MERCEDES-BENZ 300 SL Milestones of Motorsports. The sports car which put Mercedes on the map.
Recently I have had quite some conversations with artists and car designers as to whether cars are art? Each car starts with a drawing and a clay model and while most artworks, like paintings, are the result of one person, the creation of a car requires a whole team. A team who all share a vision and a dream to create something new, faster and better.
This book describes the making of a sculpture named the 300 SL. A car which is being treated as art today and which is a valued piece in many car collections.
The Mercedes designers and management by no means had the intent to create a collection item. Working hard to rebuild the company after WWII, they initially did not have the available resources to work on sports car. However, the desire was there and plans were made to create a representative sports car, as early as 1948. Ideas and visions were discussed and shared and Mercedes initiated a dedicated department to start working on a car that could win the important races and put Mercedes on the map.
From management discussions to the technical decisions, each step in the design processes are outlined in this book. Technical drawings, unique photos, letters and documents illustrate the history.
Maybe the most characteristic element of the 300 SL is its gullwing doors. Since the 300 SL measured only 1225 mm in height and had a high-sided design space frame, the designers had to come up with a solution on how to get into the car. The Gullwing doors were the answer! Not unique to Mercedes being as others had tried and used it before, but it became the signature element of the 300 SL. A design which stirred some legal discussions about it's compliance with the International Motor sport regulations.
So what can you expect from this book?
It starts with a beautiful photo series of all the famous races, printed on 100 pages of black paper, emphasizing the rough pixels of photo technology in those days. Perfectly capturing the atmosphere of the race. Names of drivers and designers are stated, which is explained much later in the book. I found this intriguing; who are these fine men and women celebrating the victories of these races, working on fixing the cars to keep them running during Le Mans.
What follows is the history of the designs, the technical iterations and the races. As to be expected from such a detailed book, each chassis number is referred to, including all the technical details and where and when it raced.
Any owner of a 300 SL, be it the original version or a later model, should have this magnificant book which is housed in a hardback cover. A wonderful possession for all Mercedes lovers.
This book is published by Hatje Canz and available here.