The vehicles shown on this website are no longer available for purchase. The illustrations and instructions are intended for informational purposes only. Mercedes-Benz SLR Coupé, SLR 722 Edition, SLR Roadster, SLR Roadster 722 S, SLR Stirling Moss – Fuel consumption (urban/ extra-urban/ combined): 20,9 l/ 10,8l/ 14,5 l/100 km, CO2 emissions (combined): 459-295 g/km.
300 SL (W 194)
Daimler-Benz unveiled the 300 SL (W 194) racing car in March 1952. Not even two months later, the new Silver Arrow finished second in the Mille Miglia, this being followed up by victories in the Bern Grand Prix and at Le Mans. In the August, the racing team celebrated a quadruple triumph with the 300 SL at the Nürburgring.
Three months later, Karl Kling won the hazardous "Carrera Panamericana" in a 300 SL. Car, driver and race all went down in the motorsport history books. Just like the production vehicle that came after: the famous 300 SL Gullwing (W 198).
Development of the gullwing doors was attributable not to the bizarre whim of an overexuberant designer, but to a design-inherent necessity: when building the W 194 racer for the 1952 season, Rudolf Uhlenhaut and his engineers developed a tubular steel structure to replace the conventional chassis. However, while providing exceptional torsional stiffness and stability, the new frame needed to be at the shoulder height of the driver.
There was no room for a door. This meant that the driver had to climb in through the roof – the "gullwings" were born. To this day, it is difficult to resist the charm of the design. The gullwing made a return in the later Mercedes-Benz C 111 and C 112 prototypes as well as in the Mercedes-Benz SLR and the current Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans
After the Mille Miglia and the Bern Grand Prix, the Le Mans race in June 1952 was the third test for the newly developed 300 SL. Turning up with three cars, the Mercedes-Benz team deeply unsettled the competition with a novel detail: the roof on one of the racers was fitted with a pop-up wing, which acted as a kind of "airbrake". Although this bold design was not used in the actual race, it left a lasting impression in the minds of the competitors.
The three teams at the start were Theo Helfrich & Helmut Niedermayr, Hermann Lang & Fritz Riess and Karl Kling & Hans Klenk. At the end of a tremendously exciting race of fluctuating fortunes, victory went to the team of Hermann Lang and Fritz Riess with an average speed of 155.575 km/h – a new record in the history of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The only race to be contested in Germany by the Mercedes-Benz team in 1952 was on the Nürburgring, a circuit that had been opened in 1927. Not even two weeks after victory in Le Mans, Kling, Lang, Helfrich and Riess were back in initial practice on the Nürburgring. Karl Kling set a new benchmark on his fourth practice lap, completing a circuit of the 22.8 km course in just 10.34 minutes. Yet there was something else to grab the attention: the Mercedes-Benz motorsport department had cut the roofs off its four 300 SL (W 194) Coupés!
The roadsters thus created afforded a better view of the winding Nürburgring circuit, thereby giving the drivers greater safety. The result of the "Anniversary Grand Prix": 1st Lang, 2nd Kling, 3rd Riess and 4th Helfrich. The Silver Arrows were victorious across the board.
In response to management directive No. 4150, Daimler-Benz's motorsport department embarked in 1952 on an adventurous undertaking: participation in the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico. On 4 October four 300 SLs, two Coupés and two Roadsters, were put on a ship to Veracruz along with an entire team of mechanics. Racing manager Neubauer decided on Hermann Lang and Eugen Geiger, as well as Karl Kling and Hans Klenk. These were joined by American driver John Fitch, who was teamed with the Swabian Erwin Grupp.
Contested over desert tracks in scorching heat, the tough five-day race was full of surprises, including the famous collision between Kling's car and a vulture. Yet despite all adversity, his team went on to win the Panamericana ahead of the duo of Lang and Geiger. Kling became a national hero in Germany – and, for Mercedes-Benz, this triumph ushered in a new era of motorsport.
A bizarre accident in 1952 will probably for ever be associated with his name: during the Carrera Panamericana, the world's fastest road race, a vulture flew into Karl Kling's windscreen as he was driving along at full speed. Kling reacted brilliantly to the situation. The next day, he and his co-driver, Hans Klenk, set off with thin metal bars in front of the windscreen, finally going on to victory in the chase along desert tracks and through Mexican villages. A racing triumph that was to make Kling a national hero in post-war Germany.
Speaking from the Federal Chancellery at the Palais Schaumburg in Bonn, the German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, stated: "This victory opens the door for our exports." Already 42 years of age, Kling had waited a long time for his triumph. In 1954/55, the man from Giessen contested a further 11 successful races for Mercedes-Benz before, in 1956, he succeeded the legendary Alfred Neubauer as coordinator of racing and rallying activities.
"During the race, a racing driver is the loneliest person in the world," said racing manager Alfred Neubauer. So he did his level best to remedy this state of affairs. He was invariably busy with flags and signboards in the Mercedes-Benz pit, ensuring that his drivers had an information advantage. His ingenuity was proverbial: the W 25 racing cars having exceeded the stipulated 750 kg weight limit for the 1934 Eifel Race, Neubauer instructed his mechanics to remove the white car paint with sandpaper.
The Silver Arrow was born. The motorsport enthusiast (born in 1891) was one of the driving forces behind the resurrection of the racing department after 1945. He was in charge of the Mercedes-Benz team during the successful era between 1952 and 1955.
Desmodromic valve timing
While travelling by tram in 1952, Mercedes-Benz engineer Hans Gassmann had a flash of inspiration. He quickly scribbled down his idea of "desmodromic valve timing" on the back of an envelope. In the process of developing the successor to the W 194, Rudolf Uhlenhaut and his team had observed that, at very high revolutions, the valve tappets of the Grand Prix engines lifted away from cam.
Gassmann's design simply envisaged two cams per valve. One opened the valve as normal, while a second closed it again via a rocker arm. The technique was used in the newly built W 196 R as well as in the 300 SLR three-litre version.
Single-joint swing axle
Rudolf Uhlenhaut developed this new form of rear axle to make allowance for the vehicle dynamics of ever more powerful cars such as the W 194. The single-joint swing axle had just one common, lowered pivot point for both axle halves, which lessened the changes in track and camber while the vehicle was in motion.
This patented system was first tested in the W 194 011 – the 300 SL Transaxle. The axle was to remain the standard design throughout the entire Mercedes-Benz range up until 1967.
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