Mecum Kissimmee 2021: Graphite Grey 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing

Presented by Mecum Auctions – After rising from the ashes of postwar Europe, Mercedes-Benz returned to racing in 1952, winning the World Sports Car Championship with the now-famous 300SL factory sports racer. That might have been the end of the 300SL concept, as the factory was then planning a return to Grand Prix racing, but fate intervened in the form of New York automotive importer and Mercedes-Benz franchisee Max Hoffmann, who convinced Daimler Benz management to approve production of a roadgoing version of the 300SL. Built to the marque’s typically exacting standards, the production 300SL coupe and its smaller 190SL counterpart debuted to instant international acclaim in February 1954 at the International Motor Sports Show on Park Avenue in New York, a million-dollar pageant broadcast on nationwide television.

The 300SL lived up to the promise of that extravaganza with a new standard of grand touring performance and luxury, with an emphasis on performance. Its innovative, lightweight space frame virtually duplicated that of the 300SL racers, as did the all-independent suspension and robust drum brakes. The first 4-stroke production engine to employ fuel injection, the SL’s dry sump-lubricated 3.0L inline-6 powerplant was laid over at a 50 degree angle to allow the car’s low hoodline, and it used long ram tubes feeding the intake charge directly to each cylinder from a single large plenum drawing fresh air from the front of the car. Its 215 HP output was enough to power a car equipped with the highest axle ratio to 160 MPH, making it the world’s fastest production car.

Rendered in steel with aluminum doors, hood and trunk lid, the 300SL’s purposeful bodywork was elegantly accented with dual hood bulges to clear the cam cover and intake plenum, sculpted spears above the wheel openings, and exhaust vents on the front fenders inspired by the contemporary W196 Grand Prix cars. Even by today’s lofty supercar standards, the 300SL’s interior excels in comfort and ergonomics with supportive seating and excellent all-around visibility. A set of custom-fitted luggage was a welcome accessory.

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By: Edward Jones
Title: Mecum Kissimmee 2021: Graphite Grey 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing
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Published Date: Sun, 20 Dec 2020 13:30:00 +0000

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