Sophia Loren, Elvis Presley, Prince Philip, Herbert Von Karajan, Clark Gable, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Ralph Lauren... just a brief insight into the list of conquests of one of the most fascinating seductresses of the 1950s. A supercar that was before its time, the 300 SL Gullwing coupé was nothing less than the road version of the W194 300 SL, the racing car that had won at Le Mans in 1952. The road version was truly exceptional, owing to the fact that it was even more powerful than the competition model - something never seen before at that time.
In 1951, Mercedes engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut noticed that the Jaguar C-Type, which had enjoyed consistent success at the 24-hour Le Mans races of the time, used a new tubular frame that made it considerably lighter. Inspired by this British innovation, he got to work on a skeleton made of steel tubes, which was extremely rigid and only weighed about 110 pounds. This was the start of the 300 in the Sport Leicht ('Light Sport') category. The development of the aluminium bodywork proved to be complex, because its air-penetration coefficient had to be as favorable as possible - so much so that they had to tilt the straight-6 3-liter (186 cubic inch) engine in order to lower the height of the hood even further.
One of the most notorious special features of this 300 was indubitably the novel solution of opening the doors vertically, which earned it the 'Gullwing' nickname. This opening system was a result of the side chassis tubes which, as they were placed high, prevented the use of a conventional opening mechanism. The downside of this otherwise elegant and original system was that it made accessing the passenger side rather awkward.
To be continued...