Mercedes-Benz and mother or father automaker Daimler didn’t stroll away from World Struggle II unscathed. It was then-Daimler Chairman Wilhelm Haspel’s concept to take the Mercedes-Benz division again to motorsport in an effort to start rebuilding the storied firm.
Foremost, Mercedes wanted a race automobile.
Enter the W194. The model’s first new sports activities automobile after the conflict, the W194 coupe completed second in its first race the Mille Miglia. It then went on to win the Bern Sports activities Automobile Prize, the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Carrera Panamericana. Whereas the W194 shortly grew to become a adorned machine, it was not the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL.
1952 Mercedes-Benz W194 race automobile
1952 Mercedes-Benz W194 race automobile at Nurburgring in 1952
1952 Mercedes-Benz W194 race automobile at 1952 24 Hours of Le Mans
As an alternative, a distinguished New York-based importer of European luxurious automobiles named Max Hoffman instructed Mercedes-Benz wanted to create a restricted run of automobiles within the spirit of the W194. A yr after the W194 took the world without warning in motorsport, Mercedes-Benz’s Normal Director Fritz Konecke gave the order for 1,000 sports activities automobiles. 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 as we speak, it marked a shift for Mercedes-Benz. Sometimes, the German firm revealed its automobiles at dwelling or on the Geneva motor present. Nonetheless, Hoffman satisfied the posh automaker it will be a grand concept to woo American patrons with a New York debut.
They concurred, and all of the sudden, Mercedes-Benz had successful 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 automobile to vary 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, gas 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 enhance energy effectively over the W194 to 215 hp on the 300 SL’s launch. The race automobile made do with 175 hp. An upgraded camshaft possibility boosted output to 240 hp. The highest pace might prime 160 mph, making the 300 SL the quickest manufacturing automobile 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 flooring and stomach pans have 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 have been constructed from 1954 to 1957, and 29 of them have 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 technology till 1963. Its successor nonetheless exists as we speak and is now in its seventh technology.
Like so many areas of the auto business, a number of the greatest issues got here from motorsport. With no renewed dedication to racing following WWII, we could by no means have obtained a automobile just like the 300 SL. And with out the 300 SL, there is probably not such a lineage of world-beating sports activities automobiles from Mercedes-Benz.
—Senior Editor Kirk Bell contributed to this story