The roots of the SL class can be traced back to motorsport. Mercedes-Benz created the racing vehicle in the 300 SL, W 194 series in 1952. It had a unique combination of features that made it stand out. From its lightweight construction, aerodynamic shape and reliability, the vehicle had everything it needed to win almost every major race that year. It scored a triple victory at the Swiss Grand Prix, double victories at Le Mans and Carrera Panamericana in Mexico and a quadruple victory at the Nürburgring.
Even while standing still, its streamlined, matte silver-colored body screamed at high speed. Then there were the gull wings, which looked more like entrance hatches than actual doors in the original W 194 series, an iconic feature that was crucial in creating the famous SL myth. The vehicle with chassis number 2 featured these short gulls, making it the oldest SL and the only one to have this unique element.
Mercedes built only ten units of the original SL. The very first 300 SL no longer exists when the company eventually scrapped it. But the other produced car, chassis number 194 010 00002/52, still exists and has been in the company’s possession ever since.
What makes the W 194 with chassis number 2 unique is that it was handmade together with chassis number 1 in Rudolf Uhlenhaut’s Stuttgart-Untertürkheim racing workshop. Unlike the first two cars, however, the following cars were built in the Sindelfingen plant, where pressed parts for the chassis were used. These eight cars were most used in racing events in 1952.
Number 2 has a special character that can be seen in many of its components. The welding seams clearly show, among other things, that they are made by hand. In addition, its exhaust system, fuel tank, reservoir for washer fluid are also handmade.
The engine also reflects the personality of the car. The air filter housing, for example, is designed to measure by hand, and there is not even enough space for a person’s hand between the housing and the closed bonnet.
Overall, the success of the W 194 led to calls for a production version. Mercedes-Benz responded by producing the 300 SL Coupé and the more luxurious 190 SL Roadster in 1954. And since then, there has been an unbroken record of production cars with the famous SL designation.
The world’s oldest SL and all other SL models until today can be seen in the new special exhibition “The Fascination of the SL-a Dream Car for 70 Years” at the Mercedes-Benz Museum.
However, it is worth mentioning that the W 194 with chassis number 2 was completely restored by a Mercedes-Benz team in 2012. One of the R & D team’s goals was to reduce the weight of the sports car. Thus, the body was made of an aluminum-magnesium plate, which was very thin and fragile, and time and previous partial restoration attempts left some marks.
Among technical innovations, the new exhibition will feature various holiday postcards from around the world showing the Mercedes-Benz SL. The special event will take place from October 22, 2021 to May 15 next year.
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