Mercedes with wings
The return of Mercedes-Benz to international motor racing was set to be sealed by the renowned French endurance race. Having won almost all the world-famed races of that year, the only one left, 24 Hours of Le Mans, was predestined for the 300 SL (W194). The car had made a considerable stir at its presentation on March 12, 1952, leading to the building of ten racing cars for the 1952 season. The anticipation and excitement surrounding the race were immense, as the world watched the blue-striped silver W194 prepare for its historical run, which would change the course for the Mercedes brand.
The 300 SL (W194), as unveiled in March 1952, was built using only existing components such as the axles, transmission, and basic engine from the Mercedes-Benz 300 representative saloon. The unique design of the W194 featured a space frame that reached quite far up the sides, which made it impossible to have conventional doors. This could have potentially disqualified the car for the Le Mans race. However, the sports marshal of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, Monsieur Acat, presented a sketch proposing an entry hatch that extended downwards. As a goodwill gesture towards the organizer, Mercedes changed the design of the chassis, thus giving birth to the iconic gullwing doors.
For the 1952 Le Mans, Mercedes-Benz prepared three teams, all sporting the W194. One car inparticular, chassis number 0007 with starting number 21, set the course of motorsport history for Mercedes. Piloted by Hermann Lang and Fritz Riess, the car was powered by a 3-litre 125 kW (170 hp) in-line six-cylinder engine, the first of its kind to win the Le Mans race. After a long battle, the German manufacturer achieved a one-two finish, proving their return to be a resounding success. Mercedes-Benz had made an unforgettable comeback and had solidified its position as a dominant force in the motorsports world.