Anyone who is a fan of movies or cars from the 1950s is going to recognize the Mercedes-Benz 300SL. Its sleek design and silver color make it hard to miss, but its iconic gullwing doors make this car one for the ages. The 3.0-liter, six-cylinder engine were the epitome of power in the 1950s, and the 300SL went on to make automotive history, despite its short time in production.
How It All Started
The driving force behind the production of the 300SL was an American Mercedes-Benz importer named Max Hoffman. In 1951, Hoffman was impressed with the Mercedes-Benz W194 race car that had a very distinctive look. Hoffman could see a coupe version of that car having a tremendous appeal in the United States, but Mercedes-Benz was not interested in creating a coupe version of its classic racer.
In 1952, Mercedes-Benz released the original 300SL as a race car only. The car dominated the European racing circuit, and Hoffman demanded that a coupe version be created for his American customers. Hoffman’s logic was that the high level of prosperity in the United States after World War II meant that there was a market for a 300SL coupe, and eventually Hoffman convinced Mercedes-Benz to put out a version of the 300SL that could be sold to the public.
Bringing The Gullwing To America
One of the things that makes the 300SL so collectible these days is that there were only 1,400 of the original vehicles made from 1954 to 1957. The first 300 vehicles made were sold to European customers in 1954. By 1955, Max Hoffman was filling his showrooms in the United States with 300SLs, and sales were brisk.
After the coupe’s initial run ended in 1957, Mercedes-Benz continued with a roadster version until 1963. But it is those first 1,400 coupes that collectors want, and people have been known to pay over $4 million just for the right to own one of these vehicles.
Fun Facts About The 300SL
The 300SL was made from a combination of steel and aluminum that gave it the lightweight durability that consumers wanted. But customers could request that their entire 300SL be made from lightweight aluminum, and 29 special order models were created. These 29 special order all-aluminum vehicles are the most expensive 300SLs in the world.
The gullwing doors were not created for style, but rather out of necessity. To get the interior design look that the engineers wanted, the sides of the 300SL had to be built higher than normal vehicles. The higher sides did not allow for doors that opened outward, so the engineers designed doors that opened up. The result was the iconic gullwing doors that we know today.
The aluminum tube frame of the 300SL helped to keep the vehicle’s weight down, and the unique sideways positioning of the engine was the result of Mercedes-Benz engineers fitting a larger engine from a different 300 line into the 300SL. The Mercedes-Benz 300SL is a collector’s dream, and one of these cars can command millions of dollars at an auction, or at any private sale.