Thanks to Mercedes-Benz and the Mercedes-Benz Museum we attended this year’s 1000 Miglia, simply known as the most beautiful race in the world. We joined the event in Rome and completed the last three legs on a stunning 1955 300 SL Gullwing (W198). From Rome to Parma, from Parma to Milano via beautiful Piemonte and from Milan to the finishing line in Brescia onboard one of the most incredible cars ever made. Enjoy the analogical flavors of our visual report, completely shot on Kodak Gold 200, Portra 400 and Tmax 400 films.
Produced as a gullwinged coupé from 1954 to 1957 — and from 1957 to 1963 as a roadster — the 300 SL traces its origins to the company’s 1952 racing car, the W194, and was equipped with a mechanical direct fuel injection system that significantly increased the power output of its 3-liter overhead camshaft straight-six engine.
The 300 SL was capable of reaching speeds of up to 263 km/h, earning it a reputation as a sports car racing champion and making it the fastest production car of its time.
The car’s iconic gullwing doors and innovative lightweight tubular-frame construction contributed to its status as a groundbreaking and highly influential automobile. The name SL is the abbreviation of the German term super-leicht — meaning super-light — a reference to the car’s racing-bred lightweight construction.
The body consists mainly of sheet steel, with the bonnet, boot lid, dashboard, sill, and door skins made of aluminum. Silver-grey was the standard color; all others — like the dark blue we have been in — were options. The width of the tubular frame along the cockpit allowed the cabin roofline to be inset considerably on both sides, dramatically reducing the front area. The structure was also quite high along the midline, prohibiting the attachment of standard doors.
The only option — already used on the W194 race car — which would allow passengers over its high, deep sill was a gullwing door. Eyebrows are a stylistic feature; the front pair deflect road water from the windscreen, and the rear were added for visual symmetry. The eyebrows added style to an otherwise slab-sided body: according to Mercedes-Benz, they were aerodynamic additions that pushed air over the top of the car and kept the windows clean in bad weather.
The 1000 Miglia’s poetry comes back every year: intense and never-ending days, feeling like a month-long journey made of colors, top notch cars, sounds, smiles and style. 100.000 hands waving along some of the most picturesque roads of Northern and Central Italy, 450+ amazing cars driving in convoys as if they are part of a family, all mixed up with food, good vibes.
On top of that, the late 20s-50s heritage spirit of a motorsport event made of several x-factors, being the people the most important one: drivers, organizers, and car enthusiasts all around this breathtaking symposium of four-wheeled tradition.
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