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Old 09-07-2004, 07:18 AM
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Gullwing doors – intriguing to this day

The stylish gullwing doors of the SL and SLR models of the 1950s are still being regarded as an expression of elegance and dynamism today – and quite rightly so. However, they were also a technical necessity, dictated by the filigree spaceframe which had to be combined with wide, stability-enhancing sills, thereby requiring door hinges at the top. On the four series of the C 111, the gullwing doors were design quotations relating back to the Silver Arrow era. The C 112 research car presented at the IAA in 1991 equally featured gullwing doors hinged at the roof.

This elegant door design did not return to series production until the up-to-date Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. The new coupe with styling features reminiscent of the current McLaren-Mercedes Formula One racing car swings its doors upwards into the air as elegantly as the C 111 did 35 years ago and the 300 SL 50 years ago. There is, however, one major difference: after half a century, the dream of a series-produced road-going Mercedes-Benz racing coupe has finally come true.

The C 111 reviewed by the press

In November 1969, Ron Wakefield, writing for “Road & Track”, directly compared the C 111 with Italian sports cars: “During my first ride I was immediately struck by the quietness of the power unit inside the car. It was far quieter than, say, a 12-cyl. (Lamborghini) Miura though not so hushed as the Ford V8 of the De Tomaso Mangusta. As the engine wound up I once again noticed the motorcycle sound and it was a smooth, steady pull all the way up to what seemed like much too early a shift at 7000 rpm.”

In April 1970, racing driver and journalist Paul Frère wrote in “Motor” about his experiences in trial driving: “This car provides an unequalled combination of comfort and handling, the latter being quite definitely in the racing car class.”

In late 1969, “Auto Motor & Sport” wrote: “The quiet running of the Wankel engine and the virtually complete absence of wind noise will initially deceive you into wrongly assessing the actual speed. When you think you’re doing 150 or 160 km/h, a glance at the speedometer will quickly tell you that you are in fact doing 240 km/h. Incidentally, 7000 rpm in fourth gear correspond to 226 km/h.”
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