August 2008

1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe

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At its launch, the 300SL cost more than twice the price of a Jaguar XK 140. Today, it's worth about four times as much

Mercedes-Benz returned to postwar competition in 1952, fielding two of its new 300SL (W194) sports cars in the Mille Miglia. The pair finished a creditable 2nd and 4th overall in this most difficult of events, and the promising start was followed up by a win in the challenging La Carrera Panamericana.

The Works first raced the 300SL (Sport Leicht) in open form, but for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, a trio of "gullwing"-doored coupes was entered. High sills were a feature of the multi-tubular spaceframe chassis, and while access was not a problem in the open car, the coupe bodywork required innovative thinking, hence the doors. Karl Kling and Hans Klenk duly brought their "Silver Arrow" home in first place, and the 300SL was on its way to becoming a motorsport legend.