A festival of iconic sports cars.
The 35th annual meeting of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Club e.V.
Day of celebration in Munich.
It was a holiday in Munich, and a day of celebration. Classic sports cars from throughout Europe and even further afield flocked to the Mercedes¬Benz sales and service outlet, where they were directed to their spaces on level 1 of the parking structure. At the end there would be 80 lined up for admirers from throughout the region. Not just any old classic cars, but
rather almost exclusively gems of the model series W 198, better known as the 300 SL "gull-wing" and roadster. Nowhere else in the world will there have been so many of these cars gathered together in one place as on the last weeked of May in Munich.
The Mercedes¬Benz 300 SL Club e.V. sent out an invitation to the Bavarian metropolis. A full programme of activities awaited club members to mark the 35th annual meeting:From a cosy evening at the "Augustinerkeller" or a touristy rally on the Friday, the evening celebration at the sales and service outlet with Alfons Schuhbeck and the "small German debut"
of the new S¬Class coupé. Then on Saturday the regularity trials and quarter-mile races at Schleißheim airfield, followed by lunch at Lake Starnberg and culminating in a grand finale in the form of a gala evening at the Bayerischer Hof hotel attended by guests of honour including racing legend Hans Herrmann and his wife.
Friday morning in the "spindle" of the sales and service outlet, which leads from the parking level down to the starting line for the rally on Arnulfstraße in Munich. The positive vibe among those waiting here in the endless stop-and-go traffic is not to be taken for granted given the unfiltered exhaust fumes.
The sales and service outlet's state-of-the-art ventilation system was hard-pressed to compete with the literally breathtaking emissions of dozens of M198 six-cylinder in-line engines. But perhaps it was the orchestral sound of those engines that clearly made up for the inconvenience.
They say that the weather-proofed residents of Hamburg can usually tell when the sun is shining because the rain gets warmer. The sun must have been shining on Friday in Upper Bavaria for these two Hamburg natives in their W198 coupé
with a Hamburger licence plate, because it actually was not cold. Everyone else was looking forward to the Saturday and drier weather, especially the roadster drivers.
Fog on the water.
A thick fog had settled in the valleys on the way to Eibsee on the Zugspitze mountain. In addition to coping with the weather conditions and navigating the old-fashioned way using a roadmap, the SL drivers also had to answer some quiz questions on the region and its geography. However, the
club's management later decided to remove the question about the names of the lakes along the route from the quiz. The reason: In the thick fog, not many of those who took part in the rally on the Friday would have been able to even see the picturesque lakes, never mind name them.
The middle floor of the glass facade of Mercedes¬Benz Munich, otherwise known for its spectacular advent calendar, was flooded with violet light on the last Friday evening in May. This was where the roughly 130 attendants of the 300 SL Club's annual meeting had gathered to dine. In his welcome speech, host and outlet manager Ulrich Kowalewski promised
no fewer than 80,000 spectators for the big Schuhbeck dinner – and kept his word. This is because eighty thousand is the approximate number of car drivers crossing the Donnersbergbrücke bridge on the west-facing side of the sales and service outlet on a Friday evening – giving them a direct view of the imposing showroom facade.
Saturday brought the longed-for sunshine, and the morning saw the club members in a place offering particularly good motifs as a photo backdrop for gull-wing cars: Schleißheim airfield, to the North of Munich. The site was developed more than a century ago for the royal Bavarian air force. This
makes "EDNX" (to use its call sign) the oldest military facility of its kind still in operation, even if it is only used for civilian purposes these days. Here, visitors can see biplanes, gliders, and recently even an entire squadron of gull-wings.
Into the sun.
All hell has broken loose on the runway: Dozens of SL cars with their wings spread wide or roof down gathered on the roughly 800 metre-long runway of Schleißheim airfield. The beautifully designed body of the W 198 also readily absorbs every single ray of sunshine. Opening the doors on the slow drive was therefore less for show and more to get some air into the interior of the cars, which were heating up like greenhouses. But the participants were still very happy to feel the warming rays of the sun following the slightly too damp start to their annual meeting.
Not an optical illusion, but rather a father and son on the regularity track. The aim here was to navigate the cone track in as close as possible to the same amount of time. Some participants opted for a stately pace, while others put more faith in the old space frame design and young passenger.
Whether the roadster or the coupé: Even at the age of 60, the 300 "Sport Light" is still an extremely agile sports car with an impressive performance. Too rarely do we get to see that fact as clearly as we did here on the obstacle course.
It’s time to say goodbye. Next year the annual meeting of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Club e.V. will take place in Hamburg. On their way back from Munich, several participants will meet again on the highway. Some of them already loaded their vehicles onto trailers directly at the Mercedes-Benz sales and service outlet to avoid unnecessary exertion for man and machine. Yet others travel home on their own, also over very long distances. Particularly two club members from the Netherlands (not shown in this picture) only know too well what the 800 kilometer journey home in the gull-wing car means on such a sunny day. They dress especially lightly in the first place – and get stuck in the first traffic jam of the long Ascension Day weekend already a few kilometers ahead, most likely to the delight of the curious audience around.