Mercedes Gullwings on the trail of the Carrera Panamericana – Click above for high-res image gallery

Once upon a time, long-distance road rallies were all the rage in motorsports. Sportscars raced down open roads across countries from sea to shining sea in spectacular form. But while two of the most famous took place in Italy – the Mille Miglia and the Targa Florio – another took place right here in North America.

The Carrera Panamericana was held in the early 1950s in Mexico and was widely regarded as one of the most dangerous races in the world. In 1952, Karl Kling and Hans Klenk took the checkered flag in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL "Gullwing", but only after a collision with a vulture – yes, a vulture – heavily damaged the car and Herr Klenk's head in the process (hence the grille bars on the windscreen). To further cement the feat, a second Gullwing finished second, giving Mercedes a one-two finish.

The race has long since been canceled, but like the Mille Miglia was revived recently as a classics rally, and the vulture-smashing original is to retrace its routes together with the modern Gullwing, the SLS AMG. Our man Paukert is doing just that as you read this and it should be a brilliant trip down memory lane. The initial crop of photos from the event are beginning to trickle in. See for yourself in the gallery below and scope out the details in the release below the fold.


Related GalleryMercedes Gullwings at the Carrera Panamericana Mexico

[Source: Mercedes-Benz]
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Two Gullwings on the trail of the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico
  • The victorious Mercedes-Benz 300 SL of 1952 leaves the Mercedes-Benz Museum for Mexico
  • Joining the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG along a stretch of the original race route

Stuttgart - The original winning car from the 3rd Carrera Panamericana Mexico in November 1952 is to return to the scene of its great triumph. The 300 SL racing sport car (W 194) will temporarily be removed from the "Races and Records" display at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, in order to join the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and set off once again along a part of the original route through Central America.

The 3rd Carrera Panamericana was one of the top international races of the 1952 season. The double victory achieved by Mercedes-Benz there ranks as one of the brand's most spectacular successes. Karl Kling and co-driver Hans Klenk won the race, a long-distance event covering 3111 kilometres, against strong international competition at an average speed of 165.011 km/h. Second to cross the finishing line, also driving a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, were Hermann Lang and co-driver Erwin Grupp.

Kling's collision with a vulture at 250 km/h, which left his car with a smashed windscreen and Hans Klenk with head injuries, went into the annals of racing history. In addition to replacing the screen, the mechanics also immediately fitted eight thin vertical metal bars to protect vehicle and driver in the event of a similar collision – still the vehicle's most distinguishing feature.

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