>The sensational Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing sports car debuted on a motorway on March 12, 1952. Commencing from 1954 until today, the highly successful competition car has greatly influenced the tradition of the Mercedes-Benz SL sports cars.  

The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W 194) was presented in a stretch of motorway near Stuttgart on March 12, 1952. Two days before the event, the press office of Mercedes-Benz created an uproar as they sent out invitations to a select group of journalists.

Photos of the press presentation on the motorway near Stuttgart on 12 March 1952.

It was not simply an announcement about the “new Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (super-light) sports car […] undertaking test drives in public for the first time”. It was also a clear declaration that Mercedes-Benz was to return to motorsport with this car. The press release stated that three 300 SLs were registered for “that famous Italian road race, the ‘Mille Miglia’, to be held on 3 and 4 May 1952”. 

The invitation was sent out with a press photo that had a dynamically drawn sports car with the archetypal SL lines. The gullwing doors of the SL ended at the waistline of the body, although in the later models Mercedes-Benz made it easier to get in and out of by making the downward cut-outs larger. 


The roll cage, a structure hidden under the body, was completely new. It was developed by Rudolf Uhlenhaut specifically for this racing sports car. It was made of thin tubing, subjected only to compression and tension, and weighed only 50 kilograms. The frame design was the main reason that the gullwing doors were hinged to the roof.  

The M 194 engine came from the M 186 production engine of the Mercedes-Benz 300 (W 186) representation vehicle presented in 1951. The engineers increased the engine’s output to around 170 horsepower so that it could be used in the racing sports car. They additionally tilted the engine 50 degrees to the left and utilized dry-sump lubrication to drop the installation position. 

They also adopted other technical elements from the Mercedes-Benz 300, the sporty-luxurious 300 S, and the legendary “Adenauer” saloon.

The 300 SL very first race at the 1952 Mille Miglia was highly successful, with the 300 SL taking out a second and fourth place for Mercedes-Benz. The 300 SL also achieved a triple victory in the sports car race in Bern, a one-two win in the grueling 24 hours of Le Mans, and a quadruple victory on the Nürburgring. 

24 Hours of Le Mans 1952
24 Hours of Le Mans 1952 where Mercedes-Benz achieved a one-two victory with its 300 SL racing sports cars 
Grand Prix for sports cars in 1952
Nürburgring Anniversary Grand Prix for sports cars in 1952. Mercedes-Benz delivered a four-fold victory.
1952 Milli Miglia
Karl Kling and Hans Klenk (number 623) came second place overall in the 1952 Milli Miglia
1952 Bern Grand Prix
1952 Bern Grand Prix at Bremgarten Circuit (Switzerland).

The last race of the 300 SL was at the third Carrera Panamericana 1952 in Mexico, and by then, the engine output had increased to 180 hp. This race saw Karl Kling/Hans Klenk and Hermann Lang/Erwin Grupp claim a legendary one-two victory. 

third Carrera Panamericana
Third Carrera Panamericana in Mexico, 19 to 23 November 1952

In 1953, Mercedes-Benz developed the W 194/11, the successor to the highly successful 300 SL racing sports car. Due to its characteristic front design, it was given the nickname “Hobel” (‘carpenter’s plane’). The W 194/11, however, was never entered in a race.

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By: Sports Car Digest
Title: The Mercedes-Benz SL – Continuing the Tradition
Sourced From: sportscardigest.com/the-mercedes-benz-sl/
Published Date: Sun, 13 Jun 2021 12:18:34 +0000

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