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The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W 194) racing coupé gave rise to the production sports car,
which also boasted the model designation 300 SL but took the series number W 198.
The early history of the car was turbulent, for with the promise made on 5 September
1953 to Maximilian Hoffman that a small sports car and a large sports car would be made
available to him for the International Motor Sports Show in New York beginning on 6 February 1954, the Board of Management of Daimler-Benz AG had made a bold decision – bold because neither of the two vehicles yet existed. Another problem for the planners was that in Hoffman they had an importer who was an extremely active driver, a man who liked to sit behind the wheel and take part in the regular races held somewhere in the USA almost every weekend. For example, Hoffman had made Porsche known in the US and helped them gained undreamt-of success. So it was not easy for the Board members of Daimler-Benz to give the demanding “car guy” Hoffman the right thing. Above all, Hoffman wanted open-top cars. For time reasons it was not possible to deliver on the request for a large sports car. Instead, the company gambled on the exclusive GT car, which is what the production version of the 300 SL ultimately is. The men around chief engineer Fritz Nallinger and his Board of Management colleague Arnold Wychodi, responsible for exports, saw an opportunity here.
Two facts additionally confirmed them in this attitude. First, development of the petrol direct injection engine originally intended for the 300 SL (W 194) and the 1953 racing season had reached an advanced stage. And secondly, the car, its chassis and the spaceframe had performed outstandingly in many competitions in 1952. So it was an excellent basis for the production vehicle.
But all together there was still a great deal of development work to be done. For example, the developers needed a body that was more practical for everyday use, with improved ride comfort and active safety. For weight reasons, the racing sports car had no heating system and completely lacked sound insulation. So while operational noise from the transmission and rear axle was perhaps tolerated by racing drivers wearing earplugs, it was unacceptable to a gentleman driver who had just spent a handsome sum on a top-of-the-range sports car. And a production sports car had to offer a reasonable amount of luggage space. From the modern perspective, it is a minor miracle that the developers managed to bridge the considerable gap between the requirements of Daimler-Benz and the demands of Maximilian Hoffman.
Senior engineer Karl-Heinz Göschel was responsible at the time for making direct petrol injection, then still in its infancy, practical for use in a workaday vehicle. Asked later how he achieved such an impossible undertaking, he replied dryly: “We slaved day and night and had no time for meetings.”
The thunderous applause that greeted the appearance of the new 300 SL (W 198) in New York in February 1954 was loud, clear and unanimous. From engineering aficionados who delighted in the direct petrol injection, realised for the first time in the four-stroke engine of a commercial available automobile, to admirers of sheer elegance, captivated by the seductive lines of the gullwing car – no one had expected a vehicle like that from Daimler-Benz. A racing car or a racing sports car, perhaps. But a large Gran Turismo that could compete with any Italian or British car in that category, that was a sensation in the mid-1950s.
Our car MERCEDES 300SL “PARIS MOTOR SHOW 1954”
Chassis: 1980404500021 / Engine: 4500013 / Body: 4500031
PARIS DEALER DELECROIX for homologation 01/1955
1971 Bought by M.ROUHAUD Robert - Paris
1987 Bought by M. LACERDA Miguel (Nephew of LACERDA Jao) - Paris - 44140 km
1995 Register in Portugal BB-22-06 by M. LACERDA Jao (Caramulo foundation)
1996 Bought by M. CARDOSO Miguel – Porto - 51245 km
2012 bought by actual owner 53266 km
2012-2015 full restauration body off by HK Engineering 2000 km since