Road car: Mercedes 300SL

The ‘Gullwing’ sensation

The 300SL Mercedes-Benz, which created such a sensation in sportscar racing two years ago until the manufacturer withdrew it from competition because ‘they had learnt all they needed to know’, was brought to Silverstone on October 14 for the delectation of a few favoured motoring journalists.

Rudolf Uhlenhaut, head of the MercedesBenz experimental and racing department, drove each journalist for two or three fast laps of Silverstone. This was a wonderful experience, for Uhlenhaut is well known to be nearly as fast as Fangio when it comes to poking a Mercedes round the circuits. Uhlenhaut used only top and third gears, bringing the car out of the corners by skillful opening of the throttle, the speed rising to something like 112mph along the straights.

Later came the opportunity of trying the 300SL for oneself, and while fast ‘lappery’ masks rather than clarifies impressions of a strange car, especially one of this power and speed, we were impressed by the manner in which 6000rpm came up in the indirect gears, equal to nearly 100mph in third; the comfort and support of the cloth-upholstered bucket driving seat; the high-geared, taut, somewhat heavy steering; the very fine road-holding; and particularly by the great power of the light-to-apply, completely fade-free brakes, with their turbo-finned drums.

Naturally, the extreme power and urge of the 300SL impressed. It also created favourable comment for the manner in which it stood up to this continual high speed without falter, the exhaust showing neither blue haze nor black smoke. The accelerator has a short travel and when it is depressed the result is interesting! The car snaked somewhat when taking an adverse camber and it is possible that a de Dion back end would hold it down better, although it is certainly an outstandingly stable and safe car.

It is a truly delectable motor car and not surprisingly costs £4,392 15s 10d in this country, despite Mercedes having studied cost reduction, using bolt-on wheels, drum brakes and a sheet steel body, etc. Although the price is high, there is, they appreciate, a limit, even for sale in the USA. — WB
November 1954