It was seven years after World War II before Mercedes-Benz returned to motorsports, but when it did, it brought forth one of the world's most iconic sports cars. Using a then-revolutionary tube frame to reduce weight, the 300 SL (the SL stood for "sport light") revealed to the press on this date in 1952 had several innovations, including advanced aerodynamics, aluminum bodywork and the first use of direct fuel injection. Because the frame needed the space where doors usually went, Mercedes engineers moved the hinges to the roof, creating what Americans call the "gullwing" and French call "papillon," or butterfly.
While it lacked the power of competitors, the 300 SL was immediately successful, sweeping the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Carrera Panamericana Mexico. At the urging of its U.S. importer, Mercedes built a customer version of the 300 SL in 1954, etching the gullwing into history. Last year, an all-aluminum 300SL sold for $4.62 million. Here's what the 300 SL sounded like in full wail during its first glorious year: