Created 58 years apart, two very special, aluminium-bodied, rear wheel drive Mercedes-Benz took to the Goodwood Hill today as the 2013 Festival of Speed was launched.
The mighty 300 SLR “Uhlenhaut” Coupé, built in 1955 and driven at Goodwood by Jochen Mass, was joined by its modern successor – the SLS AMG GT, the very first example to arrive in the UK.
While superficially similar – both are front-engined, rear wheel drive and equipped with roof-hinged “gullwing” doors – the similarities between the two extend deeper. Each features extensive use of aluminium, increasing strength and reducing weight. Each is fitted with a hand-built, eight-cylinder engine and each car was created by a relatively small, highly skilled and dedicated team.
Nicknamed after legendary engineer, former head of vehicle development and creator of the 300 SLR, Rudolf Uhlenhaut, the “Uhlenhaut” Coupé was built in 1955 and based on the highly successful racers, most famous for the Mille Miglia victory of Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson. Equipped with a set of less than effective silencers to allow it to be road legal, Uhlenhaut famously used the 300 SLR Coupé as his everyday car, commuting to Stuttgart at enormous speeds.
Just two Coupés were created – both using the same 3.0-litre, straight eight-cylinder, 310 hp engine as the 300 SLR race car. Combined with a total weight of 1117 kg, the 300 SLR Coupé was the fastest closed roof vehicle of its time – easily achieving its maximum speed of some 178 mph on its frequent autobahn runs.
While more refined, the focus of the modern SLS AMG GT is similarly acute – with key components being uprated to deliver even greater levels of performance and driving dynamics. Using the ‘standard’ SLS AMG as its basis, the hand built 6.3-litre V8 develops 591 hp (a gain of 20 hp), its adaptive damping has been revised to ensure sharper responses and its sophisticated AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT-7 gearbox has been uprated to allow even quicker gear changes.
The SLS AMG GT is capable of accelerating from rest to 62 mph in just 3.7-seconds, and 124 mph in 11.2-seconds, before reaching an electronically-limited maximum speed of 198 mph.
Visual modifications to distinguish the SLS AMG GT include new front and rear light lenses, matt black AMG wheels (19-inch front, 20-inch rear) and a black gloss finish to the grille, bonnet fins and wing mirror casings. Inside, the SLS AMG GT features new Alcantara trim contrasted against red stitching and highlights.
Taking to the Goodwood Hill for three runs, both cars were driven as enthusiastically as their creators intended – the SLS AMG GT proving popular as its 650 Nm of torque overwhelmed the rear tyres away from the line.
Mercedes-Benz will be playing a significant role in the 2013 Festival of Speed as an exciting collection of cars and stars – both new and old – will once again thrill the crowds this summer.
The Goodwood Festival of Speed takes place between 11 and 14 July 2013.