Mercedes-Benz and mother or father automaker Daimler didn’t stroll away from World Conflict II unscathed. It was then-Daimler Chairman Wilhelm Haspel’s thought to take the Mercedes-Benz division again to motorsport in an effort to start rebuilding the storied firm.
Foremost, Mercedes wanted a race automotive.
Enter the W194. The model’s first new sports activities automotive after the struggle, the W194 coupe completed second in its first race the Mille Miglia. It then went on to win the Bern Sports activities Automotive Prize, the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Carrera Panamericana. Whereas the W194 shortly turned a embellished machine, it was not the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL.
1952 Mercedes-Benz W194 race automotive
1952 Mercedes-Benz W194 race automotive at Nurburgring in 1952
1952 Mercedes-Benz W194 race automotive at 1952 24 Hours of Le Mans
As a substitute, a distinguished New York-based importer of European luxurious automobiles named Max Hoffman urged Mercedes-Benz wanted to create a restricted run of vehicles within the spirit of the W194. A 12 months after the W194 took the world without warning in motorsport, Mercedes-Benz’s Common Director Fritz Konecke gave the order for 1,000 sports activities vehicles. Thus the 300 SL was born.
1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL at 1954 New York Worldwide Motorsports Present
In 1954, Mercedes-Benz revealed the W198-generation 300 SL on the Worldwide Motor Sport Present in New York. Whereas an auto debut in New York isn’t unusual at this time, it marked a shift for Mercedes-Benz. Sometimes, the German firm revealed its vehicles at dwelling or on the Geneva motor present. Nevertheless, Hoffman satisfied the luxurious automaker it might be a grand thought to woo American consumers with a New York debut.
They concurred, and all of the sudden, Mercedes-Benz had a success on its palms. The 300 SL bowed as a coupe with a 3.0-liter overhead cam inline-6 engine. But, the 300 SL wasn’t solely a sports activities automotive to alter perceptions, it was a technological marvel.
1954-1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL 3.0-liter inline-6
The engine ditched carburetors in favor of a Bosch-developed direct-fuel injection system. Recall, gasoline injection was uncommon on the time and better strain direct injection wouldn’t grow to be the usual for many years to return. The system helped increase energy effectively over the W194 to 215 hp on the 300 SL’s launch. The race automotive made do with 175 hp. An upgraded camshaft possibility boosted output to 240 hp. The highest pace may high 160 mph, making the 300 SL the quickest manufacturing automotive on the planet.
1954-1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL spaceframe
Mercedes constructed the 300 SL on a spaceframe or “birdcage” chassis. It featured a separate welded metal physique, however the firewall, hood, doorways, trunk lid, rocker panels, and ground and stomach pans had been aluminum.
These advances, mixed with radical “gullwing” doorways and curvaceous physique traces, helped flip the web page for Mercedes-Benz. The corporate not solely made stately luxurious automobiles, however it was additionally able to producing unimaginable efficiency machines.
A complete of 1,400 300 SL coupes had been constructed from 1954 to 1957, and 29 of them had been light-weight fashions with all-aluminum our bodies that helped shave 187 lb. The 300 SL coupe gave rise to the 300 SL roadster in 1957, which remained in manufacturing in its first era till 1963. Its successor nonetheless exists at this time and is now in its seventh era.
Like so many areas of the auto business, a few of the greatest issues got here from motorsport. With out a renewed dedication to racing following WWII, we might by no means have obtained a automotive just like the 300 SL. And with out the 300 SL, there is probably not such a lineage of world-beating sports activities vehicles from Mercedes-Benz.
—Senior Editor Kirk Bell contributed to this story