Annual meeting at the Mercedes-Benz Museum.
Since its inception in 1978, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Club e.V. has been hosting an international club meeting every year in changing cities and at Mercedes-Benz branches. This year, a special highlight was on the agenda: At the meeting in Stuttgart in June, the owners of 300 SL gull-wing models and roadsters were for the very first time allowed to spend one day at the test track of the Mercedes-Benz Untertürkheim plant.
The exclusivity of the 300 SL Club is self-explanatory in a way. The W 198 model series was built from 1954 to 1963 in small numbers from today's perspective. Of the coupé with the legendary byname gull-wing model, 1400 units were built between August 1954 and May 1957, including 29 with a light-alloy body. The 300 SL Roadster was manufactured from February 1957 to February 1963. All in all, 1858 units of this model were produced, including roadsters with a coupé hardtop. The 300 SL Club currently has about 300 members worldwide.
60 years of 300 SL Roadster.
The 300 SL Coupé had been developed from the 300 SL racing cars to the production vehicle in 1954. In 1957, 60 years ago, the gull-wing model was replaced by the roadster. The engineers had succeeded in modifying the space frame of the racing car in such a way that the roadster could be entered through two conventional side doors. The gull-wing doors of the coupé had been a design necessity to ensure a stable vehicle frame. Another reason in favour of the transition to a roadster was the air circulation in a car without a solid roof. Both the coupé and the roadster were models which were hand-crafted individually at the Mercedes-Benz factory in Sindelfingen.
A meeting at the birthplace of the brand.
The 60th anniversary of the roadster was an opportunity for the club and the Mercedes-Benz club management to choose a special venue for the meeting this year: Stuttgart, the Mercedes-Benz Museum and the test track of the Untertürkheim plant, where the prototypes of the future success model had already turned their test rounds. In addition to the day at the test track, excursions to the nearby regions of the Swabian Jura and Swabian Forest as well as festive evening events were on the agenda. All in all, 87 300 SL models had come to join the international club meeting; the guests in Stuttgart included the President of the Mercedes-Benz Club South Africa.
Drive it yourself.
Not to just see, but also to experience was the motto of the test day at the test track. Driving their own vehicles, the participants completed two stages, based on the exact timing of a course. In addition, the club members were allowed to sit in a roll-over simulator and take a special tour on the Untertürkheim test parcours: in a modern Setra coach, with the driver presenting the different sections of the test track. At the same time, the driver demonstrated what a state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz touring coach can do in terms of driving dynamics, climbing ability and lateral inclination. The highlight was the drive through the test track's high-bank curve at a speed of 100 – an experience of dynamics that one normally enjoys during rides in amusement parks.
Prominent new member.
In 2016, Prof. Dr. Thomas Weber joined the ranks of the 300 SL Club. He was responsible for corporate research and the development of Mercedes-Benz Cars at Daimler AG and a member of the Board of Management from 2004 to the end of 2016. He discovered his enthusiasm for the 300 SL while participating in the Mille Miglia classic car rally in Italy repeatedly: “The 300 SL is the icon of the Mercedes-Benz brand. I am full of admiration for Rudolf Uhlenhaut, who developed the 300 SL in the 1950s. The car was many years ahead of its time and the competition. Even today the 300 SL is modern.”
A classic of timeless fascination.
Wilfried Porth, a member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and responsible for Human Resources, is also an owner and avowed fan of a W 198 model series roadster: “The 300 SL is certainly one of the emotional highlights of our brand. A classic of timeless fascination and the very embodiment of the heritage of the Mercedes-Benz brand.”