Mercedes 300SL was the first iteration of its vastly popular SL series of Grand Tourers. The 300SL reigned as the fastest production car during its day in the late 1950’s. Introduced in the Geneva and Frankfurt auto show of 1954, the Mercedes 300 SLS made the showroom floor by 1955. The idea for a fast two-seat coupe in the form of the 300SL was a rather unique one. The idea was in fact suggested by one Mr Max Hoffman, who was the official importer of Mercedes-Benz cars in USA. The car was directed to capture the fancies of post-war affluent car enthusiasts, in what could build the image of the company in the American markets.
The Mercedes 300 SLS would go on to sport a 3.0 litre engine, codenamed W194. The arguably low power output of the W194, that didn’t exactly compliment the sporty design of the car, was addressed by Mercedes Benz’s new technical partner – BOSCH. Together the two entities developed the first possible Mechanical Direct Fuel Injection system which would see a healthy increase in the engine output. The Mercedes 300 SLS would go on to be made in two forms, the Gullwing Coupe and the Roadster version.
The 300SL boasts of serious heritage and imagine when an American Racing legend in the form of Paul O’Shea is added into the picture, it takes the proposition to a whole new level. The first 300SLS Competition Roadster was built in 1957, by Paul O’Shea, who was an ardent admirer of the SL roadster. Paul O’Shea built two 300SLS cars, to be used for racing application. The Mercedes 300 SLS roadster was already well engineered car to begin with, sporting a lightweight tubular aluminium frame to keep its weight at a check. Paul O’Shea took this to a new level by changing out the panels and replacing it with aluminium ones. This alone shaved 337Kg of bulk from the 300SL roadster. The silver coloured aluminium gracing the entire car rightfully gave it the now popular name – the “Silver Arrow”.
The wizardry of weight saving transformed the Mercedes 300 SLS into a totally different animal, and Paul O-Shea took it for testing at Carrera Panamerica, arguably the most torturous proving grounds. There couldn’t possibly been a better proving ground for the car, with the race spanning a distance of 3500km from border to border. The little grand tourer turned racer was beating the likes of Ferrari’s, Maserati’s and Astons in the Panamerican proving grounds. Sadly after the race, Mercedes-Benz was pressed for funds and pulled out of American Racing.
After 30 years of the incredible feat achieved by the 300SLS in Carrera Panamerica, the thought of re-entering the legend was rekindled by a determined gentleman named George Distler. George Distler was struck with luck when he met Albrecht Lorenz, an engineer for Mercedes-Benz, who could get his hands on the detailed instructions of Paul O’Shea. In what could be described as a meticulous task, the team of George Distler and Albrecht Lorenz recreated the 300SLS in a span of ten years. Distler entered the 1997 Carrera Panamerica with just one car and a very limited bag of spares. In what can only be conceived as sheer display of engineering prowess, the recreated 300SLS finished 11th overall and bagged the class win!
In addition, the Mercedes Benz 300SLS will stand on the freshly landscaped French gardens of Chantilly, gleaming under the bright morning sun, drawing a glimpse into its glorious past. On the 10th of September 2017, these French gardens will play host to the Bonhams Chantilly sale, where the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLS will be on display.
Image source – Bonhams