When the original Mercedes 300 SL gullwing coupe was introduced back in the 1950s, it was stunning. To take a look at one today and one will still be left with the same reaction, stunning. The exquisite bulbous shape was mated to the signature gullwing doors. Even in convertible form, where doors are not a part of the equation, the sportscar’s proportions and curved, streamlined sheet metal was still stunning. Mercedes wants to capitalize on that feeling with the next new SL.
1954 Mercedes 300 SL
The original Mercedes 300 SL had a steel body that was mounted to a tubular chassis. That was a weight-saving measure. So, were the aluminum doors, hood, trunk, and dash. The SL had a 215 horsepower, 3-liter, 6 cylinder engine that could run as high as 163 miles per hour. Zero-to-sixty was in the 7-second range. A grand total of 3,258 of the coupes and roadsters combined were made during their run that was from 1954 to 1963.
2010 Mercedes SLS AMG
Mercedes, however, continued to make the SL series, albeit without the beauty of the original gullwing 300 SL model. But, in 2010, Mercedes created an homage to the original. This time, they called it the SLS. It also had gullwing doors but in a more modern, contemporary look and a very long nose. The SLS had a 560 horsepower, 6.2-liter, 8-cylinder with a top speed at approximately 190 miles per hour.
The new SL series
Now, Mercedes is talking about revising the SLS. Judging from comments by Gorden Wagener, the head of design for Daimler, this time, they want to be a little more closely tied to the original.
“For me, the most beautiful SL is the original, the 300,”
“And I think we’ve taken some of that DNA, starting with the proportions, the surface treatment, things like that. In that respect, the new SL is probably the closest to the first one ever.”
If that is true, then look for the two-seat Mercedes to be smaller than the most recent SLS, which ended production in 2015. It will, however, probably still be a long-nosed vehicle with the cabin pushed closer to the rear wheels. No indication was given about the gullwing doors returning, though, but look for them to go away. They are expensive to develop and heavy. Weight is an enemy of sportscars.
Time will tell how well Mercedes does with the execution of this smaller, more true-to-the-original new SL series car. But, the company has done pretty well in the past with its sports cars. There is no reason to believe they will not pull off another successful one.
The beauty of the original 300 SL is timeless. The SLS was a great vehicle too, but the original’s seductive curved sheet metal was not quite as hypnotic as the original’s. The newest one, which we hope to see next year, will probably be between the two, a modern sports car with a design flavor of the original without being too retro.