The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing profile
Due to the overuse of the word “legend” these days, it’s somewhat insulting to call the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing (W198) one – but that is exactly what it is!
Even today the overall profile of the car is considered almost unrivalled by any other classic. Zsa Zsa Gabor, Romy Schneider and Tony Curtis were among those who have bought a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing.
Those Gullwing Doors…
The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W198) story goes back to the iconic W194, which caused a sensation at racing events such as the Mille Miglia, the 24-hour race at Le Mans and the Bern Prize in 1952. There was no series production plan for the sports car, but that all changed when US importer Max Hoffman made the case for such a machine. From this the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL was born. About six months after the decision, the sports car was presented at the same time as the smaller Mercedes-Benz 190 SL (W121 B II) at the 1954 International Motor Sports Show in New York. The response was overwhelming.
It is still debated if SL stands for “Super Leicht” or “Sport Leicht” (leicht is German for “lightweight”), but what is undeniable was the car’s success. The first generation of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing W198 was built from 1954 to 1957. In 1957 the W198 II was presented, a roadster version that remained in production until 1963.
The tubular frame of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing was designed by Rudolf Uhlenhaut and ensured strong rigidity with a low overall weight. Those famous doors were more of a last minute solution than a calculated decision. The original design of the car overlooked the fact that conventional doors would not fit due to the unique frame design.
Under the skin of the mercedes-Benz 300 Sl Gullwing
In addition to its movie star appearance, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing (W198) also shone in technical terms. The sports car introduced direct petrol injection to the world of cars – it had previously only existed in the field of aircraft and two-stroke engines. After production of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing (W198 I) began in 1954, the first examples were sold in Europe. Exports to the USA began in March 1955 with 1400 cars being produced before the model was replaced by its Roadster sibling. From 1957 to 1963, a total of 1858 of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster (W198 II) were manufactured.
The Mercedes-Benz W198 is undoubtedly one of the most coveted classic cars of today. It’s not uncommon for cars to sell for over €1 million, putting it far out of reach for the everyman. But nothing stops you from dreaming!
Text Jan Fröhlich Fotos Daimler AG
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