At the launch of the 2013 Festival of Speed, Mercedes-Benz put on display two exceptional, aluminium-bodied, rear wheel drive vehicles that were built 58 years apart. Displayed at the Goodwood Hill were the 300 SLR “Uhlenhaut” Coupé, which was produced in 1955 and driven by Jochen Mass, and the SLS AMG GT, its modern successor and the first example to make it to the UK.
On the surface, they’re highly similar. They’re both front-engined and use rear wheel drive and come with roof-hinged “gullwing” doors. But there are more similarities. Both use a lot of aluminium to cut the weight and boost the strength. Each vehicle uses a hand-built, eight-cylinder engine and was built by a comparably small, very skilled and dedicated team.
The “Uhlenhaut” Coupé is named after Rudolf Uhlenhaut, the famous engineer and formerly the head of vehicle development and creator of the 300 SLR. Built in 1955, the “Uhlenhaut” Coupé is based on highly successful racers, who are most known for the win at Mille Miglia victory of Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson.
For the “Uhlenhaut” Coupé to be road legal, it was equipped with a set of not so effective silencers. Uhlenhaut had treated the 300 SLR Coupé as his everyday car, using it to get to Stuttgart at incredible speeds. Only two coupés were created.
Both made use of the same 3.0-litre, straight eight-cylinder, 310 hp engine seen on the 300 SLR race car. The 300 SLR Coupé had a combined total weight of 1117 kg. Back then, it was considered the fastest closed roof vehicle as it was capable of achieving its maximum speed of more than 178 mph on its usual autobahn runs.
The modern SLS AMG GT is more refined. Its major parts received upgrades to offer even higher levels of performance and driving dynamics. The hand built 6.3-litre V8 is based on the ‘standard’ SLS AMG. It is capable of generating 591 hp (a 20 hp boost). Its adaptive damping was modified to guarantee sharper responses and its advanced AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT-7 gearbox was uprated to permit gear changes that are quicker than ever.