In 1952 Mercedes-Benz built a brand new car for the sports car racing season, which they dubbed the W194. Designed by Friedrich Geiger, the 3 litre, straight-6 was vicious on the track. It placed first at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Bern-Bremgarten, Carrera Panamericana and other high profile races. Though only ten W194s made it to the track, Daimler-Benz’s official US importer Max Hoffman saw the potential of a road going version. He made the case to Mercedes that a production version would be very successful. The resulting Mercedes-Benz 300SL went on sale on this day in 1954.
The 300SL borrowed the same engine as its racing predecessor but received direct fuel injection, opposed to the triple two-barrel Solex carburetors of the racer. The 300 SL could be had as a Gullwing coupe or a roadster, of which 1400 and 1858 were built, respectively, between 1954 and 1963. Today, the 300SL is one of the most sought after vintage vehicles. If you’re looking to purchase one, be ready to drop upwards of $1,000,000.