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Mercedes-Benz 300SL

by

Antonio Eiras

After the end of the 2nd World War, the return of the Stuttgart car manufacturer to the motor sport was only a matter of time. Time to recover the factories and to plan the best way to get back on track.

 

While they were preparing for the Formula 1 season of 1954, when it would be introduced new technical regulations, Daimler, inspired by the success of the Jaguar with its XK 120C in endurance races, decided to move to the conquest of Le Mans.

 

The year was 1951 and Mercedes recently introduced its new 300 model, a 2 places coupé, powered by an inline 6-cylinder and 3 liter capacity engine that seemed appropriate to develop a competitive car, similar to what Jaguar made with the type C.

 

The new Mercedes-Benz 300SL (Sport Leicht) was presented in early 1952 and in just one season of competition achieved glory and fame, which still endures.

 

The 300SL had a lightweight multitubular chassis, with its lateral structure forcing the technicians of Mercedes to design a high side doors and the opening up. This originated the famous "gull wings" doors, so characteristic of this model and that contributed to its reputation as much as it’s sporting success.

 

The suspensions were double wishbones on the front and swing rear axles activating springs and hydraulic dampers. The classic drum brakes were placed inside the wheels. The engine, placed in the front, was inclined at 500 to the left, to reduce the car's frontal area, making it more efficient aerodynamically, and had its lubrication circuit adapted to the unusual position. It was the same inline 6-cylinder 3-liter and that, with 3 Solex carburetors, developed a power of 171 PS at 5,200 rpm. The 4-speed gearbox was mounted with the engine.

 

In its debut, at the Targa Florio, the 300SL finished on 2nd and 4th places. The remaining season was made of success, with victories in the races of Bern (first three places), Le Mans (first two places), Nürburgring (first four places) and Pan American (first two places).

 

In the end of the season, Mercedes, obviously pleased with the results, withdrew from the competition and concentrated the efforts of its technical team in developing the W196 designed to F1.

 

The success achieved with the 300SL prompted the launch of a high performance series model, derivate from it, whether in the form of a "gull wings" coupé, or, from 1956, as a roadster. The production of this model remained since 1954 to 62 and many of the 3,250 cars sold then, were entered in the competition, thus contributing to consolidate the prestige and glamour image that made him one of the most desired classic sports models.

 

The drawings of this work were made in collaboration with the Spanish magazine "Motor 16" and published with those of the Sauber Mercedes C9, after the victory of the Swiss-German team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans of 1989.

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