"Concept cars are myths of the near future. When future-obsessed novelist JG Ballard coined that phrase he may have been thinking of the Mercedes C-111. Not that we are all driving around in bright orange, gull winged machines — but we "
Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing
It must be one of the automotive marketing world’s greatest coups. Every week, we’ve been glimpsing the mechanical beauty that is the gull-winged Mercedes SLS coupé by AMG set the pace as the F1 Safety Car. Associations are powerful. Brands are reinvented by the context in which they are consumed.
This regular presence ahead of the F1 pack, along with a sustained, sexy and expensive ad campaign – must have branded the Benz badge deep into our consciousness – because despite not being a Mercedes fan until now I can’t stop romancing in my mind the very ridiculous idea of one day driving an original gull-winged 300 SL.
I glimpsed one once, about twenty years ago, in the garage of a Californian friend-of-a-friend. It was dusty and neglected and hadn’t been driven in a decade – and at the time probably wasn’t (quite) as sought after and valuable as it is today.
It seemed to me at the time a quaint piece of Teutonic fifties futurism that was at odds with the day glo excesses of the 1980s. Even so, you could feel the car’s presence hunkered down deep in the shadows, the dormant silver arrow nestling in the shade of the Californian sun.
It was in fact, a bullish initial order for 500 Gul Winged cars from mercedes USA that ensured that the car made it into full production in the first place. it was an untrammelled success – the first popular Benz in the USA; the fastest production car on the streets; the first petrol engined car to feature direct injection; one of the the first production sports cars to feature genuinely tested aerodynamics that really worked.
Benz have of course gone large on creating their latest gul wing as the spiritual successor to the most iconic Merc ever. Wether or not the comparison is appropriate, we’ve certainly been enjoying the visuals.
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