HON­OUR­ING THE AN­CES­TOR

We take a mus­cu­lar new­comer on an 870 km road trip to meet an il­lus­tri­ous pre­de­ces­sor

Car (South Africa) - - DRIVE - MERCEDES-AMG GT C ROAD­STER PRICE: ETA:

The Mercedes-amg GT C Road­ster doffs its cap. Parked next to a re­spected an­ces­tor, the GT C’s fab­ric roof lifts up and folds qui­etly into its boot. I might’ve had my fin­ger on the but­ton, but such is the rev­er­ence this 300 SL road­ster de­mands that I have a feel­ing the GT C would’ve done it any­way.

Sixty years and sig­nif­i­cant tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments may sep­a­rate these two cars, but there’s no deny­ing the ge­neal­ogy. The pro­gen­i­tor is, of course, the road­ster ver­sion of the 300 SL Gull­wing, MercedesBenz’s race­car-de­rived coupé that now ranks among the most col­lectable post-war mod­els in the mar­que’s il­lus­tri­ous back cat­a­logue. Like the Gull­wing, the road­ster shares the same tubu­lar space-frame chas­sis and that jewel of a 3,0-litre, straight­six, M198 engine with its rev­o­lu­tion­ary-for-the-time di­rect fuel-in­jec­tion sys­tem. Canted by 50 de­grees to al­low for a low, aero­dy­namic body, in the road­ster it’s good for 240 bhp (179 kw); some 20 horses more than the Gull­wing thanks to the stan­dard fit­ment of a com­pe­ti­tion camshaft that was only an op­tion on the coupé.

Marginally less col­lectable than the coupé, the road­ster is more than a mere Gull­wing with a soft top, though; it is, in fact, a bet­ter car. It suc­ceeded the Gull­wing in 1957 and of­fered not only more power, but more pre­dictable han­dling thanks to a new rear sus­pen­sion setup. The Gull­wing’s dual-pivot sys­tem had a ten­dency to dra­mat­i­cally un­der­steer at the limit, but the road­ster’s new, lower-roll-cen­tre, sin­gle-pivot trail­ing-arm rear axle al­lowed for far more neu­tral and pre­dictable road man­ners.

These un­der­pin­nings, though, are a mere back story to its looks. The 300 SL road­ster has to be one

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