The new Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is a stunning combination of modern passenger car design and classical 1950's SLR styling elements from Mercedes-Benz and its Formula One ally, McLaren. The high-performance sports car made its world debut in September 2003, incorporating gull-wing doors, sidepipes, air gills in the wings and the distinctive twin-headlamp face, plus styling touches from the Silver Arrows Formula One car.
First unveiled by Mercedes-Benz as "Tomorrow's Silver Arrow" at the North American International Auto Show in 1999, the SLR project is now reaching its conclusion. Mercedes set out to capture legendary design elements of the 1955 SLR racing cars in an all-round high-performance sports car that promises exceptional power development and on-road performance plus high levels of safety and suitability for day-to-day use.
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The Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR was driven to victory by greats like Sir Stirling Moss, Karl Kling and Juan Manuel Fangio making it one of the most successful racing sports cars of all time. With its eight-cylinder, 2982-cc engine developing up to 310 horsepower, this Silver Arrow was capable of a maximum speed in excess of 300 km/h - enough to power it to glory in all the top road races of 1955: the Mille Miglia, Targa Florio, Tourist Trophy, Eifelrennen and the Swedish Grand Prix.
The new SLR's long sweeping bonnet, compact tail, air gills in the wings, sidepipes and gull-wing doors from the 1950's join the twin-headlamp face (first introduced in 1995) and bodystyling inspired by the championship-winning Silver Arrows Formula One car from 1998.
The Silver Arrow influence includes the arrow-shaped nose and twin-fin spoiler in the front bumper which is crucial to the vehicle's aerodynamics and engine cooling.The designers have incorporated a further SLR element in the form of the finned side air gills in the front wings.
The side air outlets serve to ventilate the engine compartment and designers have underlined their practical function by the use of sweeping lines that continue into the gullwing doors. The design of the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren's tail end marks a breakaway from that of its legendary predecessor.
Whereas the tail of the original racing cars sloped gradually downwards, the boot lid of the new Gran Turismo model continues straight backwards at the same high level. As well as increasing the luggage capacity, this also serves to reduce lift and aerodynamic drag, translating into enhanced roadholding ability. The practical and luxurious interior features multifunction steering wheel with race-car-type buttons for manual gear selection and clearly arranged chronometer-style gauges. Aluminium, carbon and supple "Silver Arrow" leather, which was specially developed for the new sports car, feature throughout.View gallery - 9 images