Mercedes-Benz – 300 SL Coupé (1952)
- Vehicle Type:
- Coach Builder:
- Mercedes-Benz Rennabteilung
- Engine CC:
- Bruce McCaw (US)
Class GA CENTURY OF THE 24 HOURS OF LE MANS: HEROES OF THE MOST FAMOUS RACE IN THE WORLD
On 14th June 1952, this early Mercedes with chassis number 7 and sporting gullwing doors started at Le Mans. But nobody could imagine its subsequent importance. Just three months earlier, Mercedes-Benz had presented the new super sports car with its idiosyncratic doors to the press. Race Director Alfred Neubauer had studied the regulations so carefully that at the first race for the W194 in the Mille Miglia only folding windows opening upwards were installed to provide access to the cockpit. This was a case of necessity being the mother of invention because the financial situation was so dire that head designer Rudolf Uhlenhaut was only permitted to install available series components for reasons of cost. He made this possible by experimenting with models made of welding wire, ultimately succeeding in designing a frame for the 300SL weighing in at just 60 kilograms. However, this was too high to allow for the installation of doors. The regulations for Le Mans were accommodated by taking the doors further down. Hermann Lang and Fritz Rieß took turns at the wheel in the 300SL and both drivers drove lap after lap delighting an astonished crowd of spectactors until they cossed the finishing line as winners in first place ahead of a second works 300 SL.
Although this was not the fastest racing car, the 300 SL with its highly streamlined aluminium body was extremely reliable and in 1952 won virtually all the races, sometimes in the form of a coupé, at other times wearing a roadster body. Right up until the late 1980s, the car presented was to be the last overall winner for Mercedes-Benz at Le Mans. However, it was used long after this in the company and in 2002 the current owner commissioned a restoration to its original condition.