Mercedes 300 SL in the test

Hans-Dieter Seufert
Mercedes 300 SL in the test
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D urch the morning fog that slowly descends on the Black Forest climbs up, a car transporter appears. He's actually coming. Things that move life often happen on Tuesday afternoons lazily splashing around - like a few weeks ago when the Mercedes-Benz Museum asked by phone whether, after 60 years, it wasn't time for an individual test of the Mercedes 300 SL in auto-motor and be sport. This leads to the following dialogue:

'Yes, yes, but do you know what we're doing with cars?' - 'The SL is driving in the Mille Miglia, it won't be worse. '-' Um, no, no. So ... well. ”-“ Worse than the Mille? ”

An evasive answer later, comprehensive appointments begin. Because it is still far too easy, we fear that the gullwing will never come.

There are more sophisticated places than Lahr airport - pretty much every other one. But the truck stops there, the rear ramp folds down and the Mercedes 300 SL rolls out. Then stands there as if it were a normal car. What he never was, never will be. It would be difficult to find one among the 1,400 built without a prominent previous owner. This Mercedes 300 SL comes from the USA and now has to go to the gas station so that we can fill the 130-liter barrel in the rear with Super Plus. This ensures a slight tail-heaviness in the balance, as the scales show. The Mercedes 300 SL - 81 weighs 1,330 kilograms less than a VW Golf 2.0 TDI.

We wire the measuring electronics, place the GPS receiver on the roof and sort ourselves into the car via the sills. Then it's out onto the runway. So that the oil and water can warm up, we first measure the speedometer deviation, then interior noise. They allow us to use the full range of our Phon measuring device again. Even when stationary, the Mercedes 300 SL is as loud as today's compact car at 130 km /h. And then in the 300 it is already 85 dB (A) - a value that it can easily surpass.

Mercedes 300SL in 7.2 seconds to 100

We drive to the end of the runway to the starting point of the acceleration measurement. It's a piece and a good moment to remember what an incredible car the Mercedes 300 SL was when it debuted. It is based on racing cars that have won the Mille Miglia, Le Mans and Grand Prix. When the Mercedes 300 SL went into series production in 1954, the VW standard Beetle was just gaining strength25 to 30 hp, reaches 110 km /h and costs 3,950 D-Marks. That corresponds to 19,100 euros in today's purchasing power and thus the price of a Golf 1.2 TSI with 110 PS. Compared to the Beetle, the Mercedes 300 SL is eight times as expensive at 29,000 marks (that would be 140,500 euros today), with 215 hp over seven times as powerful and at 235 km /h (short axle) more than twice as fast. Converted to the Golf, it meant that a car would have to have 790 hp and reach 417 km /h in order to achieve a similar dimension today as the wing once did. The Mercedes 300 SL is the Bugatti Veyron of the 20th century.

And is now at the start. 3,000 rpm, clutch comes on. The rear wheels scrape briefly, then the Mercedes 300 SL roars ahead. Second gear, the synchronized four-speed box shifts quickly and precisely. The second is enough to create 100 km /h. In 7.2 seconds. Seven point two - we're talking about a 60 year old car. One that continues to rush ahead, reaching 200 km /h after 34.8 seconds. If someone thinks that today a Skoda Superb 2.0 TSI comes in 7.3 to 100, we realize that the better in the past also consisted in the fact that only those who could drive fast drove.

Because it was not just about reaching, but mastering speed. Which is also evident in the brake tests. The Mercedes 300 SL has four drum brakes, 26 centimeters in diameter, with ten centimeters wide pads (disc brakes only got the Roadster). It is the first car with a brake booster, but decelerates rather casually, also in terms of directional stability. The Mercedes 300 SL comes to a standstill from 100 km /h after 49 meters, from 130 km /h after 86.2 meters.

Set up pylons for slalom and lane changes. The Mercedes 300 SL works its way through. Its steering, which is very directly geared to 13.9: 1, remains impassive around the middle position, and then responds equally stiffly as it is toxic. In addition, 100 kilos of fuel slosh in the tank over the rear axle. So there are impressive driving tests, in which the Mercedes 300 SL turns bluntly and all the more emphatically with the rear swing axle - well, it just swings. To drive the Mercedes 300 SL fast, you have to be either very talented or very brave.

300 SL is not for drivers. For pilots!

Because caution is the better part of bravery (not mine, from Shakespeare), after the interior has been measured, we carefully set off for the return journey through the Black Forest. It is not entirely possible to get rid of the fact that the value of a Mercedes 300 SL is 1.5 million euros and, according to the forecasts, increases arithmetically by 50 cents per minute. Around 30 euros an hour, 720 euros a day, 21,600 a month and 260,000 a year. Get started quickly before it gets even more expensive.

Press and turn the ignition key. The six-cylinder starts. Its foundation comes from the L 1.500, a truck from Untertürkheim. TheEngineers developed his engine 159, which was designed for 70 hp, with direct injection, more displacement, sharper camshaft and many other modifications to the M198. From the bitter idle it pulls off homogeneously, not so hard at first. Until it tears down the revs from 3,000 tours and - roars to 6,500. Then the Mercedes 300 SL is really fast - even by current standards. But above all, it demands all concentration. In every single moment. Steer, brake, couple, shift. Anyone who thinks they can make a phone call at the same time rattles against the next tree (and must fear that the first aiders will take care of the car first).

Behind Bad Peterstal, the road climbs up the forest, pushes itself against the Rock in tight curves and rather curvy straights. You forget the 1.5 million euros. Gas. The Mercedes 300 SL roars off, the sun stroboscopes over the swings of the bonnet. Brake early on the bend, downshift, balance the stubborn steering wheel, accelerate early, be ready for the rear-end push. And again the next straight up to the very top.

Later, the Mercedes 300 SL will get safely into the underground car park and will achieve remarkable consumption tomorrow. But now it stands in the last evening sun where it belongs, where it will always be: on the summit.

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