It’s the early 1950’s, less than a decade since the devastating World War II. Europe is gorging itself, almost as if to try and make up for the years it can never have back. America is booming. Instant gratification is the order of the day. Importer of luxury cars, Max Hoffman sees the opportunity to introduce a luxury coupe into the market. He makes the call to Germany where Daimler-Benz executives in Stuttgart are quickest to respond. The result is astonishing… the new Mercedes Benz 300 SL is born.
Literally a toned down grand prix tourer with luxury beyond imagination for the time, the 300 SL with its unique gull wing doors was an instant hit. Its performance credentials were suitably complemented by the opulence it promised. This wasn’t a car for the ordinary man. At its heart was a 3.0 litre engine that pumped fuel furiously through the first ever direct injection system in a production car. The 300 SL spat out a healthy 160kW of power which helped it sprint to 0-100km/h in just over 7 seconds. Impressive even by today’s standards. Despite its performance credentials and its amazing looks, this was never intended to be a supercar.
The 300SL is in fact the very first SL class tourer that Mercedes ever produced. And while a less luxurious and more affordable 190 SL was added in 1955, today, the SL range is made up of an SL350, 500, 63 and 65 AMG derivatives. The 300 SL is one of the most coveted collectibles as a result with prices ranging from R10 million to in access of R35 million. In 2012, an ultra-rare 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL with an all-aluminum body was sold for US$4.62 million (approximately R47,7 million) at the Scottsdale Auctions in Arizona.
In 2006, Mercedes Benz started working on the SLS AMG, a supercar with gull wing doors paying homage to the original 300 SL. Launched in 2010, The SLS which also comes with a hefty price tag is a much more focused machine being the first car that Mercedes Benz’s AMG division built from the ground up. Its 6.2 litre naturally aspirated engine unleashes a tarmac eating 420 kW of power in standard guise (600kW in the Electric version of the car). The 0-100 km/h sprint takes just 3.8 seconds as a result.
As with the original gullwing production was limited making both the 300 SL and SLS rare creatures. There are a few units of the SLS available in South Africa with prices starting around R1,5 million up to R3 million. If you consider yourself a high flyer, this might just be the car for you.
Writer: Katlego Modipane