Model Page

Mercedes Benz 300SL Gull-Wing

Production Run:


Production Date:

1954 - 1957


Mercedes Benz 3.0 Straight 6 Injected


Sindelfingen (Germany)


7.2 secs

Max Speed:

160 Mph

The Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing is one of the most distinctive cars ever produced, introduced in 1954 the car enjoyed a short production run up until 1957 over which time only 1,400 units were manufactured. Later the car was offered as an open top roadster, at its time of launch it was the fast production car in the world. The car has been ranked as one of the top 5 sports car of all times and the values of the vehicle have soared with prices of $650,000 being realised.

The car was unveiled at the New York International Motor Sports show in 1954, after the war Mercedes Benz was suffering financially and so some components of the car were taken from other models in the range. The car gathered its name 300SL from the engine size of 3.0 litre and SL for Sport Leicht or Sport Light in its English translation. The car was perhaps influenced by Maximilian E. Hoffman an American importer of Mercedes-Benz cars, he wanted the company to manufacture a road car based on the racing coupes produced by the company, the company agreed and thus the 300SL was born. Within six months of the board granting approval for the project the car was unveiled – quite an achievement. At release date the car was priced at 29,000 Marks – not comparing favourably with Mercedes other offering the 170Vb that was priced at a mere 7,900 Marks in comparison.

The body was styled with the primary aim of creating a car that was aerodynamically efficient with a low drag efficient, horizontal eyebrows were fitted over the wheel opening to reduce drag and the car did not feature many exterior adornments. The car was built up from a tubular frame with aluminium and steel body panels attached, to produce a stable car the tubular frame sat quite high on the vehicle, this presented engineers with the problem of how to fit doors to such a vehicle.

The distinctive Gull-Wing doors solved this problem at a stroke, assistance was given to the driver to raise the doors through the use of a telescopic spring, these doors did not include a conventional door handles, instead a pull out bar was fitted. To aid the passenger to get into the car the steering wheel could be folded down so that they could swing their legs into position before dropping down into the seat (the sills being very high on this model). The tubular frame was designed by Rudolf Uhlenhaut, this design approach being taken to reduce weight whilst retaining a strong structure. The space frame was made up of a number of steel tubes that were welded together, this structure had a weight of only 82 Kg.

Over the space-frame the shape of the car was given by its body panels that were in the main part manufactured from steel, to keep weight low a number of the panels were constructed from aluminium sheet these being the bonnet, boot lid and door assemblies. Mercedes Benz offered customers the opportunity to order the car that had the complete body constructed from aluminium. This option was unpopular with customers due in part to its high cost, only 29 cars were constructed even though the weight savings was considerable at around 80 Kg. The standard bodywork finish for the model was metallic silver although black, dark blue and red were available finishes.

The car was fitted with a 2,996cc six cylinder engine, the unit was tilted at fifty degrees to allow the power-plant to fit under the low bonnet, the engine had a bore and stroke of 85mm x 88mm and a compression ratio of 8.55:1. The single overhead camshaft engine featured a number of revisions from the Mercedes 300 to increase power and drivability, the carburettors were replaced with a mechanical fuel injection system that introduced fuel directly into the cylinders – this being the first time such a unit was fitted to a road going car. In this format the engine developed 212 bhp @ 5,800 rpm and 202 lb/ft @ 4,600 rpm – nearly twice the power developed by the carburettor fed version. Engineers had to tilt the engine to fifty degrees to the left to allow the power-plant to fit under the low bonnet.

Whilst being a revolutionary unit the engine did have it’s issues, the mechanical fuel injection continued to pump fuel into the engine when the ignition was not present. This fuel was therefore not burned and had the effect of washing oil from the cylinder walls. The engine oil was then diluted by this petrol if the engine was not driven long enough to reach a normal operating temperature that would lead to the petrol evaporating from the oil. The engine was fitted with a large oil cooler that only added to this problem by keeping engine temperatures very low, a number of owners went to the lengths of blocking off ventilation to these oil coolers in an attempt to raise engine temperature.

The car featured a traditional front engine rear wheel drive layout, power being delivered to the rear wheels through a four speed manual gearbox. Customers could order the car with a choice of five different rear axle ratios dependent on their requirements for top speed and acceleration. The car featured four wheel independent suspensions at the front the car was fitted with double wishbones, coil springs and an anti roll bar. The rear suspension consisted of a high pivot swing axle with radius arms and coil springs. Te rear swing axle was jointed at the differential and not the wheels, this could have the effect of making the car difficult to control at high speeds of roads with extreme changes in camber. Braking was taken care of by 20mm drum brakes all round with power assistance and steering through non power assisted re-circulating ball steering configuration.

Production of the Gull-Wing ended in 1957 with a total of 1,400 units having been made, the car did continue in production in roadster form up until 1963 when the car was replaced by the 230 SL.

The Facts


Mercedes Benz Straight Six





Compression Ratio:


Fuel System:

Bosch Mechanical Fuel Injection

Maximum Power:

212bhp @ 5,800 rpm.

Maximum Torque:

202lb/ft @ 4,600 rpm.


Manual 4 speed.

Top Gear:



Front Drums / Rear Drum

Kerb Weight:

1310 Kg

Max Speed:

160 Mph


7.2 Secs