|The legendary wingdoor coupe was the first true sports-car to be developed by Daimler-Benz after the war. This development was initiateD by Max Hoffman, a US-American citizen of Austrian extraction, who had been the official importer of Merceds-Benz cars since September 1952. For the board of directors of Daimler-benz, Hoffman's plan to sell sportscars with the Mercedes star on the bonnet, was a welcome opportunity to open the US-market for Daimler-Benz and so they were easily persuaded: In September 1953 the development of two sports-car models was launched.
The serial versions of the 300_SL, which were presented as the result of this development in February 1954 at the ,International Motor Sports Show" in New York, was based on the racing-car of the 1952 season. Its salient feature was taken from this racing-car, the famous wing doors, which earned the car the nickname ,gullwing" in English-speaking countries. This unusual design solution was not intended as a publicity stunt, but_, as had been the case with the racing car_, from a construction point of view, this was an absolute necessity. The gridpipe frame, derived from the racing-car SL, which under extreme load weighed a mere 50_kg, had the drawback that because of its overall height conventional doors were simply not feasible.
The streamlined body concealed several other novelties: for the first time fuel injection was used in a serial car by Merceds-Benz; this resulted in an increase of horse power of 40_PS as compared to the carburettor racing car model. The motor was inclined towards the side, in order to ensure a flat and streamlined front design. The lightweight construction - the compomleted car with spare tyre, tools and fuel weighed only 1295_kg - led to the sensational driving performance of the 300_SL: Depending on rear axle transmission a maximum speed of 235_km/h to 260_km/h could be achieved. The chassis basically followed that of the 300 saloon car, without the overload spring of that car, however, and it aimed for a sports-car configuration.
From August 1954 until May 1957 1.400 models were built in Sindelfingen, 29 models with a lightweight construction and a test vehicle with a synthetic car body. This individual car with a glass fibre reinforced body can easily be recognized by two features: there are additional indicators on the front mud guards, which had also been carried over from the 220_a, and there were bigger gaps between its door panels, so that there is no flush surface when the doors are closed.
At the Motor show in Geneva in March 1957, a roadster was presented as the successor of the wingdoor model. Like its predecessor this was an initiative by Max Hoffman. he had urged Daimler Benz for some time to build an open version of the 300_SL model, as in his view the sales opportunities for this kind of car to be particularly good. Technically the roadster corresponded more or less to the cooupe; By modifying lateral portions of the gridpipe frame entry height was so much reduced that normal doors could now be incorporated. Rear axle suspension was completely revised and improved: the single joint cross shaft axle of the 220_a with lowered pivot was adjusted and incorporated into the 300_SL Roadster. For the first time it was fitted with a compensating spring. Compared to the original jointed cross shaft axle of the wingdoor coupe, the roadster delivered a far better performance.
From October 1958, a removable hood was available as special equipment at an extra cost of 1.500,=_DM, which could be mounted at a later stage. Further remarkable features were the rear window, which extended far around the corners and the attractively styled design of the hardtop. Of the technical changes, which were undertaken during the following six years, two should be mentioned: In March 19612, the 300_SL model was fitted with Dunlop disk brakes at the front and rear wheels and from March 1962 a modified engine with a light alloy block was incorporated.
A special design of the 300_SL Roadster should be mentioned at this point: the two 300_SLS models which were built for the american sports car masters competition. The reason, why these special designs were built was the fact that, once production of the roadster had been started, the car was to be used in publicity sportscar competitions in order to boost sales. However, The "Sports Car Club of America" refused to admit the standard serial version of the car to the "Standard Production"-category during the 1957 season. In order to have a chance in the only possible sports car category D, the serial roadster was trimmed down as much as possible and made into an SLS model. The exterior of the 300_SLS is characterised by missing fenders, a special cockpit cover with air admission ducts, a small racing-type wind screen and a roll bar behind the drivers seat. The engineers, who had spent many working-hours on the car at the test department of Daimler-benz were rewarded with success: Paul O'Shea won the American sports car masters competition in the D Category with a clear lead.
Production of the 300_SL_ and at the same time of the 190_SL_ was stopped on the 8._February_1963 in Sindelfingen. This date marked the end of an era for Daimler-Benz: After production of the Typ_300 model was stopped in March_1962, together with the 300_SL, the last passenger car with a separate frame disappeard from the production programme.
Both versions of the 300_SL, Roadster and wingdoor coupe are favourite objects of true car lovers and right up until today they exert a fascinating influence on the motoring public; for years they belong to the most sought after of classic cars, which until today rank high in the appreciation of the motoring public.