 120-inch wheelbase and with four-door configuration. Just over 700 were convertible sedans.

The 300 had been introduced at the Frankfurt Auto Show. Mercedes-Benz selected the Paris Auto Show to introduce the next iteration of the 300-Series, the 300S. This was a much sportier version that rode on a shortened, 114.2-inch, wheelbase and built in 2-door open and closed configuration. The engine was a multi-carbureted unit that produced just over 160 SAE horsepower.

The Mercedes-Benz 300S was a very fast automobile that still retained luxury, comfort, and style. Built in very limited quantities, it was an exclusive automobile.

Production of the 300S lasted from 1952 through April of 1958 with a total of 760 examples being constructed.

The final iteration of the 300-Series was the 300SC, which made its appearance at the 1955 Paris Auto Show. It was given a detuned version of the 300SL's Bosch mechanical fuel-injected engine and a new 'low-pivot' swing axle rear suspension.
By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2007
Eternal youth is a miracle bestowed on only a small number of cars, and the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL coupe is one of this elite group. The Stuttgart-based brand unveiled its new sports car in February 1954 at the International Motor Sports Show in New York, and in so doing lit the fuse for an icon of the automotive world. With its flat, graceful body, the 300 SL had lost nothing of its freshness even as the millennium drew to a close and was voted 'Sports car of the Century' in 1999. 'Gullwing' doors provided that essential touch of inspiration, opening up towards the sky to reveal a tightly sculptured interior. The history of the 300 SL is inextricably linked wîth the life of an influential admirer. American importer Maximilian E. Hoffman it was who urged Mercedes-Benz to build a road car in the image of its racing coupe, the start of production in 1954 providing a sweet fruit for his endeavors. The assembly lines may have waved goodbye to the last of the only 1,400 units of the 300 SL coupe ever made in 1957, but the spirit of this extraordinary car most certainly lives on.
From the race-track to the road

The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL was conceived initially as a purpose-built racing sports car (W 194). In 1952, the coupe notched up an impressive record of success in the year's major races. At the Grand Prix in Bern the 300 SL sealed a clean sweep of the podium places, an awesome performance backed up by a one-two finish ahead of a stunned field in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Nürburgring duly yielded another one-two-three, and the new Mercedes racing sports car also claimed victory in the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico. It all added up to a majestic return to motor sport for Mercedes-Benz, picking up where the brand had left off during a highly successful period before the Second World War.

Although there were initially no plans to send the 300 SL into series production, the Daimler-Benz Board had been left wîth the words of Maximilian ('Maxi') Hoffman ringing in their ears. The official importer of Mercedes-Benz cars into America campaigned tirelessly for a sports car to offer his well-heeled clientele, and the 300 SL racer fitted the bill perfectly. After lengthy deliberations, the green light was given for series production of the road-trim 300 SL (W 198), as well as a smaller, open-top sports car, the 190 SL (W 121).

The two models were due to celebrate their premieres less than six months after the Board had granted the project their approval. The occasion was the International Motor Sports Show taking place in New York from February 6 –14, 1954 and at the time America's most important auto show. The engineers rose to the challenge of their race against the clock, and the 300 SL and its smaller brother, the 190 SL, were ready to receive the acclaim of the admiring crowds. Series production began in Sindelfingen in August 1954 and the price was fixed at 29,000 Marks – a quite enormous sum at the time, especially when you compared the new model alongside the Mercedes-Benz 170 Vb – on sale at 7,900 Marks.

The body The body of the 300 SL was developed wîth the primary aim of cutting aerodynamic drag to a minimum. The result was a streamlined form wîth few adornments, a car which adhered faithfully to its design brief and which has retained its freshness and allure to the present day. Wonderfully proportioned and extremely dynamic, it was as if the 300 SL – surging forward on its wheels – had been cut form a single mold.

The new sports car was a real crowd-puller, thanks in no small measure to its wonderfully charismatic 'gullwing' doors. Rather than serving merely as a stylistic gimmick, they represented the central element of the 300 SL design, the ultimate example of necessity as the mother of invention. The car's aluminum skin was stretched over a tubular frame, which – in the interests of stability – rose much further than usual up the sides of the vehicle, making it impossible to fit conventional doors. The response of the engineers was to devise an upwards-opening door concept. The elegance of the car's side view remained undisturbed by a door handle, wîth a discreet pull-out bar disengaging the lock. The door then opened upwards wîth the help of a telescopic spring.

The tubular frame for the 300 SL, designed by Rudolf Úhlenhaut, reduced weight to a minimum but provided maximum strength. A series of extremely thin tubes were welded together into triangles to produce a frame which boasted impressive torsional stiffness and was only subjected to compression and tensile forces. In the standard SL the frame tipped the scales at only 82 kilograms, whilst the complete car in ready-to-drive condition and including the spare wheel, tools and fuel weighed in at 1,295 kilograms.

The body of the 300 SL was constructed largely out of high-grade sheet steel, although aluminum was used for the engine hood, trunk lid and the skin panels for the door sills and doors. For a relatively small extra charge, customers could choose to have the whole body made from light alloy, which cut 80 kilograms off the car's total weight. However, only 29 SL customers took up this option and today their cars are highly sought-after rarities.

The technology

The technical make-up of the 300 SL owes much to the Mercedes-Benz 300 (W 186 II) sedan, the vehicle of choice for many statesmen and industrialists and also known as the 'Adenauer Mercedes'. The six-cylinder engine featured a number of modifications, one of which saw the carburetor replaced by a direction injection system – a technical advance which was years ahead of its time. This new technology boosted output to 158 kW (215 hp) and the car's maximum speed up as far as 260 km/h, depending on the rear axle ratio. Customers could order their SL wîth a choice of five different ratios. The standard 1:3.64 variant was set up primarily to deliver rapid acceleration and capable of 235 km/h. The 1:3.89 and 1:4.11 ratios were good for even faster acceleration, whilst the 1:3.42 option offered a higher top speed. This figure rose still further – to 260 km/h – when the ratio was set at 1:3.25. However, this 'resulted in greatly reduced acceleration, making the car less enjoyable to drive in downtown city traffic,' as the sales information pointed out. The 300 SL hit 100 km/h in just 10 seconds, wîth car testers at the time measuring fuel consumption at an average of 15 liters per 100 km. A 100-liter fuel tank was positioned at the rear of the car and could be enlarged to 130 liters at an extra charge.

The engine had to be tilted 45 degrees to the left in order to squeeze under the hood of what was an extremely flat car, thus reducing the amount of space in the passenger-side footwell. The SL's center of gravity was almost exactly in the middle of the car, laying the perfect foundations for fast and precise cornering. The chassis was essentially the same as the 300a sedan's, but wîth sportier tuning, and the drum brakes were adapted in response to the increased performance of the muscle-bound sports car. Only later, in the 1961 roadster variant, were these replaced by disc brakes all round.

The interior

The interior of the 300 SL was more solid than spectacular. The standard fabric seat upholstery was available in a choice of three checked patterns, but most customers opted for leather instead. The body paintwork came in silver metallic as standard, although red, dark blue and black also proved popular.

A shortage of space made getting into the 300 SL something of a challenge – this was, after all, a sports car. Fortunately, the §teering wheel could be folded down, allowing the driver to twist his or her legs in the direction of the pedals. Once seated, the driver enjoyed an ergonomically impressively refined cockpit design. The §teering wheel was just the right distance for the arms to reach and the driver's feet moved intuitively onto the pedals: the 300 SL was very much a driver's car. In addition, the instrument panel was extremely tidy and clearly laid-out, wîth the rev counter and speedometer in the center of the driver's field of vision, as you would expect.

The handling characteristics

Out on the road, you quickly realized why the 300 SL had been christened wîth those particular letters – the car was certainly Sporty and Light. With an engine delivering 215 hp and a total weight of only around 1,300 kilograms, acceleration was suitably impressive – especially wîth the right choice of rear axle ratio. Exceptional torque ensured good pulling power at any speed. The §teering was direct and the suspension made sure that the car hugged the road nicely. There's no doubt that the 300 SL was a sports car of the finest pedigree. That said, it was far from impractical, as many owners were quick to appreciate. For them, this was a high-speed touring car which offered precise driving characteristics but which avoided sapping the energy of the driver unduly. The trunk was sufficiently large, complemented as it was by the extra room behind the seats for additional baggage. Plus, customers could order a made-to-measure luggage set designed to make the most of the space available.

How the press saw the 300 SL

The press at the time were falling over themselves to lavish praise on the 300 SL. 'Autosport' reported that: 'The exterior form of the 300 SL is quite wonderful and its performance almost unbelievable. The construction of the car and its production quality are first class and the whole concept represents an uncompromising realization of all the new ideas.' After its initial test, 'Road & Track' wrote: 'We are lòòking at a car where a comfortable interior is complemented by remarkably impressive handling characteristics, quite incredible roadholding, light and precise §teering, and performance levels which are up there wîth – and even an improvement on – the best cars the automotive has to offer. There is only one thing left to say: the sports car of the future has become a reality.' And 'auto, motor und sport' noted: 'The Mercedes 300 SL is the most refined and at the same time the most inspirational sports car of our era – an automotive dream.'

Maxi Hoffman keeps up the pressure

The first units of the 300 SL were sold in Europe in 1954, whilst Maxi Hoffman received his first customer car in March 1955. A total of 1,400 Gullwings rolled off the production line, the lion's share of which – some 1,100 units – found their way to the ÚSA. Hoffman had thus assessed the response of the market to the car extremely well and had every right to be satisfied wîth his work. However, he had also succeeded in stoking the expectations of his discerning customers, who now wanted a touch more comfort in their cars, a larger trunk and, in many cases, a cabriolet version. Hoffman passed the message on to Stuttgart and once again his request bore fruit – this time in the form of the 300 SL roadster (W 198 II) unveiled in 1957.

Success on racetracks and rally courses

The racing genes of the 300 SL tempted renowned racing drivers and privateers from all over the world to enter sports car races and rallies. The 300 SL made its first appearances in the popular racing events of the time in 1955 – and didn't have to wait long before tasting success. The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL attained legendary status well before the assembly lines ground to a halt, thanks in part to its success in race competition but most of all to the captivating allure of its stunning design. The 300 SL has been counted among the world's most sought-after and highly rated cars for 50 years now, and its status as one of the most revered classic automobiles on the market is set to remain intact for quite some time to come.

Source - Mercedes-Benz
Large and luxurious, the Mercedes 300 series was built from 1951 until 1957 in its original form. The company's largest and most-prestigious models, the Mercedes-Benz Type 300 is considered a trademark of the era throughout the 1950s. With a 3 liter engine capacity, the name 300 said it all. Exclusive, expensive, elegant and full of power, the Type 300 vehicles were in an elite status all of its own. In a tribute to the Chancellor of Germany at the time, this series was often referred to as the Adenauer, after Konrad Adenauer. During his time as Chancellor, Adenauer used a total of six of these vehicles.

The main competition that the 300 Series faced during its production time was the less-expensive Ponton series. A large majority of the company's sales were directed in the area of this cheaper series. During the early 1960's, both the Ponton series and the Type 300 were eventually replaced by the 'Heckflosse' cars.

Available as either a sedan or cabriolet, the Type 300 was offered both with four doors, along with seating for six. With a more modern body, the 'W186' Type 300 was built on a pre-war chassis, yet it utilized a modern 3 L straight-6 engine. The most interesting feature was a rear load-levelling suspension that was operated by a switch on the dashboard. Many other luxury features were offered on this series, these included a VHF mobile telephone, a dictation machine and a Becker radio. The Chancellor's personal vehicle was equipped with a writing desk, sirens, a dividing partition, curtains, and many more features.

A special Type 300 Lang, Innenlenker model was a limousine version that rode on a 20 cm (7.9 in) longer wheelbase.

The Type 300 b was introduced with power brakes in 1954. In September of 1955, a larger rear window was featured on the Type 300 c. Also featuring a swing axle rear independent suspension, the Type 300 c was sold at $10,864 in the U.S. with the convertible available at an expensive $14,231.

In August of 1957, the B-pillar was updated for the hardtop look in the Type 300 d. With a total of 3,077 produced, the d was produced until March of 1963. Available with a compression ratio of 8.55:1 and Bosch fuel injection, the d produced 160 hp. The W112 300SE replaced the limousine version.

Mercedes-Benz's top-end vehicle in 1952 following its introduction, the 'W188' Type 300 S was available as a 2+2 coupe, cabriolet or roadster. Marketed as one of the top luxury vehicles in the world, the W188 was actually very similar mechanically to the more contemporary W186. The Type 300 Sc received the addition of fuel injection in 1955, along the same time that Mercedes-Benz's 'low-pivot' independent suspension was substituted. Dual chrome strips were placed on each side of the hood that denotes the 'Sc' model.

The 300 S line was an established Mercedes tradition, 2-door convertible and coupe versions of the limousine model. These models had a body built on a separate chassis, and were conventionally styled grand tourers. The SL, which stood for 'Sport Leicht', and can be broken down to lightweight sportscar, was introduced in the same year. Essentially a derivative of the ‘ordinary' Mercedes 300 series, there was really nothing ordinary about the 300 SL.

The vehicle that was responsible for re-establishing Mercedes-Benz as a formidable power in sports vehicle racing following World War 2, the 300 SL was introduced in 1952. Beginning as a thoroughbred road racing vehicle, the exotic 300 SL finished its career in 1963 as a very fast convertible for the wealthy.

Following such an impressive impact on car enthusiasts worldwide, there has continued to be an SL model in the Mercedes Range ever since. There has never been another SL model in the Mercedes range that has been able to live up to the prestige, engineering and styling of the original 300 SL.

Introduced at the 1953 Mille Miglia, where a total of 300 SL's took part in the event, the original 300 SL was first introduced as a contender for the famous road races of those days. One of the SL models took 2nd place, and another took 4th place, making a very impressive mark on viewers. This was only the beginning of many more racing successes soon after.

By Jessica Donaldson
 
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