1955 Mercedes Benz 300SL
Configuration: Longitudinal Front Engine, Rear Wheel Drive
Engine: 3.0 Liter Inline 6
Horsepower: 215 @ 5800 rpm
Torque: 202 ft/lbs @ 4600 rpm
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Top speed: 155 MPH
Weight: 2851 lbs.
The 300SL “Gullwing” is considered by many enthusiasts to be the first supercar ever created.
Bred for racing, the car was the fastest production car to date in 1955. It was introduced at the 1954 New York Auto Show, the first Mercedes-Benz to ever be launched outside of Europe. It was built at the insistence of the legendary Max Hoffman, the most successful and creative importer of European sports and luxury cars in the USA after World War II.
The chassis of the Gullwing was designed by Mercedes’ chief engineer, Rudolf Uhlenhaut. He based his design off of what is referred to as a “spaceframe.” They were originally created by Alexander Graham Bell. “Spaceframes” consist of hollow tubing welded together in geometric
patterns. The construction of the chassis resulted in deep side sills, necessitating significantly smaller door openings, which led to the use of the iconic “gullwing” doors. Racing regulations stated that the car must have fully functioning doors, but did not specify how they opened or closed, so the gullwing door was the most logical answer.
Because the Gullwing came from a pure racing car, the W194 of 1952, the engineers employed many of the aerodynamic aspects in its design. For example, it bears grills behind each front tire in order to expel the hot air from the engine compartment. Above each rear tire, it has a protruding lip to help create downforce from the expelled engine air. It also has door handles that lie flush with the body, so as not to create any extra drag. Interestingly, the windows cannot be rolled down. They must be popped out and removed completely while the car is stationary. When the windows are removed, the vent on the roof helps to keep air flowing smoothly from the interior over the rear of the car to create even more downforce. This car has been slightly modified with 300 SL sport camshafts, which were offered in later models.
Team members from Audrain have enthusiastically piloted this Gullwing in numerous rallies in recent years. The Mille Miglia in Italy is perhaps the most well-known historic rally in the world, only accepting the same models that ran the race when it was a competitive high speed open road race before it ended in 1957. The car has also been run in the famed Colorado Grand and California Mille, finishing all successfully with no trouble! The Gullwing continues to wear its rally livery from each event.