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Mercedes 300 SL and SLS on the Panamericana: The fastest Benz in Mexico

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Mercedes 300 SL and SLS on the Panamericana
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A few kilometers behind it happens to the place of Tehuacan. The Mercedes SLS AMG thunders drawn right curve, the V8 roar echoing from the rock walls. Now comes a left curve, the rocks cover the exit of the curve. Slowly slow down, use the steering wheel paddles to shift down - your right foot is again floating expectantly over the accelerator - and suddenly an overturned truck lies in the middle of the road.

After the moment of shock, you step into the iron with full force and are delighted that the SLS decelerates as powerfully as it accelerates. Dodge, stop, turn lights on. The truck is lying on the road like a dead animal, the trailer has burst open, it was loaded with milk cartons - white rivulets are pouring onto the asphalt. There is no trace of the driver, the driver's cab is empty, the windshield was obviously smashed from the inside with an emergency hammer. A patrol car passes by, the Mexican officer gets out and shakes his head: 'He probably didn't know the route.'

1952 there was pure thrill on the Panamericana

The Panamericana still has its pitfalls in store in 2010, even when you drive in the air-conditioned SLS over the mostly excellent asphalted route and dangerous passages are paved with warning signs with almost German-looking thoroughness. 1952, as Mercedes-Benz with the 300 SL achieved his legendary double victory, it was of course very different. The route from the border with Guatemala to the north of Mexico was paved with dangers, extreme height differences and temperature differences of five to 40 degrees in the shade made the daring pilots sweat profusely in their racing boxes. It was impossible to cordon off the enormous road network of the Panamericana: 'You had to expect obstacles around every bend,' recalls the now 92-year-old John Fitch, who started in the third SL, a Spyder, in 1952. In Mexico City, Fitch was almost a dog's undoing: 'He was suddenly racingfrom the crowd, it was important to react quickly, 'remembers the American. With courageous steering maneuvers he managed to spare both the audience and the dog.

At 200 km /h a vulture crashes into the windshield of the gullwing

Karl Kling and Hans Klenk were less lucky. At 200 km /h a vulture broke through the windshield of their 300 SL out of the blue - maybe it was a buzzard, these birds are still circling the streets of the Panamericana. Klenk lost consciousness for a moment, but soon woke up again and only had the race in his head: 'Karl, keep going!' he shouted, and only after 70 kilometers did the two warriors find time to remove the remains of the windshield and the unfortunate bird from the cockpit while changing tires Race doctor checked through in a hurry and with a hearty chen 'Vaya con Dios' back on the track.

The victory of the two SL drivers after 3,113 kilometers - at an impressive average speed of 165 km /h - also became legendary we have their method of avoiding future bird strikes: They welded eight vertical steel struts as a protective grille in front of the window.

If you are driving a Mercedes today 300 SL is on the road, one can hardly imagine the hardships of that time. Together with its descendant, the SLS, the shiny silver classic tears down a winding route near Oaxaca. A collector from the USA borrowed the car for the meeting of generations - the original vehicle from Kling and Klenk was flown in from the Mercedes Museum to Mexico only for a photo shoot. The 180 hp six-cylinder in the 300 SL barks unfiltered every time the accelerator is accelerated; when downshifting, the speed has to be adjusted with double-declutching. His great-grandson SLS joins in with the powerful rumble of his 571 hp V8 engine. The two gullwing deliver a duet that makes the cacti tremble and every vulture keeps a respectful distance.

The Mercedes 300 SL drove from victory to victory

The vehicle weighs just 870 kilos, which was built in March 1952 by chief developer Rudolf Uhlenhaut Base of the normal Mercedes 300 was put on the wheels. 'We took the standard engine of the 300 and built a tubular frame with an aluminum body around it,' Uhlenhaut later recalled when the SL was born. The car quickly earned its spurs in the racing circuit, for example in Le Mans in 1952. The Carrera Panamericana was supposed to continue the winning streak with an exotic icing on the cake.

Hans Herrmann remembers hot rides in the gullwing

As elegant as the car looked, it demanded a lot from its pilot. 'The braking force was dependent on the engine speed,' says the now 82-year-old Hans Herrmann, who was among other things a Formula 1 driver for Mercedes, a 300 SLR at Mille Miglia piloted the 300 SL and used the 300 SL for countless training drives. 'If you really needed the brake, you had to step in like an ox,' says Herrmann. The heat in the car was also barely bearable. Only the tiny tilting windows in the sliding doors prevented that the driver and co-pilot suffered a collapse at some point. 'After the race you weighed significantly less than before,' explains Herrmann.

Out On the other hand, you climb the SLS AMG even after an hour-long parforce ride between Puebla and O. axaca almost relaxed. The pride of the Swabians is a Kommoder sports car, despite its enormous performance potential. From 2011, however, the SLS will become a very hard bone: The G T3 version of the Mercedes SLS AMG with its huge rear wing Carbon should once again fall well below the acceleration of the normal SLS - with 3.8 seconds from 0 to 100 km /h not exactly slow - again.

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