When considering what the inspiration was the new Mercedes-Benz SLS, it’s hard not to look past the classic 300SL. As well as being the first gullwing car ever, it was also the fastest car of its day and featured a range of innovative and revolutionary features.
First seen at the 1954 New York Auto Show, the 300SL was originally a successful race car scoring wins at Le Mans a second and fourth place on the Mille Miglia. Its efficient aerodynamics and light weight made it ideal for GT and long distance racing car.
Tech-wise, asides from the never seen before roof-hinged gullwing doors, the 300SL was the first car to feature direct-injection to its 3.0-litre straight six engine. It also got independent suspension on all four wheels, precise steering, an aluminium bonnet, boot and doors and “eyebrows” over the front-wheel arches to improve aerodynamics and reduce drag.
But the 300SL is not the only Mercedes to feature gullwing doors. Two concepts, the C111 and C112, have appeared since the 300SL and both undoubtedly have helped inspired the SLS we see today.
The revolutionarily gullwing theme continued with the C111, which appeared in its first guise in 1969. Mercedes used it as a test bed both for luxury features such as air-conditioning, leather seats and of course, gullwing doors.
The 1969 C111 was initially fitted with a three-rotor fuel-injected wankel engine, which was replaced with a four-rotor wankel engine for the 1970 C111. The 1970 model could reportedly reach 180mph but Mercedes never fully adopted the wankel engine technology and moved on to pursuing diesel tech instead with the third incarnation of the C111.
In diesel form, the C111 was at its most memorable, breaking nine speed records. It hit 200mph at Nardo in 1978 and averaged more than 195mph on a timed 12 hour run. A later C111 fitted with twin-turbocharged V8 engine managed a lap of Nardo with an average speed of more than 250mph.
In any form, the C111’s speed was boosted by its light-weight fibreglass bodywork and aerodynamic bodywork, which in one guise had a drag coefficient as low as 0.197.
Gullwing doors next appeared on a Mercedes concept car 18 years ago when the C112 was introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Its V12 engine produced an impressive 402bhp and 427lb ft of torque.
Innovative technology on the C112 included active body control, ABS, anti-skid control and active aerodynamics.
With its active body control, the C112’s movements were constantly monitored by a series of springs, hydraulics and sensors at each wheel. The sensors adjusted the suspension set-up accordingly to give the car a more fluid ride. Anti-skid control was innovative, too as it improved stability under braking by splitting the braking pressure between the front and rear wheels.
Despite never making production (Mercedes reportedly received more than 700 orders), some of the C112’s features did. Its rear wing was deployed under emergency braking to improve its stopping time, a feature which appeared on the McLaren-Mercedes SLR.
Mercedes and innovation go hand in hand when gullwing doors are involved. Who knows what future tech Mercedes has got planned for the SLS in its lifetime?Technorati Tags: Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes, Mercedes 300SL, Mercedes C111, Mercedes C112, Mercedes SLS, gullwing, Frankfurt Motor Show, Le Mans