Mercedes' Retro Racer Is Only One of Those Things

Bringing a little more sport to the “Sport-Light.”
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Bringing a little more sport to the “Sport-Light.”
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The Mercedes SL in its current iteration is a two-ton, V12-powered bruiser, so many are surprised to find that SL stands for “sport light.” It’s true, and the first Mercedes 300SL lived up to its name as a 2900-pound aluminum coupe with a zingy straight-six engine.

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It was a version of that first car, number 417, that John Fitch drove to victory production-class victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia, one of Europe’s toughest endurance races. (Famously, Sir Sterling Moss won that race outright, though in a race-prepared SL, the 722 SLR.)

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To honor Fitch sixty years after the fact, Mercedes is offering a “Mille Miglia 417” SL400, replete with a historically-appropriate six-cylinder engine, albeit in a “v” configuration and with two turbochargers. The car comes in matte-finish black (for seriousness) with red accents on the wheels and spoilers (for menace), and the interior adopts the same color scheme on the flat-bottomed steering wheel and hugely-bolstered racing seats.

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It the “Mille Miglia 417” more “sport”? Definitely. Is it more “light”? Not in any meaningful way, but this package is sweet nonetheless, more of a historical shout-out than a back-to-basics sports car. For most SL-buyers, we think that’s just right.