The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL “Gullwing” is one of the coolest sports cars of all time. So named because of its unique, roof-hinged doors, the Gullwing was the Enzo of its era: stupendously fast, outrageously expensive, and styled to make an entrance. Clark Gable owned one; Andy Warhol painted one; Ava Gardner crashed one. No Mercedes sports car since, not even the Mercedes-McLaren SLR, has come close to matching the Gullwing’s iconic appeal.
The SLR was a bastard-child of a supercar that neither McLaren nor Mercedes-Benz engineers truly felt was their own. McLaren’s Gordon Murray, designer of championship-winning Brabham and McLaren grand prix racers, driving force behind the McLaren F1 supercar, thought the SLR overweight and overwrought; the antithesis of his personal automotive design philosophy. For their part, the Mercedes-Benz engineers were uneasy with McLaren’s free-wheeling, fast-moving development culture, and skeptical of its methods. The culture-clash car that resulted was blindingly fast and supremely robust, but oddly styled and strangely uninvolving to drive.