The original Mercedes 300SL should have been a failure | Revelations with Jason Cammisa | Ep. 18 - Hagerty Media

The Mercedes W194 300SL racing car was a recipe for failure, using heavy components from the S-Class luxury car.

And yet, in the summer of 1952, it took to the podium in the Mille Miglia, Bern Grand Prix, Le Mans, the Nürburgring, and then, that fall, the Carrera Panamericana, humiliating Porsches and Ferraris and everything else.

The 300SL became a legend in just a few months.

Convinced there was nothing left to win, Mercedes killed off the racing program, and the 300SL was set to be relegated to the history books.

Except that the brilliant Max Hoffman knew a legend when he saw it and convinced Mercedes to make a roadgoing version. The W198 300SL was a barely modified version of the race car, with an even nicer, “Bordello on Wheels” interior and even more horsepower — thanks to the world’s first direct-injected gasoline engine.

The 300SL’s swing-axle rear suspension came straight from the S-Class but was tuned for oversteer at the input of the talented race-car drivers who could control it. For less-skilled drivers, the 300SL’s handling was fearsome — but those who survived were treated to what was unquestionably the best-driving sports GT of the 1950s. And of all time.

Only Mercedes, a company whose tagline is “The Best of Nothing” could start out with all the wrong parts and turn nothing into the best.

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