The oldest Mercedes SL Gullwing W194 driven by Jay Leno

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The latest episode of Jay Leno’s garage features two very special Mercedes SL Gullwing models: the fifth and 11th copies of the Mercedes SL Gullwing W194 racing version.

The latest episode of Jay Leno’s garage features two very special Mercedes SL Gullwing models: the fifth and 11th copies of the 1952 Mercedes SL Gullwing W194 racing version. The guest of Jay Leno is Michael Kunz, manager of Mercedes-Benz Classic.

In fact, there were only 10 Mercedes SL Gullwing W194s because the 11th model served as a prototype for the future Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing W198 series that debuted in 1954. That’s why Jay Leno says this is the oldest existing Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing.

The Mercedes SL Gullwing W194 racing version was designed by Mercedes-Benz chief developing engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut and was based on a welded aluminum tube spaceframe chassis that weighed only about 65 kg. Due to the spaceframe tube chassis, it was necessary to adopt the solution with gullwing doors and at that time it was not known that there would ever be a productions series version.

In fact, the decision to produce a series version of the W194 did not belong to Mercedes but to the American Mercedes dealer in New York, Max Hoffman, who suggested to the Stuttgart management that a street version of the W194 could be a great commercial success in the USA.

Uhlenhaut needed a light construction because he knew that the engine he had at his disposal was not very powerful. The 6-cylinder inline M194 engine was taken from the 300 sedan (W189 Adenauer) launched in 1951 and had three double-body carburetors from the 300S (W188).

The engine develops 175 HP and 207 Nm, less than the future 300 SL Gullwing W198 which will have direct fuel injection.

The car No. 5 from Jay Leno’s show painted in blue and white has the Carrera Panamericana engine with exhausts on the right side and 185 HP instead of 175 HP of the original W194. Because at Carrera Panamericana race there were no regulations for a 3 liter class, the Panamericana engine has 3.2 liter instead of 3 liter for the W194.

As in other episodes, Jay Leno gets behind the wheel of the number 11 Mercedes SL Gullwing, which had the series engine with direct petrol injection that provides 215 HP.
Delighted by the sound of the engine, Jay Leno did not hesitate to accelerate hard a few times. You can watch the whole episode in the video below.