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1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL: 100 Vehicles That Matter

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Mercedes-Benz and guardian 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 warfare, 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 rapidly grew to become a adorned machine, it was not the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL.

1952 Mercedes-Benz W194 race car

1952 Mercedes-Benz W194 race automobile

1952 Mercedes-Benz W194 race car at Nurburgring in 1952

1952 Mercedes-Benz W194 race automobile at Nurburgring in 1952

1952 Mercedes-Benz W194 race car at 1952 24 Hours of Le Mans

1952 Mercedes-Benz W194 race automobile at 1952 24 Hours of Le Mans

As a substitute, a outstanding 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 yr after the W194 took the world unexpectedly in motorsport, Mercedes-Benz’s Normal 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 International Motorsports Show

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. Usually, the German firm revealed its vehicles at house or on the Geneva motor present. Nonetheless, Hoffman satisfied the posh automaker it will be a grand concept to woo American consumers with a New York debut.

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They concurred, and instantly, Mercedes-Benz had a success on its arms. 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

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 stress direct injection wouldn’t change into the usual for many years to come back. The system helped increase energy nicely over the W194 to 215 hp on the 300 SL’s launch. The race automobile made do with 175 hp. An upgraded camshaft choice boosted output to 240 hp. The highest pace might prime 160 mph, making the 300 SL the quickest manufacturing automobile on the earth.

1954-1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL spaceframe

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 had been aluminum.

These advances, mixed with radical “gullwing” doorways and curvaceous physique strains, helped flip the web page for Mercedes-Benz. The corporate not solely made stately luxurious automobiles, nevertheless 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 as we speak and is now in its seventh era.

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Like so many areas of the auto business, among the finest issues got here from motorsport. With no renewed dedication to racing following WWII, we might by no means have acquired 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 vehicles from Mercedes-Benz.

—Senior Editor Kirk Bell contributed to this story

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