The SLR Phenomenon - Past and Future

Mercedes-Benz Brings the Legendary 300SLR Sports Car Back to Life

Press Release

Mercedes-Benz Brings the Legendary 300SLR Sports Car Back to Life
The New Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren
SLR - A Three-Letter Phenomenon
The Straight-Eight Formula 1 Engine
The Mercedes-Benz 300SLR Sports Racing Car
Rudolf Uhlenhaut
The 300SLR Air Brake
The Uhlenhaut Coupe
A Farewell to Motorsports
    Stirling Moss
    Denis Jenkinson
    John Cooper Fitch
    Hans Herrmann
Mercedes-Benz Brings the Legendary SLR Sports Car Back to Life
Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Karl Kling - three men who wrote motorsports history. In the mid-1950s, they helped make the Mercedes-Benz 300SLR one of the most successful racing sports cars of all time.

With its straight-eight, 2982-cc engine that developed 310 horsepower, the 300SLR Silver Arrow was capable of more than 185 miles per hour - enough to power it to glory in all the top road races of 1955. The Mille Miglia, Eifelrennen, Swedish Grand Prix Tourist Trophy and the Targa Florio - the 300SLR won them all.

Rudolf Uhlenhaut (1906-1989), head of both passenger-car testing and race-car development at Mercedes-Benz at the time, proceeded to build a road version of this formidable race car. The 300SLR coupe - better known to car enthusiasts as the "Uhlenhaut Coupe" - first appeared on the roads in 1955.

The 300SLR coupe incorporated the design of the 300SL Gullwing with the technology of the 300SLR race car. Its long hood was complemented by side-mounted exhaust pipes, dramatic air vents and wire-spoke wheels. The cockpit, with its wraparound windshield, was elegantly sculptured. Uhlenhaut referred to his latest automotive work of art as a "hot-heeled touring car," and the 300SLR coupe lived up to its billing. Weighing only 2,457 pounds, yet developing 310 horsepower, the "Uhlenhaut Coupe" reached 180 miles per hour during testing, making the two-seater the fastest car of its time to be registered on public roads. However, the lightning-fast SLR coupe never made it into series production. The Stuttgart-based car maker felt that the mid-1950s was not the right time to bring out such a powerful sports car. As Mercedes pulled out of motorsport in 1955, the SLR coupe project was put on ice. Only two prototypes of this masterpiece of power and elegance were ever built.

The Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren: State-of-the-Art Motorsports Technology for the Road
The new Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren revives the legend of the 300SLR and marks a reawakening of Mercedes-Benz' passion for the super sports car, a passion that was demonstrated with particular élan in the "Uhlenhaut Coupe." With a contemporary interpretation of styling elements from the original SLR and design details taken from the 2003 Formula 1 Silver Arrows, the 21st-century SLR bridges the past and the future, bringing cutting-edge motorsports technology to the road, just as the 300SLR coupe did in 1955.

The new super sports car allows Mercedes-Benz and its Formula 1 partner McLaren to showcase their collective experience in the development and production of high-performance sports cars. This combination of knowledge and expertise is evident not only in a host of pioneering developments, impressive performance figures and superior driving characteristics of the SLR, but also in its high levels of safety and practicality. These attributes come together in a very special synthesis of Mercedes tradition and innovation.

Carbon Fiber and Ceramic Parts: High-Tech Materials for the Body and Brakes
One example of the technology transfer from Formula 1 to a production sports car is the use of sophisticated carbon-fiber composite materials in the chassis and body. The new Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren can boast a level of rigidity and structural strength never before achieved in road cars. Equally impressive is the level of occupant protection: specially developed carbon-fiber crash structures help the super sports car set new standards in terms of energy absorption.

The brakes of the high-performance sports car are also made from a new and innovative composite material. Fiber-reinforced ceramic discs stand out for their extremely high heat resistance, outstanding structural strength and long service life.

Under the hood lurks a V8 engine developed by Mercedes-AMG that features state-of-the-art supercharger technology, which delivers majestic torque and power development. Every SLR engine is built by hand at the custom engine manufacturing facility.

SLR - A Three-Letter Phenomenon
Brescia, early May 1955 - On the Piazza della Vittoria in the heart of the northern Italian city, engines are warming up. Only a few minutes remain until the start of the 22nd Mille Miglia, an all-out road race which takes drivers from Brescia to Rome and back again. A total of 533 cars have entered the race, a punishing 1,000-mile endurance test of man and machine. Since competitors start off one by one at pre-set intervals, the starting procedure took ten and a half hours to complete.

It was not until early morning on May 1 when the new Silver Arrows from Stuttgart-Untertürkheim finally left the starting line. Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Karl Kling and Hans Herrmann were the men at the wheel of the four Mercedes-Benz 300SLR racing sports cars that were celebrating their debut outing through Italy. "This will be a record-breaking race," predicted Mercedes director of motorsport Alfred Neubauer. And 25-year-old Stirling Moss, in his first season with Mercedes-Benz, shouted, "I'll win!"

Both proved correct. In the first section of the race between Brescia and Verona, Hans Herrmann led with an average speed of 119 mph. However, by the intermediate station in Rome, Stirling Moss had taken the lead. Kling was then forced to retire after an accident, and Herrmann ground to a halt just past Florence with a defective fuel tank. Meanwhile, Alfred Neubauer was captivated by his English driver's performance: "Moss is quite unbelievable. He risks his neck and has the heart of a lion."

The 300SLR with car number 722 duly won the 1000-mile race in a record time of ten hours, seven minutes and 48 seconds. With an average speed of nearly 100 mph, Stirling Moss and co-driver Denis Jenkinson had driven the fastest Mille Miglia of all time. Juan Manuel Fangio came home in second place.

Mercedes-Benz and the new 300SLR had announced its arrival on the motorsport scene with a magnificent one-two victory in the Mille Miglia. At the end of May, barely four weeks later, the SLR pulled off another one-two in the Eifelrennen race on the Nürburgring. On this occasion Fangio took the honors, with Moss following him home. The 300SLR went on to become the most successful racing sports car in 1955. Below is its tally of victories for the season:

Source: Text & photos courtesy MBUSA
Published Oct 25th, 2004 10:52pm
Posted in:

Related Articles

Add comment

subscribe to comments
comment rules Add comment