Pic Of The Week: 1952 Mercedes 300SL

Talk of Mercedes-Benz’s rather comely new E-Class coupe and convertible had us rifling through the Merc picture archive today, and in doing so we came across this fantastic shot of a 1952 W194 300SL racer.

Original 300SL won Le Mans in 1952
Original 300SL won Le Mans in 1952
As you might guess from the identical badging, this beast inspired the W198 300SL road car that made its debut in 1954. Like the W198, the W194 featured gullwing doors, necessitated by the bulky sills of the tubular chassis beneath.

Unlike the fuel-injected W198 the W194 featured a carburettor-fed version of the three-litre straight-six. The engine was taken from the 300-series passenger cars, and modified to take three carbs. The rest of the car was made as light as possible by drilling holes and cutting away metalwork wherever possible. The result was a car that took first and second place at Le Mans, while setting a new top speed record of 96mph,  as well as first and second on the five-day Carrera Panamerica, and all four top spots at the Nurburgring.

Legendary engineer Uhlenhaut with 300SL
Legendary engineer Uhlenhaut with 300SL
What makes this picture so intriguing is that it’s possible to see some of the engineering that made the W194 so unique. Some of those tubular chassis spars are visible at the top of the engine bay – note, indeed, how the exhaust manifold winds its way around them. That it does is testament to the heavy canting of the engine, enforced by engineers to lower the centre of gravity, as well as the bonnet line, in an effort to improve aerodynamics.

While perhaps not as famous as the road car, it’s still one to remember. Enjoy!



Traditional (4:3)
Computer widescreen (16:10)
TV widescreen (16:9)
Portrait (smartphone, etc)

P.H. O'meter

Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Rate this article

Comments (16) Join the discussion on the forum

  • chevronb37 08 Jan 2013

    The Neubauer / Uhlenhaut axis was something special. Love the 300 SLR Coupe...

  • pagani1 08 Jan 2013

    Despite the beauty and style a Gullwing can still bite you in the ass if you are not awake or fry your shoes on a long drive. For once I prefer the roadster but then I did have a Dinky Toy version in pale blue.
    A Happy New Year from the old fart to all at Pistonheads!

  • urquattro 06 Jan 2013

    [quote=Ecosseven]I love old Mercs. I just wish that they could inject some passion into their current range of cars. The AMG models are very fast and loud but aren't what I would call classic designs and the SL and SLK are more cruisers than sportscars. [/quote

    Old classic MB, ageless and mechanically superb, how could I ever part with this, its worth very little now but it has had a permanent home here for past 13 years.

    Look at the earlier picture re rear end shape of the white coupe, pure design shape and metalwork execution - most modern stuff is silver boxes with no soul - both european and jap stuff.

  • crossy67 05 Jan 2013

    A lovely classic snapped with our house in the background.

  • nicanary 05 Jan 2013

    erics said:
    the engineer may well have been a genius in terms of design but he could have done with some advice when it comes to his shoes...

    Those sandals were de rigeur summer wear back in the 50s - my dad used to wear them. Rudi Uhlenhaut was more than just an engineer - if one of the team drivers felt there was something wrong Uhlenhaut used to take the car out himself, and often posted a faster time than the pro driver. He was highly respected by Fangio and Moss, and that'll do for me.

    That SLR was specially built for him, based on the works racers. Just the ultimate road car for me, nothing else comes close, and I'm a C-Type fan.

View all comments in the forums Make a comment