Driving Seat

Iconic Classic Cars: 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL

As the first ever gullwing car, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL is one of the most memorable coupés of the 1950s. Transformed from a race car to a street car, the 300SL was manufactured for performance enthusiasts who wanted to combine power and style in their everyday automobile.

The 300SL made its debut at the 1954 New York Auto Show, which foretold the car’s success in the American market. After all, Mercedes-Benz only made 1,400 coupé models, of which more than 80% were sold in the US.

It was installed with the first-ever production fuel injector, which combined with the rear wheel drive, packed an almighty punch when accelerating on the open road. As well as this, its sleek body enhanced the 300SL’s aerodynamics further, while the distinctive splash guards above the wheel arches reduced the drag. Due to its well thought out infrastructure, the 300SL reached a top speed of 160mph, becoming the fastest production car by 25mph more than the previous record holder.

As with any car, the 300SL Coupé had a few design drawbacks such as the unusually high sill, which made getting in and out of the car a troublesome feat. Despite this, classic car collectors haven’t been deterred and the 300SL sells for record prices in today’s market, reaching anywhere up to £800,000, subject to condition.

Although this high performance sports car is rarely seen out and about today, it will always be remembered for its head turning exterior and race car experience for the everyday driver!

Did you know?

  1. In 2012, an extremely rare 1955 model was sold for $4.62 million in an auction in America. That’s a whopping £3.6 million!
  2. It made racing history when Werner Engel won the 1955 European Rally Championship driving the 300SL.
  3. If its limited production didn’t highlight the car’s rarity enough, Sports Car International ranked the 300SL as the no. 5 sports car of all time.

Car Specification

Car Mercedes Benz 300SL
Production 1954-1957
Top speed (mph) 160
Doors 2
Length (mm) 4520
Weight (kg) 1310
Engine 3L 2996 cc
BHP 215
Torque (Nm) 203
0-60mph 7.1s
0-100kmh 7.4s

 

The Best of 1954

With the post-war boom filtering through American society, rationing finally ends in Great Britain allowing households to reintroduce luxury items into their day to day lives. For the more fortunate this meant purchasing luxury motors like the 300SL, while the rest of society were content with indulging in new fashions, food and culture.

Film & TV

The first British soap opera ‘The Grove Family’ is broadcast on BBC Television, while towards the end of the year the channel aired their controversial adaptation of George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’.

On the big screen in 1954, cinematic greats like ‘On the Waterfront’, ‘A Star is Born’ and ‘White Christmas’ were captivating audiences.

Music

The early 1950’s brought soft melodies sung by fresh-faced singers. Classic hits such as ‘Rock around the clock’ by Bill Haley and the Comets and ‘Mr Sandman’ by the Chordettes would have been blasted out at local dance halls and on home radios across the country.

Over in the States, Elvis Presley began recording in Memphis, and was soon catapulted to stardom with hits ‘That’s All Right’ and ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’, which were later regarded as the start of Rock&Roll.

Fashion

Style changed prominently during 1954 due to the end of rationing and the growing availability of fabrics. More vibrant colours reshaped outfits and fashion became more of a pastime for the younger generation.  

Women were embracing a softer silhouette with relaxed waistlines, drawing attention away from the bust. Men’s fashion on the other hand had made little change since its post-war rebrand. More colour and fabric was utilised in men’s leisurewear, however their day-to-day work wear still included the standard shirt, tie, suit combination.

Born this Year

  • English footballer Trevor Francis
  • Singers Annie Lennox & Elvis Costello
  • Famous actors Lesley-Ann Down & John Travolta

 

Sources

Mercedes-Benz
Telegraph
The People History
Top Gear