1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe
Horsepower : 215 Displacement : 6-cylinder, 3.0 L Wheelbase : 94.5"
In 1954 the SL (Sport Light) Mercedes-Benz was introduced. Because its low-slung chassis incorporated a frame which extended over to the side of the body, the doors were hinged at the roof, thus giving the gull wing appearance when both were opened. This car had many design features besides its doors, most notably the fact that it was the first production car with fuel injection. It had an overhead valve inline 6-cylinder engine of 3-liter capacity which developed 190 horsepower. In line with the 4-speed manual transmission, rack and pinion steering, and independent front and swing axle rear suspension, the top speed of 152 miles per hour was reasonable with a 0-60 in 7.2 seconds.
The car was introduced shortly after Daimler-Benz had converted its war effort and in 1952 they were victorious in the World Sports Car Manufacturers Championship as well as in the recently formed Sports Car category. American distributor Max Hoffman recognized the market for this car in the United States and after successful sales in 1954, he received his first order on this side of the ocean in March 1955. Subsequently a total of 1400 Gullwings were produced from 1954 to 1956 of which 1100 came to the United States distributed by Mr. Hoffman.
The cramped quarters and the heat control in the coupe led to the development of a roadster with similar chassis but with modifications, such as disc brakes unveiled in 1957. The beautiful lines of the roadster are incomparable for any car of its time. With the 6-cylinder engine tilted it was possible to achieve a low hood line which complemented the functional streamlining of the rest of the car. It is true that these cars were capable of engaging in various types of road racing, “right out of the box,” from a dealer’s showroom floor. Approximately 26 lightweight (all aluminum body) models furthering their sporting intentions even further.
I remember when Dad came home, proudly, after finding one in a local used car lot. It was a beautiful black car with around 30,000 miles, with original upholstery and in absolutely excellent condition. Dad was a tireless mechanic and he went over the engine completely, replacing what it needed to operate perfectly, and it has done so ever since. The thing I like about our car is that it still has its original black paint which is almost show condition, except for a bit of roughness on the driver’s side door.
The plating was always excellent and at that time, of course, Dad had access to 300SL parts directly from the local Mercedes dealer. He fortunately ordered some extras which are still in their pretty blue and white containers. These cars are not rare, with over 1,400 made, but few of them can brag about original paint and upholstery which, of course, will always remain untouched while in our possession.