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Today I’m one of only two people outside of Mercedes to be insured to drive this car worth about twice the value of my house.Fortunately losing people in a gullwing is relatively simple.
Full of anticipation I throw the old car down the avenue, watching for tractors and waiting for the corner with the engine roaring at 4,000rpm in third. It’s now or never and I turn in hard with the brakes on and feel my right buttock rising as the inside rear suspension starts to jack up.The gearlever pokes out of the centre tunnel like a knitting needle and has a precise mechanical action for the four speeds and a heavy clutch.Steering is more a sensation of helming the nose between the twin pontoon wings.Yet despite the hype, in the darkest tones, these articles all reference the gullwing’s sting in the tail, its handling.Derived from the 1951 300 saloon, the 300SL’s driveline, suspension and in particular its high-mounted, rear swing axles were all designed for comfort rather than stability at speed.Posing somewhere between automotive haute couture and gaudy strumpet, the 300SL gullwing has had a lot of words expelled on it. How the original racing car was noisily launched on March 12 1952 on the old A81 between Stuttgart and Heilbronn.
How New York dealer Max Hoffman emplored the factory to build a road version and put up the funds for the first 500 cars, and how the 300SL, born out of pragmatism and desire, became an icon.
And you can’t throw it around like a modern hatchback.
The drum brakes are stiff, but not particularly powerful, with a strong initial pull to the right.
The driving position isn’t bad, but the red leather buckets are sweaty and have no support or whiplash protection.
You sit quite close to the pedals with the wheel intimately in your lap.
This isn’t a heavy car, it wasn’t idly named SL (Sports Leicht) and at 1,295kg dry weight, its space-frame construction and aluminium doors, bonnet and boot gave it performance to match and beat the opposition.