You may think that Mercedes-Benz’ Gullwing, an icon of the 1950s, is as good as cars get. We certainly did. But, back in the day, even the German carmaker themselves thought there was room for improvement.
Despite the striking design of the car, and the singular doors that gave the 300 SL its nickname, the 1957 Geneva Motor Show saw an updated model raise stakes — and the roof.
And it wasn’t just the convertible roof that changed. The central section of the Gullwing’s space-frame chassis was lowered, the sills were made smaller, and the doors were enlarged to allow make it easier to jump in.
Strength was also bolstered, with the addition of diagonal struts, which braced the lowered side sections and gave unprecedented stability to a drop-top. Revised suspension allowed for a more comfortable ride and improved handling and, at the rear, the spare tyre was repositioned below the floor to give this tourer enough boot space to actually tour.
Unsurprisingly, the car was hugely popular. Featuring in the garages of celebrities and racing drivers, it rolled off the production line with a hefty price tag of $11,000. The Californian market, especially, snapped it up — with many A-listers getting behind the wheel of their very own SL.
And that wasn’t even the end of Mercedes’ improvements. Over the coming years, the air-cooled brakes were replaced by Dunlop discs and a hard-top option was offered as an alternative to cloth. But there’s something about the brash initial change of this 1957 model, shearing the roof clean off, that makes this timeless set of wheels one of our favourite convertibles ever made.
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