PKW4081 Types 300 SL Coupé and 300 SL Roadster (W 198), 1954 - 1963

Types 300 SL Coupé and 300 SL Roadster (W 198), 1954 - 1963

The legendary gullwing coupé 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 Mercedes-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 version of the 300 SL, which was 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 unusual 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 tubular space frame, derived from the SL racing-car, which 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 Mercedes-Benz; this resulted in an increase of horse power of 40 hp 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 complete car with spare tire, 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 kph to 260 kph could be achieved.

From August 1954 until May 1957 1,400 units were built in Sindelfingen, 29 of them with a light-alloy body and one test vehicle with a plastic body. This individual car with a glassfibre 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 Geneva Motor Show in March 1957, a roadster was presented as the successor of the gullwing 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 coupé. By modifying lateral portions of the space 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 gullwing coupé, the roadster delivered a far better performance.

From October 1958, a removable hardtop was available as special equipment at an extra cost of 1,500 DM. 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 1961, 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 version of the 300 SL Roadster should be mentioned at this point: the two 300 SLS models which were built for the American Sports Car Championship competition. The reason, why these special versions 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 bumpers, a special cockpit cover with air admission ducts, a small racing-type wind-screen and a roll bar behind the drivers seat. In any case, the work carried out by the Daimler-Benz testing department was successful: Paul O'Shea won the American Sports Car Championship in the Category D with a clear lead.

Production of the 300 SL and the 190 SL in Sindelfingen ceased on 8 February 1963. This date marks the end of an epoch for Daimler Benz: as the production of the 300 saloon had ceased in March 1962, this meant that there were no longer any cars with a separate chassis being produced.

Both versions of the 300 SL, roadster and gullwing coupé, were collectors' cars right from the start and still have not lost any of their fascination; they have been amongst the most sought after and valuable classic cars for many years now.


  • 2005DIG2277
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954
    -
  • 2005DIG2275
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954
    300 SL Coupé
  • 2005DIG2276
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954
    300 SL Coupé
  • 2005DIG2279
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954
    300 SL Coupé
  • 2005DIG2298
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954
    300 SL Coupé
  • 83F97
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL-Coupé, Baureihe W 198
    300 SL-Coupé
  • 83F112
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL-Coupé, Baureihe W 198
    MB Typ 300 SL-Coupé, Baureihe W 198
  • 83F113
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL-Roadster, Baureihe W 198
    300 SL-Roadster
  • 83F114
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL-Coupé, Baureihe W 198
    300 SL-Coupé
  • 83F115
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL-Coupé, 1954 - 1957.
    Typ 300 SL-Coupé
  • 83F118
    Mercedes-Benz SL-Sportwagentypen von 1954 bis 1985
Von links, Mercedes-Benz 190 SL-Roadster der Baureihe W 121, Pagoden-SL der Baureihe W 113, SL-Roadster der Baureihe W 107, 300 SL-Roadster und  300 SL-Coupé der Baureihe W 198
    Mercedes-Benz SL-Sportwagentypen von 1954 bis 1985
  • 84F18
    After WWII, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL “Gullwing” - often referred to as a design icon – stood for elegance and sportiness like no other car of its time. The 300 SL designed by Friedrich Geiger not only fascinated the public at its launch in 1954 due to its gullwing doors, which had to be included for construction-related reasons, but it was also the first Mercedes-Benz road car without a vertical radiator grille. Instead, there is a horizontal air intake with the Mercedes star in the centre – a design element which can be seen in many Mercedes-Benz models even today.
    300 SL Coupé
  • 87F117
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL-Roadster, Baureihe W 198
    300 SL-Roadster
  • A41550
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Roadster, aus dem Jahre 1957.
    MB 300 SL Roadster
  • C34490
    Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Coupé bzw. Roadster
aus dem Jahre 1954
Schnittzeichnungen
    Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Coupé bzw. Roadster
  • C34493
    Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster und Coupé
    Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster und Coupé
  • U2229
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Roadster mit Coupédach, 1958-63. USA-Ausführung mit "sealed-beam"-Scheinwerfern
    300 SL Roadster
  • 54034-11
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL der Baureihe W 198
    300 SL
  • 54034-21
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL der Baureihe W 198
    300 SL
  • 55344-11
    Mercedes-Benz 300 SL. The 1000th Mercedes-Benz 300 SL came off the production line in the Sindelfingen plant in December 1955.
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL
  • 61191
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954.
    Typ 300 SL
  • 61192
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954.
    Typ 300 SL
  • 61193
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954.
    Typ 300 SL
  • 61194
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954.
    Typ 300 SL
  • 61195
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954.
    Typ 300 SL
  • 61196
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954.
    Typ 300 SL
  • 61197
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954.
    Typ 300 SL
  • 61198
    Armaturen, Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, aus dem Jahre 1954.
    Typ 300 SL Coupé
  • 61199
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954.
    Typ 300 SL
  • 61201
    Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Coupé
1954
    Mercedes-Benz 300 SL
  • 61202
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954.
    Typ 300 SL
  • 61221
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954.
    Typ 300 SL
  • 61222
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954.
    Typ 300 SL
  • 61223
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954.
    Typ 300 SL
  • 61224
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954.
    Typ 300 SL
  • 61225
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954.
    Typ 300 SL
  • 61226
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954.
    Typ 300 SL
  • 61227
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954.
    Typ 300 SL
  • 61228
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954.
    Typ 300 SL
  • 61229
    Mercedes-Benz Typ 300 SL Coupé, 1954.
    Typ 300 SL
Loading