Wednesday, March 24, 2010
What A Great ReCreation This Will Be...
Mercedes Gullwings on the trail of the Carrera Panamericana – Click above for high-res image gallery
Anyone familiar with the rich history of La Carrera Panamericana will recognize the above Mercedes Gull-Wing but just wait until you read what Mercedes is up to as Mercedes Gullwings old and new return to Mexico for Carrera Panamericana revival (Story by Noah Joseph)
Once upon a time, long-distance road rallies were all the rage in motorsports. Sportscars raced down open roads across countries from sea to shining sea in spectacular form. But while two of the most famous took place in Italy – the Mille Miglia and the Targa Florio – another took place right here in North America.
The Carrera Panamericana was held in the early 1950s in Mexico and was widely regarded as one of the most dangerous races in the world. In 1952, Karl Kling and Hans Klenk took the checkered flag in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL "Gullwing", but only after a collision with a vulture – yes, a vulture – heavily damaged the car and Herr Klenk's head in the process (hence the grille bars on the windscreen). To further cement the feat, a second Gullwing finished second, giving Mercedes a one-two finish.
The race has long since been canceled, but like the Mille Miglia was revived recently as a classics rally, and the vulture-smashing original is to retrace its routes together with the modern Gullwing, the SLS AMG. Our man Paukert is doing just that as you read this and it should be a brilliant trip down memory lane. The initial crop of photos from the event are beginning to trickle in. See for yourself in the gallery below and scope out the details in the release below the fold.
Two Gullwings on the trail of the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico
The victorious Mercedes-Benz 300 SL of 1952 leaves the Mercedes-Benz Museum for Mexico
Joining the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG along a stretch of the original race route
Stuttgart - The original winning car from the 3rd Carrera Panamericana Mexico in November 1952 is to return to the scene of its great triumph. The 300 SL racing sport car (W 194) will temporarily be removed from the "Races and Records" display at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, in order to join the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and set off once again along a part of the original route through Central America.
The 3rd Carrera Panamericana was one of the top international races of the 1952 season. The double victory achieved by Mercedes-Benz there ranks as one of the brand's most spectacular successes. Karl Kling and co-driver Hans Klenk won the race, a long-distance event covering 3111 kilometres, against strong international competition at an average speed of 165.011 km/h. Second to cross the finishing line, also driving a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, were Hermann Lang and co-driver Erwin Grupp.
Kling's collision with a vulture at 250 km/h, which left his car with a smashed windscreen and Hans Klenk with head injuries, went into the annals of racing history. In addition to replacing the screen, the mechanics also immediately fitted eight thin vertical metal bars to protect vehicle and driver in the event of a similar collision – still the vehicle's most distinguishing feature.
And here is some more news on the new car...
AMG has been producing racing versions of Mercedes-Benz cars and high performance street machines for over four decades. That tradition continues with the unveiling yesterday in Mexico of a GT3 spec version of the new SLS gullwing coupe. Sales will start this fall and AMG hopes to have the homologation process completed in time for the 2011 race season.
The GT3 SLS will use the same 6.3-liter V8 as the road car, but the FIA will determine its final output for racing. The aerodynamic enhancements are the big news here, with changes to the bodywork evident all over. The front end features a deep carbon fiber splitter that's only bested by the large rear wing out back. The hood sports a large cooling event and there are air intakes for brake cooling in the side skirts and cooling vents in the fenders behind the front wheels as well. Other race-spec features include a smooth underbody, rear diffuser, central-locking wheels and fuel filler pipes in the C-pillar.
Given the racing heritage of the original SL from the 1950s, seeing a gullwing back racing on the track will be the best kind of déjà vu for fans of the three-pointed star !
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Matthias J. Massier