In 1952 the underpowered 115 hp carburettor 3 litre / 183cui Sport Leicht Mercedes Benz W194 demonstrated remarkable versatility by winning the Le Mans 24 hours, the Eifelrennen sports car race at the Nurburgring and the Carrera Panamerica in Mexico racing against more powerful opposition from Ferrari and Jaguar.
These successes lay in the lightweight tubular steel chassis and a low drag body which was facilitated by canting the straight six cylinder motor at a 50 degree angle.
New York Mercedes distributor Max Hoffman suggested a road going version of the W194 would make a viable commercial impact in the United States and so the 300 SL was launched in 1954 with a the worlds first mechanical direct injection petrol engine which produced 175 hp.
In order to accommodate the high sided tubular steel chassis, designed by Rudolf Uhlenhaut, distinctive aluminium gull wings were used in conjunction with a tilt away steering column to facilitate access.
The spare tyre fills the boot / trunk space entirely meaning one had to travel light in the 300SL as demonstrated by the suitcase on the parcel shelf.
The 300SL was not without problems derived from it’s racing heritage the large volume oil system rarely got up to proper operating temperature on shorter journeys and in turn the oil would get diluted by the mechanical fuel injection by unburned petrol that remained in the cylinders when the engine was switched off. This meant that the 300 SL needed an oil change every 1000 miles.
But for all of it’s problems the aerodynamic shape of the 300 SL meant that with a 160 mph capability it was easily the fastest road car of it’s day when it was launched. 80% of the nearly 1400 units built went to the USA changing the image of Mercedes Benz from staid to sporty overnight forever.
For a look at a contemporary interpretation of the 300 SL checkout Dave Wolin’s wild Chevrolet powered 300 SL I blogged about a couple of weeks ago.
If your interested in the pre war silver arrows racing vehicles I strongly recommend a visit to Paul Chenard’s Automobiliart website and check out his ‘Silver Clouds‘ illustrated book of the 1934 Grand Prix season.
Thanks for joining me on this Direct Injection edition of ‘Gettin’ a lil’ psycho on tyres’ I hope you’ll join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !