Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W 194) racing sports car, 1952.

Mercedes-Benz Classic Calendar 2015.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W 194) racing sports car, 1952.

The 300 SL was the first new Mercedes-Benz racing car to be designed since 1945. The characteristic gullwing doors were a consequence of the new space frame which, despite its weight of just 50 kg, was particularly strong but did not leave any space for conventional doors. In the 1952 season, the 300 SL enjoyed spectacular successes including first and second places in the 24-hour race at Le Mans and the Carrera Panamericana, a gruelling road race over 3100 km in Mexico.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL of 1952: Number two lives on.

The origins of the SL class are rooted in motor racing: in the early 1950s, Mercedes-Benz developed the 300 SL racing car (model series W 194). This, the grandfather of all SLs, undertook its initial test drives in November 1951 on the Solitude circuit just outside Stuttgart, as well as on the Nürburgring and the Hockenheimring. The vehicle was introduced to an awestruck press on 12 March 1952, on the autobahn between Stuttgart and Heilbronn. The 1952 racing season was to prove an exceptionally successful one for Mercedes-Benz, as a look at the results of the 300 SL's various appearances reveals:

second and fourth places in the Mille Miglia, a threefold victory in the 'Prix de Berne' sports car race, double victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, fourfold victory in the Nürburgring Anniversary Sports Car Grand Prix and a double victory in the 3rd Carrera Panamericana in Mexico. The brand had made its return to motor racing with a true flourish, while the continuing advertising impact ensured it was firmly back on the international scene.

Restoration of the 300 SL with chassis number 2.

The first 300 SL no long exists, having been scrapped during its time with the company. However, the second car to be built, with the chassis number 194 010 00002/52, is still with us and has been in company ownership since it was built in the racing workshops in 1951/52. This oldest existing SL has now been painstakingly restored to mark the anniversary of “60 years of the SL”, which was celebrated in 2012. This involved the vehicle being completely dismantled at the Mercedes-Benz Classic Centre in Fellbach, near Stuttgart, then every single component meticulously examined and, where necessary, restored according to the very highest standards of authenticity and quality. The clear remit was to retain the substance in every respect. The second 300 SL (W 194) ever to be built is now therefore revealed in new splendour – yet continues to bear with pride the traces of its long and thrilling life.

The restoration.

The restoration of the bodywork was a particularly tricky process, as it is made out of extremely fine aluminium/magnesium sheet metal which, by its very nature, is extremely delicate. Time had also taken its toll on it in many places. It took the specialists around six months to bring the body shell of the oldest SL in the world still in existence back to its former glory. The restoration of the vehicle lasted ten months in all, which, in view of the extensive work involved, represented a very tight schedule.

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