Mercedes-Benz SLS, the evolution of the gullwinged legend

August 21, 2013 • Motorsports, News

Design is about evolution. Taking something beautiful and adapting it, bringing it forward for a new generation, without offending the old. In 1952, a legacy began and a story unfolded as Mercedes-Benz embarked on something radically different; the Sport Licht, or Sport Light, range was born.

The shape of the car screams performance and style, from the long bonnet with its iconic circular headlights, over the gullwing doors down to the narrow eyes of the tail-lights. Elegance had become a machine. The 300SL, first of the SL collection, turned the heads of passers-by as it cruised along the European tarmac.

It wasn’t just the aesthetics that got people excited. For petrol-heads it was a powerful addition to the Mercedes-Benz fleet, stocking 212-222hp under the hood and hitting a top speed of 161mph. All this power was delivered by the first direct injection system, revolutionary in the way it injected fuel directly into the cylinders, making it the fastest production road car of its time.

Over six decades later that spirit, together with evolution in engineering and design, led to the birth of the mighty Mercedes-Benz SLS in 2009. It seemed as though the elegance of its father had been stripped away to unleash a beast that had been waiting underneath. The almost Jekyll and Hyde like juxtaposition of the two cars show how one machine can reveal two very different personalities. Yet there are many similarities which not only display a nod to the past but also celebrate its existence: the elongated bonnet and those iconic gullwing doors, for instance.

This weekend sees the return of the Formula One from its summer break as Lewis and Nico pilot their Silver Arrows in Belgium. But they won’t be the only Mercedes-Benz masterpieces on the track. For 18 years, Mercedes-Benz has provided the official F1 Safety and Medical Cars, in 2011 the new SLS was unleashed on to the circuit and the crowds fell in love.

If it’s called in to action this weekend, take a long, close look at the SLS Safety Car leading the Formula One pack, and you’ll be able to spot the ghost of the 300SL chasing its sportier, more powerful successor.

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