Before we can get to Mercedes' iconic 300SL Gullwing, we need to delve into a little auto design history. The lightweight and groundbreaking 300SL, believe it or not, had its roots in this rather unwieldy machine:
That's the Mercedes-Benz Type 300, their top-of-the-line model in the early 1950s. It was strong, powerful, heavy, expensive to produce, and could be kitted out in luxury style; if Jay-Z was a German living in 1950, he would have owned a 300 for sure.
Options inluded an onboard radio, a freaking mobile telephone that operated over VHF, a dictation machine, a writing desk, a sunroof, window curtains, and dividing partitions. It could be made in coupe, four-door, convertible, hardtop and limousine variants, as well as a pimpish parade-going landaulet version:
The car was mechanically sophisticated and ahead of its time, boasting an electrically-controlled suspension and a central lubrication system for the underpinnings, things that would have had engineers from other automakers scratching their heads. And the mechanical ingenuity didn't stop outside the car. Check out all of the parts required to make just the ashtray:
The Hungary-based vintage automobile restoration company called Web Old Timer, which shot the photo above, was so impressed with the ashtray's design that they drew it up and animated it in CAD. Check it out, and read their description to understand what's going on there:
It is unbelievable what this ashtray is capable of. When it is not in use, it can be hidden behind the dashboard. But that's nothing. While the mechanism moves backwards, there is a cleaning blade that empties the ash that is in the ashtray into an ash container below; and the ashtray closes the ash container by rotating 180o. When one uses the ashtray again, that is, when the ashtray is pulled out from its hiding place, then the ashtray will be clean, and the old ash that is in the ash container below will be covered. The ash container can be removed and cleaned.
Here's a closer look at a 300 they recently restored. You ought to watch it quickly, because it will be pulled down any day now—there's no way they cleared the rights to the Cream track:
As you can guess, when Mercedes debuted the Type 300 at 1951's Frankfurt Auto Show, this was the car people crowded 'round to see. But no one could have imagined that a monster car like this, and two pieces of it in particular, would indirectly set the stage for the radical 300SL Gullwing. Stay tuned.
The Origin of the Mercedes 300SL Gullwing
» Intro: Why a Car Collector with a One-Car Collection Is the Richest of Them All
» Part 1 - The Type 300
» Part 2: The W194
» Part 3: Mercedes Gets Convinced and Heads to New York
» Part 4: The Gullwing Today