1950s: Mercedes-Benz 300 SL

The Mercedes-Benz 300SL was launched in 1954. A roadgoing version of the carmaker’s W194 racecar, the Gullwing, as it’s more popularly known, was ahead of its time. Beneath its bonnet lurked a direct-injection three-litre inline-six engine lifted almost wholesale from the W194.

It produced 215bhp and, in conjunction with the car’s racecar-derived aerodynamic profile, was capable of propelling the Gullwing to a top speed of around 250km/hr, which were unheard-of performance figures in its day. Also unheard-of was its price tag: 29,000 marks. More than its performance and rarity (just 1,400 units were produced), the Gullwing was achingly gorgeous. Even 60 years after its debut, the Gullwing is a timeless beauty.

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