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The road version of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL was unveiled in February 1954 at the International Motor Sports Show in New York. The body of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL was developed with the primary aim of cutting aerodynamic drag to a minimum. The elegance of the car’s side view remained undisturbed by a door handle, with a discreet pull-out bar disengaging the lock. The tubular frame for the 300 SL, designed by Rudolf Uhlenhaut, reduced weight to a minimum but provided maximum strength. The body of the 300 SL was constructed largely out of high-grade sheet steel, although aluminum was used for the engine hood, trunk lid and the skin panels for the door sills and doors.
The engine had to be tilted 45 degrees to the left in order to squeeze under the hood, thus reducing the amount of space in the passenger-side footwell.
The first units of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL were sold in Europe in 1954, whilst Maxi Hoffman received his first customer car in March 1955. In case you thought the existing Brutale and Dragster 800 were about as stylish, aggressive and frankly barking mad as a three-cylinder roadster could be, the RR models have been created to take both models a stage further in all directions. Both get a new, more powerful version of MV’s already ultra-grunty 798cc 12-valve motor, complete with twin injectors per cylinder and a new exhaust system that lifts peak output by 15bhp, to 140bhp at 13,500rpm.
They also get a revised electronics package that incorporates further refined fuelling, a revised eight-level traction control system and a quick-shifter that works on downchanges as well as upchanges. Chassis layouts are based on the existing Brutale and Dragster, but both models get slightly firmer suspension, with the Dragster the firmer of the two. Both bikes were fantastic fun on a day spent blasting round Tuscany from the launch base in a 16th-century converted castle in the countryside west of Siena.

The whole day was a riot of manic, arm-yanking acceleration, front wheels coming up with no prompting in second and even third gears, all the time with a delicious three-cylinder soundtrack from the silencers by my right boot. I wouldn’t say it was exactly a relaxing day, though, especially as the Tuscan roads were horrendously bumpy at times, which made both the light and quick-steering triples hard work at times. These pics are of the Brutale RR; Dragster RR pics will be in next post, with full test to follow soon!
Although there were no plans to send the 300 SL into series production, the Daimler-Benz Board had been left with the words of Maximilian (“Maxi”) Hoffman ringing in their ears. Series production began in Sindelfingen in August 1954 and the price was fixed at 29,000 Marks – a quite enormous sum at the time, especially when you compared the new model alongside the Mercedes-Benz 170 Vb – on sale at 7,900 Marks. A series of extremely thin tubes were welded together into triangles to produce a frame which boasted impressive torsional stiffness and was only subjected to compression and tensile forces. For a relatively small extra charge, customers could choose to have the whole body made from light alloy, which cut 80 kilograms off the car’s total weight. Its six-cylinder engine featured a number of modifications, among of these the carburetor was replaced by a direction injection system. The SL’s center of gravity was almost exactly in the middle of the car, laying the perfect foundations for fast and precise cornering. The new motor is outrageously powerful and responsive, especially in bikes as short and light as this pair, which combine stubby 1380mm wheelbase with dry weight of just 168kg.
With the forks occasionally bouncing off road ruts to make the bars almost shake out of my hands, following MV’s rapid lead riders took plenty of concentration and was never dull! They’re due in showrooms any day now, with the Brutale RR costing about ten per cent more than the standard model, and the Dragster RR with its fancy wheels about 15 per cent more than that.

The official importer of Mercedes-Benz cars into America campaigned tirelessly for a sports car to offer his well-heeled clientele, and the 300 SL racer fitted the bill perfectly.
The car’s aluminum skin was stretched over a tubular frame, which – in the interests of stability – rose much further than usual up the sides of the vehicle, making it impossible to fit conventional doors. In the standard SL the frame tipped the scales at only 82 kilograms, whilst the complete car in ready-to-drive condition and including the spare wheel, tools and fuel weighed in at 1,295 kilograms.
However, only 29 SL customers took up this option and today their cars are highly sought-after rarities. The chassis was essentially the same as the 300a sedan’s, but with sportier tuning, and the drum brakes were adapted in response to the increased performance of the muscle-bound sports car. After lengthy deliberations, the green light was given for series production of the road-trim 300 SL (W 198), as well as a smaller, open-top sports car, the 190 SL (W 121).
The standard fabric seat upholstery was available in a choice of three checked patterns, but most customers opted for leather instead.
The body paintwork came in silver metallic as standard, although red, dark blue and black also proved popular.

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