Become a Member: Get Ad-Free Access to All Our Content
1952 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL

1952 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL

1952 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL

For the post-war racing effort, Mercedes-Benz returned with the 1952 300SL. The new car had trademark gullwing doors which were necessary due to the space-frame chassis.

Rolf Uhlenhaut, the top Mercedes-Benz engineer, placed emphasis on lightweight construction and slippery aerodynamics during the development of the 300 Sport Leicht. Reducing weight, Uhlenhaut had a special tube-frame made for the car. This frame included small tubing arranged in a grid-type fashion. Many triangles were used in the design which made a torsionally stiff chassis.

The complex design of the chassis included two large bulkheads running down the side of the car. These grid-sections proved difficult as they occupied the inner quarter panels where normal doors would reside. This gave rise to the gullwing doors which would become a trademark feature of the 300SL up to 1955.

Untertürkheim and Sindelfingen were responsible for the designing the lightweight aluminum body. Thier results produced a low body, featuring integrated headlights and, more importantly, aerodynamically efficient lines. Thanks to the engine placement at 50 degrees, the front of the body was remarkably low and flat. This helped the SL achieve a phenomenal Cd value of 0.25.

The engine, was a further development of the M186 inline-6. It was placed at 50 degrees in the engine bay to reduce the overall height. Unique features included an oblique cylinder head arrangement and overhead camshafts.

During the same year it was released, the 300SL scored top marks in international racing. Despite being an entirely new design, the SL cars showed remarkable stamina. The highlight of the Mercedes-Benz season came at the Vingt-Quatre Heures du Mans. At that event two SLs would take first and second overall ahead of the Ferrari 340 America Berlinetta. The winning team, with Hermann Lang and Fritz Rieß, drove at record pace of 155.575 kilometers per hour.

At the 24 Hours of Le Mans the SL cars laid their legendary foundation. Mercedes-Benz, who previously had little history at sports car racing established themselves at the top of the sport.

In Detail

tags gullwing, 300sl, w194
submitted by Richard Owen
type Racing Car
built at Germany
engine M194 Inline-6
position Front Longitudinal, 50 Degree Inclination To The Left
valvetrain SOHC w/2 Valves per Cyl
fuel feed 3 Solex Downdraft Carburetors
displacement 2996 cc / 182.8 in³
bore 85 mm / 3.35 in
stroke 88 mm / 3.46 in
compression 8.0:1
power 130.5 kw / 175.0 bhp @ 5200 rpm
specific output 58.41 bhp per litre
bhp/weight 201.15 bhp per tonne
body / frame Aluminum Body over Tubular Space Frame
driven wheels RWD
front tires 6.7×15
rear tires 6.7×15
front brakes Alloy Drums w/Hydraulic Assist
rear brakes Alloy Drums w/Hydraulic Assist
steering Recirculatin Ball
f suspension Double Wishbones w/Coil Springs, Stabilizer Bar, Telescopic Shock Aborbers
r suspension Swing Axle w/Coil Springs, Telescopic Shock Absorbers, ?
curb weight 870 kg / 1918 lbs
wheelbase 2400 mm / 94.5 in
front track 1381 mm / 54.4 in
rear track 1445 mm / 56.9 in
length 4220 mm / 166.1 in
width 1790 mm / 70.5 in
height 1265 mm / 49.8 in
transmission 4-Speed Manual
gear ratios 3.33:1, 2.12:1, 1.50:1, 1.00:1
top speed ~240 kph / 149.1 mph