The year was 1957. At the Geneva Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz unveiled its newest convertible sports car. Barely the brand knew that a legend was being brought to life. 60 years later the legacy survives and a new generation is ready to get on the asphalt.
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WWII was devastating to almost all German manufacturers. Mercedes made no exception and it took some years for the brand to rebuild its reputation. Due to a persevering focus on racing and performance upon returning to competition in 1952, within two years this German manufacturer was once again the leading master in motorsport.
But winning at international races wasn’t enough, the brand wanted to sell. At that time, the U.S.A. was the market to win and thanks to Max Hoffman, a racing driver from Vienna turned European car importer in the States, the odds were in the brand’s favour.
The only matter was that the three-pointed star brand wasn’t bringing any wow factor to excite the market. Hoffman felt that and warned the German manufacturer. To provide the car importer with an ultimate sports car, the brand had the pioneering idea of offering its racing car, the 300 SL Gullwing, as a road car. It’d be a vehicle combining astonishing performance with out of this world aesthetics.
Despite the great success, the supercar got among the American car buyers upon its launch in New York in ’54 (800 of the 1,400 Gullwings built between 1954 and 1957 were exported to the U.S.A.), that wasn’t the best, yet. As so, Hoffman demanded the company to provide him with a convertible roadster version, as well.
And so, head designer Friedrich Geiger picked the original model’s drawings back to the drawing board and enhanced its low drag look while simplifying every aspect that could be an obstacle to “care-free” open-air motoring. By 1957, the 300 SL Roadster was finished and ready to be exposed to the world – a legend was born.
This new car compelled a reconstruction of the chassis. The Gullwing model used a spaceframe that rose along the car’s sides so, half-size upward opening doors was the only way to allow anyone to get into or out of the car. The new changes enabled the car to have traditional doors, a generous trunk and enough space for a more complex suspension set up to improve the driving experience.
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Make no mistake – this car is a wolf in sheep’s clothing! With a fitted racing windshield, the passenger seat covered and “eyebrows” over the wheel arches (this little design feature helped improve streamlining surprisingly effectively) the car managed an average speed of 242,5 km/h on the on the Munich-Ingolstadt motorway.
Between 1957 and 1963, despite being one of the most expensive cars in the world – 10,9 thousand dollars with the standard features – the German manufacturer sold 1 858 cars from this model before replacing it with the W113 series SL, also known as the Pagoda.
Now take a look at a 1958 model owned by the brand’s museum, auctioned for nearly 1 million dollars by Bonhams.
This super car came to strengthen the brand’s bonds with the American market. Between 1936 and 1941, the firm had exported a grand total of 41 cars to the U.S.A. By 1957, with Hoffman’s help, the company was exporting 6 048 cars to the country.
As you could notice, this masterpiece can easily be auctioned for over a million dollars, making it one of the most collectable and desired Mercedes in History!
Content source: www.ctvnews.ca | Photography sources: www.mercedes-benz.com, www.carscoops.com, www.autoblog.com, www.supercars.net, www.silodrome.com, www.bonhams.com and www.mercedesbenz300sl.com
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