A Living Legend at Detroit: The Oldest Mercedes 300SL in Existence

Motorsport / 25 Comments

In amongst some of the latest cars to come off the production line, this 300 SL was one of the first.

To make it to the ripe old age of 60 is a respectable achievement for anybody and even more so for a car. Many classics are left to rot or sent to the crusher after being pillaged for any reusable parts, but every now and again, one survives. The second-ever 300SL from 1952 is such an example. As the first model was destroyed, chassis number 194 010 00002/52 is thus the oldest 300SL in existence and has been painstakingly restored to its original condition to celebrate the series' 60th anniversary.


On June 1951, Mercedes' bosses decided to take part in the 1952 Le Mans endurance race and ordered the development of the 300 SL Super-Light, later changed to simply the 300 SL. The W 194 was the company's first racing car since the end of World War II. Head of Mercedes passenger car testing Rudolg Uhlenhaut developed a special frame weighing just 50kg and the bodyshell was made from aluminum and magnesium. The 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine was from the 300 saloon but the car's most discerning characteristic was the gullwing doors that were widened to make access easier during racing.

Tuned by Mercedes engineers, output was rated at 170hp and the engine was angled 50-degrees to the left and fitted with a dry sump. Combined with a low weight of just over a ton the SL managed a top speed of 143mph, impressive for its day. Ten cars were constructed for the 1952 racing season with the W 194 going on to form the basis of the W198 production 300 SL that has lived on for six decades and spawned six generations, the most recent of which just made its world premiere at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show.

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