A BRIEF impression but a lasting one, of the Mercedes-Benz 300SL was gained over twelve laps of Silverstone just before the 1954 Motor Show. .. Rudi" Uhlenhaut was in England for a brief visit and brought with him the filst black example of this model that we had seen, he left immediately afterwards to motor in the same car to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Let us say immediately how impressed we were with Uhlenhaut's driving on a track which was not familiar to him. admittedly he knows every idiosyncrasy of the car, but all the time it was under his complete control although we were cornering very fast rnd.:ed. The car was, as we expected, stable and steady in the corners and reached about 112 mph on the fastest straight between Beckett's and Stowe. After half-a-dozen laps with this talented London-born driver and technician, who has lapped Monza as fast as Fangio, it is easy to undetstand how rapidly and thoroughly Mercedes development progresses.

Our own impression of the car. which we drove with due consideration ,for the fact that it was quite new to us and had left-hand drive, confirmed ,all that we had felt during our demonstration drive with Uhlenhaut. The swing-axle rear end has been developed extensively and the improvement in handling the 300SL over the pre-war, admittedly higher built, 500K and 540K models is noticeable. Although the technique in cornering is different from that with a ,normal axle, the good handling qualities can be made full use of, with experience.

The car is sensitive and corners must be treated with greater respect until sufficient confidence has been gained to use a lot of power all the way round. That was Uhlenhaut's method, to keep his foot down hard through all the Silverstone bends. The self adiusting servo assisted brakes are designed to suit the most sensitive

feet and the stopping distance for this car, which weighs 1 ton dry. is short and fade free. We were not quite so impressed with the power feel or with the maximum speed. Although acceleration, making use of the" straight-through" synchromesh gears, was good, the speed did not build up as quickly as we would have expected. although that may be deceptive due to the power curve.

The advantages of petrol-injection are not apparent with ordinary high-speed motoring but its full effect can be felt if the car's speed is reduced to about 8 mph in top, when induction is still perfect. From that speed it will go away to maximum speed with no sign of hunting 01 pinking. Such tractability makes the 300SL into a town car as well as a high-speed touring car.

To sit inside gives the impression of being in a typical American private aeroplane, the bucket seats are meant to fit. and the facia board, shape of the sides and roof help to give that impression. Everything is easily to hand and the instruments are neat and wellfinished.

Although the nearly unbroken body sides give advantages in rigidity the unconventional doors which lift upwards are not one of the most pleasing features of the car. they are not entirely convenient. Mercedes have made a good job of a difficul( problem here, with a tubular space-frame which is almost scuttle high. as on the 300SL. it is not possible to fit conventional doors.

Low petrol consumption must be one of the car's great assets. The Bosch direct petrol-injection is claimed to give 35 mpg at 60 mph,. For high-speed touring and in towns it drops to 18.2 mpg. With a normal touring back axle ratio of 3,fi8 the maximum speed of the 300SL is claimed to be 150 mph. Higher axle ratios and a sports camshaft are available. It is indeed an impressive car.

Bugatti Type 251 1956


Maserati 250

Lancia D50 1955

Gordini Type 32 GP 1955

BRM P25 GP 1955

F1 Index

Author: ArchitectPage