This volume of our photo archive series concentrates on the 1952 300SL race cars, specifically the version with the half gullwing doors opening from the window line up. The production 300 SL goes back to this race car, Mercedes-Benz W194, which already had the name “300 SL”. In 1951, Daimler-Benz had decided to take part in races again for the 1952 season and to build a sports car for this purpose.
In 1952, the W 194 took part in the most important races of the year. The new SL competed at the Mille Miglia at the beginning of May enjoying a second place finish. It won the top three places at the Bern Sports Car Prize 131.04 kilometres (81.42 mi) in Switzerland. In the 24-hour race at Le Mans the 300 SL won both first and second places with the number one spot going to Hermann Lang and Fritz Riess with an overall average 155.575 kilometres per hour (96.670 mph), a new record in Le Mans history. Second place went to Theo Helfrich and Helmut Niedermayr. A subsequent race at the Nürburgring ended with four-fold success. And finally at the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico, the 300 SL again won with Karl Kling and Hans Klenk – despite the ugly chance happening of a vulture flying through the windscreen.
1952 W194 Photo Gallery