Jay Leno got his hands on two of the classic racing cars that Mercedes-Benz spins its entire racing legacy around. He drove two Mercedes-Benz 300 SL variants from the ‘50s.
Straight from the golden age of racing, via the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center, here comes this Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, that entered competitions in 1952 as car number 5. It has a body of aluminum and it weighs less than 2,000 pounds (approximately 907 kilograms). The Rudge wheels are some of the components that weigh the most on the car, together with the carbureted 3.2-liter engine that sends 180 horsepower to the tarmac.
To see that unit in all its glory (actually not all if it’s not driving) you need a special tool to pop up the hood. What lies beneath shows that it was not a show car, but one that was driven.
The gullwing doors are very light and the window glass doesn’t come out, but features a flap with a nice story that you can hear while watching the video below. The car also features a removable steering wheel, not foldable like the series production model from later on. It’s raw, it’s loud and it’s rare. It ticks all the collectors’ boxes.
Only ten such cars were built with no connection whatsoever with the series production version. It was the era after World War II, with reduced financial and components resources.
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL – a car for the stars of the era
The W194, car number 11, is right next to it. The prototype with a magnesium body saw the light of day in 1952. It got a 6-cylinder 3.0-liter power unit with 255 horsepower. These are the predecessors of the series production 300 SL Gullwing, soon to become an icon, but with a shorter wheelbase and length. “Gone With the Wind” legend Clark Gable had one of these.
It only weighs 960 kilograms with near-perfect weight distribution. It had corrosion pins from underneath all over the magnesium body, so it needed a makeover.
As a road racer, the car has a trunk big enough for two tires, just suitable for drivers who had to change tires themselves. There is a slot for a hammer in there as well.
The wooden steering wheel and the checkered upholstery, together with the sound of the engine remind Leno of the golden era from 70 years ago. Back then, there were no electronics on the car, nothing was assisted. “It feels powerful by today’s standards”, Leno points out while driving it in the street on his show, Jay Leno’s Garage.