Thursday, 12 January 2012

Super-Leicht Genesis



SL stands for 'Super-Leicht'. This may seem a little incongruous with the modern Mercedes SLS, which weighs 1,600kg, but that is light in comparison to its peers... and you can easily trace the bloodline right back to the original SL.
Presented to the press in 1952, the Super-Leicht had a light aluminium-magnesium alloy body over a sparse tubular frame; the SL ethos permeated every element of the design and build process, from the magnesium gearbox casing to the perspex windows. Weighing comfortably under 1,000kg, it was powered by the 3.0-litre, six-cylinder engine from the W186 limousine, with triple-carbs and careful tuning and honing liberating 170bhp from the unit.

There were ten cars built overall - numbers 1 and 2 were hand-fabricated, with the subsequent eight employing serial-production techniques such as pressed body panels. Number 1, the prototype, was scrapped early on. Numbers 3-10 were all successful racing cars in the 1952 season, with much of the design and engineering informing that of the 1954 road-going 300SL. And number 2? That's the car you see here - the factory's development and testing car. It never raced, so has had a comparatively easy life. But with no.1 long gone, this is the oldest remaining SL in the world; the forefather of generations of featherweight Mercedes-Benz coupés and racers. And now, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the SL, it's been treated to a full stripdown and rebuild at the hands of the factory experts. Wears its years well, doesn't it?
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