Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W 194) Carrera Panamericana Mexico, 1952.

“60 years of the SL”: double victory at the 3rd Carrera Panamericana in the 300 SL racing sports car

  • The teams of Kling/Klenk and Lang/Grupp won the legendary endurance race on 23 November 1952 
  • Eight different stages over a total distance of more than 3100 kilometres

Stuttgart – The 1952 racing season was a resounding success for Mercedes-Benz: in Berne, Le Mans, and at the Nürburgring race track, the 300 SL racing sports car (W 194) left competitors in its wake. With its celebrated double, triple, and quadruple victories, the 300 SL impressively demonstrated its sporting gene, which it passed on to successive vehicles in the SL series. The racing calendar that year featured a further highlight rounding off the season from 19 to 23 November 1952: the 3rdCarrera Panamericana in Mexico, one of the most gruelling endurance races in the world.

The winning 300 SL at the Mercedes-Benz Museum with which Karl Kling and Hans Klenk won the Carrera Panamericana in 1952. The protective windscreen bars were installed after co-driver Hans Klenk's legendary accident with the vulture.

The winning 300 SL at the Mercedes-Benz Museum with which Karl Kling and Hans Klenk won the Carrera Panamericana in 1952. The protective windscreen bars were installed after co-driver Hans Klenk’s legendary accident with the vulture.

Flashback to the year 1952: the Carrera Panamericana adventure began in September 1952, with altitude tests on the Grossglockner mountain in Austria. It was here that the 300 SL was prepared for the high-altitude conditions that it would face in Mexico, where much of the route was around 2000 metres (6562 ft) above sea level, with the highest point in the race, the Puerto Aires pass, as high as 3196 metres (10486 ft) above sea level. Finding the ideal carburettor setting posed a particular challenge, because the individual stages of the race also featured repeated descents to between 200 and 300 metres (656 and 984 ft). At the same time, the engineers were looking for more engine power for the 3100-kilometre (1926 miles) race in Mexico. In the end, by implementing various improvements, they were able to boost output from 170 hp (125 kW) to 180 hp (132 kW). In early October, a large “expeditionary force” set off by ship for Veracruz, Mexico. As well as the three Mercedes-Benz 300 SL competition cars, the fleet included a further 300 SL model and a range of back-up vehicles.

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