Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing sports car (W 194), chassis number 2, 1952.
After the Second World War, Mercedes-Benz relaunched into international motorsport with the 300 SL racing sports car (W 194). The results were impressive: a triple victory in Bern, double victories at Le Mans and in the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico, quadruple victory at the Nürburgring. The vehicle shown here bears vehicle identification number 194 010 00002/52 and is the world’s oldest existing SL – it has been owned by the manufacturer since 1952. At that time, it was used, among other things, as a race training car at the Mille Miglia. The vehicle is seldom seen in public – so the special exhibition offers a real opportunity.
Oldest SL in existence: the W 194 from 1952 with chassis number 2.
Iconic representative of the brand with gullwing doors: SL Coupé (W 198).
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Coupé (W 198), 1955.
The combination of design and technology made the 300 SL launched in New York in February 1954 a fascinating car. Besides the German “Flügeltürer“, it was known as the Gullwing and Papillon (butterfly). However, the roof-hinged doors were not an aesthetic end in themselves, but actually technically necessary. This was because the tubular roll cage was so high at the sills that conventional door constructions were simply not possible. In 1999, it was voted “Sports Car of the Century”.
Mercedes-Benz 190 SL (W 121), 1959.
Comfortable, sporty top-down driving – these have been the key characteristics of the SL since the 190 SL. That model was launched in 1954 together with the 300 SL Coupé in New York and, since market launch in 1955 as an open-top roadster, has been a perfect complement to the model range. Both these vehicles and, indeed, the 300 SL Roadster, were products of the initiative of US importer Maximilian E. Hoffman. A total of 25,881 of the 190 SL were built.
Racing car technology in an open-top car: 300 SL Roadster (W 198).
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster (W 198), 1961.
The 300 SL Roadster was an extraordinary combination of motor racing genes and glamour. It was presented in Geneva in March 1957 as the successor to the coupé. This open-top super sports car benefited from a more sophisticated chassis and later still was fitted with disk brakes and a cast aluminium crankcase. In a 300 SLS derived from the production version, Paul O’Shea won the 1957 American Sports Car Championship in category D.
Mercedes-Benz 230 SL (W 113), 1965.
Mercedes-Benz unveiled the 230 SL, model series W 113, at the 1963 Geneva Motor Show. This was designed as a comfortable, high-performance two-seater touring car and replaced both the 190 SL (W 121) and the 300 SL Roadster (W 198). The shape of the optional hardtop was reminiscent of Asian temples, which quickly earned it the nickname “Pagoda”. This was the world’s first open-top passenger car with a safety body.
Still suitable today for everyday use: “Pagoda” SL models of the W 113 model series.
Internationally a great success: the SL model series R 107, produced from 1971 to 1989.
Mercedes-Benz 500 SL (R 107), 1982.
Elegance with a respectable flair – this is what characterised the SL models of the R 107 model series. The premiere of that model series was 50 years ago in the spring of 1971. For the first time in the history of the SL, the car was powered by an eight-cylinder engine. With more than 18 years of production, the R 107 model series set an internal brand record that is unlikely to be surpassed. Understandably, there was a very wide range of engine variants available over the life of this model series.
Mercedes-Benz SL 500 “SL Edition”, 2000.
Mercedes-Benz launched the SL in model series R 129 at the Geneva Motor Show in 1989. The stylish design with its extremely harmonious overall effect is still regarded as a masterpiece of the design department under the direction of Bruno Sacco at that time. For the first time, there is a twelve-cylinder. This SL also set new standards in terms of safety: key features were the automatic pop-up roll bar and the power-absorbing integral seats. The vehicle on display is an “SL Edition” from the year 2000.
Roadster and coupé in one: SL of the R 230 model series.
Mercedes-Benz SL 500 “Edition 50” (R 230), 2004.
The R 230 model series SL generation debuted in 2001. Its most striking innovation was the folding Vario roof made of steel panelling: within just 16 seconds, the vehicle transformed into a roadster – or back into a coupé. Its design merged tradition and the future, for instance with the striking lateral air inlets in the front wings and narrow, wing-like profiles that were reminiscent of the legendary 300 SL in model series W 198. The vehicle on display is an “Edition 50” from 2004.
Mercedes-Benz SL 500 “Mille Miglia 417” (R 231), 2015.
In January 2012, Mercedes-Benz presented model series R 231 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the SL. One focus of the new design was on reducing the weight of the sports car. It had an aluminium bodyshell, the boot lid was made of steel and plastic, the roof system used magnesium combined with plastic. The exhibition features the special “Mille Miglia 417” model, presented in 2015 to commemorate the motorsport success of John Fitch and Kurt Gessl with the 300 SL in the endurance race in 1955: they finished fifth overall and won the standard-production sports car category.
Racing triumph: SL 500 “Mille Miglia 417” (R 231) commemorating the Mille Miglia finish of John Fitch and Kurt Gessl in 1955.