Lot 60 (Imperial War Museum Duxford, 18th March 2020)
Registration No: T.B.A.
Chassis No: WMX1973772A002141
MOT: July 2020
"The greatest car in the world . . . more powerful than a Ferrari 458, louder than a Lamborghini, and it's way more fun than the 911RS GT Turbo 3S or whatever this week's ultimate Beetle is called. This is the thinking man's supercar" (Jeremy Clarkson on the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG)
Introduced at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show, the SLS AMG (C197) was the first Mercedes-Benz to feature Gullwing doors since the marque's iconic 300SL (W198) of the 1950s. The work of Mark Fetherston, the newcomer's lines paid homage to the past but without falling into retro pastiche. Over a decade on, the SLS AMG still has a road presence and aggressive muscularity to it that few cars can match. Further notable for being the first Mercedes-Benz to have been designed and built from scratch by AMG, the model used its McLaren-Mercedes SLR predecessor as a benchmark as well as products from Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche. A front mid-engined design with a rearward weight bias (47:53), the two-seater was equipped with independent double wishbone suspension all round, four-wheel vented disc brakes, power assisted rack and pinion steering and staggered size alloy wheels (19in front / 20in rear). The head of AMG, Tobias Moers, proudly boasted that the SLS AMG was faster around a racetrack in the hands of a pro or novice alike than the McLaren-Mercedes SLR and indeed the younger car was found capable of generating more lateral g-force (0.99 vs 0.97).
Although displacing the same 6208cc as the 'quad-cam', 32-valve V8 engines found in other high-performance Mercedes-Benz models, the modern Gullwing's powerplant incorporated 120 differences including dry-sump lubrication, flow-optimised tubular steel headers and hotter camshafts. As such, the unit was given its own M159 designation. The world's most powerful naturally aspirated production engine at the time, it developed a quoted 563bhp and 479lbft of torque and was allied to a seven-speed, dual clutch, semi-automatic transaxle via a carbon fibre driveshaft. Supercar performance was assured with 0-60mph in 3.8 seconds and a 197mph top speed (limited), while the provision of a 3-stage ESP with acceleration skid control allowed for more relaxed progress. High speed cruising was facilitated by a downforce enhancing rear spoiler which deployed at speeds in excess of 200km/h and adjustable damping; the drive controller providing Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Manual and Race Start modes. Essentially hand made with Magna Steyr of Graz, Austria producing the chassis and aluminium bodyshell before final assembly took place in Sindelfingen, Germany, each SLS AMG came with a plaque identifying its engine builder. Launched to great acclaim and owned by the likes of Jay Leno, Jay Kay, Al Pacino, Rowan Atkinson, Sylvester Stallone, Will I Am, Patrick Dempsey, Tom Hanks, Eddie Murphy and Lewis Hamilton, the two-seater became an instant classic. Of the 8,000 modern Gullwings made, just 250 or so are believed to have come to the UK.
Describing his desire to own a SLS AMG as 'an itch I had to scratch', the vendor was dismayed to be quoted a two-year wait for delivery when he contacted Mercedes-Benz. Having performed various driving duties for the Three Pointed Star in his younger days, he reached out to an old contact in the PR department and was given a choice of two effectively brand new but pre-registered cars, one finished in Iridium Silver and the other in Obsidian Black. Seeing both in the metal prompted him to opt for the menace of the latter especially as it was trimmed with less garish Anthracite leather upholstery. Among the second wave to come to this country, chassis 002141 sported such niceties as: a rear-view camera, adaptive rear interior light, automatically dimming mirrors, memory package, Comand APS with DVD changer, Bi-Xenon headlights and Ash Silver Open Pore centre console wood trim etc. Entering the current ownership just six weeks after being road registered, the modern Gullwing has been kept garaged and exclusively Mercedes-Benz main agent serviced ever since with maintenance at 1,945, 2,239, 3,894, 4,762, 5,226, 5,601 and 5,908 miles (27th June 2019). Now showing just over 6,000 miles to its odometer, the SLS AMG remains in excellent overall condition. With no plans from Mercedes-Benz to create a third Gullwing series, the C197 - like the W198 before it - looks set to become increasingly more collectible. An exceptional example of a true modern supercar and an instant classic to boot.