Mercedes-Benz 300SL Manufacturer Mercedes-Benz Production 1952-1953 (racing car)
1954-1963 (production car)
Assembly Stuttgart Untertürkheim, Germany Predecessor Mercedes-Benz W194
Successor production car:
Mercedes-Benz W113 (230SL) Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR
Class Sports car, GT Body style 2 door coupé, roadster Layout FR layout Platform Mercedes-Benz W198 Engine 2995 cc M198 SOHC I6
Transmission 4-speed manual Wheelbase 2,400 mm (94.5 in) Length 4,520 mm (178.0 in) Width 1,790 mm (70.5 in) Height 1,300 mm (51.2 in) Curb weight 1,093 kg (2,410 lb) Related Mercedes-Benz W121 BII (190SL)
The Mercedes-Benz 300SL was introduced in 1954 as a two-seat, closed sports car with distinctive gull-wing doors. Later it was offered as an open roadster. It was the fastest production car of its day.
Built by Daimler-Benz AG and internally numbered W198, the fuel-injected road version was based (somewhat loosely) on the company's highly successful competition-only sports car of 1952, the somewhat less powerful carbureted Mercedes-Benz 300SL (W194).
The road model was suggested by Max Hoffman. Being intended for customers in the booming post-war American market it was introduced at the 1954 New York Auto Show, unlike previous models introduced at either the Frankfurt or Geneva shows. In Mercedes-Benz fashion, the "300" referred to the engine's three litre cylinder displacement. The "SL" stood for "Sport Leicht" (Sport Light).
The 300SL was best known for both its distinctive gull wing doors and being the first-ever four-stroke car equipped with a gasoline direct injection. The gull wing version was available from March 1955 to 1957. Production of the roadster ended in 1963 with the introduction of the 230SL.
A race car for the street
New York Mercedes distributor Max Hoffman, Daimler-Benz's official importer in the USA, suggested to DBAG management in Stuttgart that a street version of the 300SL would be a commercial success, especially in America.
The racing W194 300SL was built around a tubular chassis to offset its relatively underpowered carbureted engine. Designed by DBAG's chief developing engineer, Rudolf Uhlenhaut, the metal skeleton saved weight while still providing a high level of strength. Its unique architecture gave birth to the model's distinctive gull wing doors, as part of the chassis passed through what would be the lower half of a standard door. Even with the upward opening doors, the 300SL had an unusually high sill, making entry and exit from the car's cockpit problematic. A steering wheel with a tilt-away column was added to improve driver access.
The 300SL's body was mainly steel, except for the aluminum hood, doors and trunk lid. It could also be ordered with an all-aluminium outer skin at tremendous added cost, saving 80 kg (176 lb).
More than 80% of the vehicle's total production of approximately 1400 units were sold in the US, making the Gull wing the first Mercedes-Benz which sold in bulk outside its home market and confirming the validity of Hoffman's suggestion. The 300SL is credited for changing the company's image in America from a manufacturer of solid, but staid, automobiles to that of a producer of sporty cars.
First direct injection
The 300SL's engine, canted at a fifty-degree angle to the left to allow for a lower hoodline, was the same 3.0 litre straight-6 as the regular four-door 300. Fitted with a Bosch mechanical Gasoline direct injection system it had almost double the power of the original 86 kW (115 hp) carbureted version.
While not the first fuel-injected car - Mercedes engineers who had developed the principle for the DB 601 fighter aircraft engine had used fuel injection in the tiny 2-stroke Gutbrod they had designed after the War - it was the first to inject fuel directly into the cylinders. This innovation allowed a top speed of up to 260 km/h (161 mph) depending on gear ratio and drag, making the 300SL the fastest production car of its time.
The engine's maintenance requirements were high. Unlike the current electrically powered fuel injection systems, the mechanical fuel pump would continue to inject gasoline into the engine during the interval between shutting off the ignition and the engine's coming to a stop; this gasoline was of course not burned, and washed the oil from the cylinder walls and ended up diluting the engine's lubricating oil, particularly if the engine was not driven hard enough nor long enough to reach a temperature high enough to evaporate it out of the oil.
Exacerbating the problem were the large oil cooler as well as the large volume of oil (10 liters), both oriented more to racing than to street driving, which virtually guaranteed that the oil would not reach a high enough temperature. In practice, many street drivers would block off airflow through the oil cooler, and the recommended oil change interval was 1,000 miles (1,600 km). Operation of the clutch was initially very heavy, later roadsters having an improved clutch arm helper spring which reduced the pedal force. From March 1963 to the end of production, a light alloy crankcase was used on a total of 209 vehicles.
Aerodynamics played an important role in the car's speed, Mercedes-Benz engineers even placing horizontal "eyebrows" over the wheel openings to reduce drag. Unlike many cars of the 1950s, the steering was relatively precise and the four-wheel independent suspension allowed for a reasonably comfortable ride and markedly better overall handling. However, the rear swing axle, jointed only at the differential, not at the wheels themselves, could be treacherous at high speeds or on imperfect roads due to extreme changes in camber. The enormous fuel tank capacity caused a considerable difference in handling depending on the quantity of fuel on board.
Original racing history
In 1952, the original 300SL (model Mercedes-Benz W194)  scored overall wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in Bern-Bremgarten, in the sportscar race of the Eifelrennen at the Nürburgring, and in Mexico's Carrera Panamericana. It also managed second and fourth places at its first outing, the Mille Miglia in 1952.
These successes, especially those on the high speed open road races, were rather surprising as the engine then was fitted only with carburetors, producing 175 hp (130 kW), which was not only less than the competing cars by Ferrari and Jaguar, but also less than the road car of 1954. Low weight and low aerodynamic drag made the 300SL fast enough to be competitive in endurance races.
Fitch land speed record attempt
In 2005, a 300SL coupe driven by 87-year-old John Fitch, who had been a Mercedes-Benz factory racing driver in 1955, attempted to set a new land speed record for the F/GT class at Bonneville Speedway, but was thwarted by a balky fuel pump that limited top speed to 150 mph (240 km/h). After the run, the team vowed to return for a second attempt the next year. Fitch noted that he had driven these cars faster than that at night, in the rain, on the road with 60 other cars. The attempt is documented in the film Gull wing at Twilight: The Bonneville Ride of John Fitch, which was aired on PBS.
The 300SL today
Today, the 300SL with its unique doors, technological firsts, and low production numbers is considered one of the most collectible Mercedes-Benz models, with prices generally in the US$500,000-700,000 range. Sports Car International magazine ranked the 300SL as the number 5 sports car of all time. A pair of 300SLs for sale in 2009 were offered at over $1.3M USD from the Foxwood Collection.
The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is described by Mercedes as a spiritual successor to the 300SL Gullwing.
Technical dataTechnical data Mercedes-Benz 300SL  (Manufacturer's figures except where stated)
Mercedes-Benz 300SL "Gullwing" (W198 I) 300SL Roadster (W198 II) Produced: 1954–1957 1957–1963 Engine: 6-cylinder-inline engine (four-stroke), front-mounted Bore x Stroke: 85 mm (3.3 in) x 88 mm (3.5 in) Displacement: 2996 cc Max. Power @ rpm: 215 PS (158 kW; 212 hp) @ 5800 215 PS (158 kW; 212 hp) @ 5800
or 225 PS (165 kW; 222 hp) @ 5800
Max. Torque @ rpm: 274 N·m (202 lb·ft) @ 4600 Compression Ratio: 8.55: 1 8.55: 1
Fuel feed: Mechanical direct fuel injection, Bosch injection pump Fuel tank capacity: 130 L (34.3 US gal; 28.6 imp gal) 100 L (26.4 US gal; 22.0 imp gal) Valvetrain: SOHC, duplex chain Cooling: Water Gearbox: 4-speed manual
rear wheel drive, standard axle ratio 3.64:1 (on request 3.25:1, 3.42:1, 3.89:1 or 4.11:1)
Electrical system: 12 volt Front suspension: Double wishbones, coil springs, stabilising bar Rear suspension:: High-pivot swing axle, radius arms, coil springs Low-pivot swing axle, transverse compensating spring, coil springs Brakes: Drum brakes (Ø 260 mm), power assisted Drum brakes (Ø 260 mm), power assisted
from March 1961: disc brakes front and rear (Ø 290 mm), power assisted
Steering: Recirculating ball steering Body structure: Sheet steel/aluminum or aluminum (29 cars built) on steel tube space frame Sheet steel/aluminum on steel tube space frame Dry weight: 1,310 kg (2,900 lb) 1,420 kg (3,100 lb) (hardtop + 40 kg (88 lb)) Loaded weight: 1,555 kg (3,430 lb) 1,560 kg (3,400 lb), from 1961 1,660 kg (3,700 lb) Track front/
1,385 mm (54.5 in) 1,435 mm (56.5 in) 1,398 mm (55.0 in) 1,448 mm (57.0 in) Wheelbase: 2,400 mm (94.5 in) Length: 4,520 mm (178.0 in) 4,570 mm (179.9 in) Width: 1,790 mm (70.5 in) 1,790 mm (70.5 in) Height: 1,300 mm (51.2 in) 1,300 mm (51.2 in) Tyre/Tire sizes: 6.50-15 Supersport 6.70-15 Supersport Top speed: 235 km/h (146 mph) (3.64:1)
250 km/h (160 mph) (3.42:1)
260 km/h (160 mph) (3.25:1)
"according to axle ratio" Fuel Consumption (estimate): 17.0 litres per 100 kilometres (16.6 mpg-imp; 13.8 mpg-US) Price Germany
$ 11,000, later 7,295
DM 32,500 (Hardtop: + DM 1,500)
$ 10,928, later 10,950 (Hardtop: + $ 178)
- Mercedes Benz 300 SL Coupe / Gullwing Register www.mercedes300slregister.com
- Sports and Classic Cars, Bonanza Books, New York. 1955, Borgeson G. and Jaderquist E.
- "Gullwing The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Coupé", Palawan Press, London. 2008, Pritchard, A.
- ^ a b Oswald, Werner (2001). Deutsche Autos 1945-1990, Band 4. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 3-613-02131-5.
- ^ Rohde, Michael; Koch, Detlev (2000). Typenkompass Mercedes-Benz. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. p. 41. ISBN 3-613-02019-X.
- ^ the original 300SL (model Mercedes-Benz W194)
- ^ "Gull wing at Twilight: The Bonneville Ride of John Fitch". Chris Szwedo Productions. http://szwedo.com/gullwing.html. Retrieved 2011-08-05.
- ^ "1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Coupe". Sports Car Market. http://www.sportscarmarket.com/car-reviews/78-german/2224-1956-mercedes-benz-300sl-gullwing-coupe. Retrieved 14 September 2011.
- ^ US prices: Mike Covello: Standard Catalog of Imported Cars 1946-2002, Krause Publication, Iola 2002, ISBN 0-87341-605-8, p. 527-31
- eMercedesBenz | The 1952 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Racing Sport Coupe
- Mercedes Benz 300 SL Coupé / Gullwing Register #198.040 & #198.043
« previous — Mercedes-Benz road car timeline, 1946–1970s — next » Class Type 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 4-cylinder Sedan W136 / W191 W120 / W121 W110 W115 W123 Roadster R121 6-cylinder Sedan W187 W105 / W180 / W128 W111 W114 W123 Coupé W187 W180 / W128 W111 C107 Large car Sedan W111 W108 / W109 W116 Coupe W188 W112 Limousine W186 / W189 W100 (600) Sports Roadster W198 W113 R107 Coupé W196S
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Mercedes-Benz 300SL — Mercedes Benz 300 SL Mercedes Benz 300 SL Constructeur Mercedes Benz … Wikipédia en Français
Mercedes-Benz 300SL — Mercedes Benz 300 SL (1954 bis 1957) Mercedes Benz 300 SL Roadster (1957 bis 1963) … Deutsch Wikipedia
Mercedes-Benz 300SL — … Википедия
Mercedes-Benz SL-Class — Manufacturer Mercedes Benz Production 1954–present Assembly Bremen, Germany … Wikipedia
Mercedes-Benz W198 — Mercedes Benz W198 … Википедия
Mercedes-Benz Renntransporter — Mercedes Benz Renntransporter … Википедия
Mercedes-benz 300 sl — Constructeur Mercedes Benz … Wikipédia en Français
Mercedes-Benz 190SL — Manufacturer Mercedes Benz Production 1955 1963 25,881 built … Wikipedia
Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG — Mercedes Benz SLS AMG … Википедия
Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG — Manufacturer Mercedes Benz Production 2010–present Model years 2011– … Wikipedia