Through Ian's Lens: 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG vs. 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing

What do you do when you're given access to the new 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG supercar for an afternoon of photography in Chicago? Well, I decided to pair it with one of the prettiest cars ever built, the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing. How does the new SLS AMG compare to the classic Benz racecar design from the '50s? It holds its own. Barely.

Designed to be visually subtle, the SLS AMG can go unnoticed when parked or rolling by. The long hood and small gill-like vents are understated, and the car's rear design is quite unimpressive. Swooping taillights and remarkably small badges on the backside seem to almost be an afterthought, but they're small for a reason. The SLS doesn’t want to grab your attention until it’s ready. When you open the modern gull-wing doors, the interior's red leather and carbon fiber dash gleams in the sunlight; start the engine, and only then will everyone on the block want to know your name.

Aesthetically, the SLS AMG is a subtle tip of the cap to the 300 SL, and for the most part, the SLS stands on its own design merits. Those merits just happen to be inside the car, under the hood and bellowing out the exhaust pipes when you lay on the gas.

Click on any photo below to bring up a larger photo gallery you can browse.


This is the first time I've seen pics of the SLS in detail. Pitched against the classic Benz I prefer the SLS because my personal style is contemporary, I don't really like anything classic (not even movies). I have to say I prefer the look of the regular Mercedes SL's etc compared to this one, it looks a bit funny on the side, like the hood/front part of the car looks too long.


Wow! These pictures are BEAUTIFUL! Where can I get the high res versions?


I like the SLS more


oh man, that Gullwing is incredible! What a beaut. I love how anthropomorphic they become with the wings/ears up. Thanks for the lovely photos!

Edd Merritt

Takes me back to my youth with Ian's grandfather, a Mercedes owner, but one who wanted to remain subtle about it. I wanted a 300 (What kid wouldn't?); he wanted something in the 200s. Needless to say, he got his wish.


You've been away for far too long man! Your composition and use of light is absolutely stunning. Keep up the great work and keep it coming!

othree ,
click on any image above for a larger version. If you mean even higher res we don't do wallpaper sizes. let us know if that's something you'd be interested in though.

A Through Ian's Lens posts is always a favorite. Beautiful.


I'd certainly be interested in wallpaper sizes!! How wonderful it would be to display that to on my desktop. Lots of folks around me know I always have cool car photos on my desktop and frequently ask where I get them. Would love to say for once! :)


this is one future classic that i wouldnt mind getting my hands on.......very beautiful and classy.


I read that the SLS was based on Chrysler's design for the next Viper - it sure has many Viper like styling features except for the gullwing doors. Mercedes apparently gained some good ideas from the merger. The SLS is very sharp.


The story I reference above appeared on on June 16. German car fans who like to bash Chrysler and GM would probably be surprised about the American roots in this beauty. SLS will likely be the best sports car ever to come out of Germany, thanks to Dodge.

I'm sure Autoblog had a source or whoever they quoted had a source, but I think there is zero Chrysler influence in the new SLS. Just getting the SLS in house to Mercedes was a big deal.
Dodge might have been slated to receive some of the SLS tech for a future Viper but I doubt that was far along as now the latest is the Viper will share Fiat/Ferrari tech. Most of the Daimler/Chrysler products had the same stream of sending parts and tech from Germany to the U.S., not the other way around.
I don't know if the timeframe of ownership even overlaps much with the SLS' development.


The difference between the SLS and the 300SL is that in 10 years, the SLS will be an outdated, 10 year old Mercedes and the 300SL will be a 65 year old classic.

The 300SL's value will always increase whereas the SLS' value will decrease substantially.


That SLS grill is straight off of a Dodge. If it were a Dodge or anything except a retro 300SL pretender, I would love it, but it is not even as close as a Mustang, Camero or New Bettle.

Bob Johnson

Anyone who prefers the SLS to the 300SL has absolutely no sense of aesthetics.


wow those pictures are really great!


In September 2009 I posted on this site that the SLS looked like a Viper with weird doors. My suspicions were reinforced by the June 2010 report referenced above, which admittedly quoted anonymous sources (not the most reliable) as saying that Dodge had developed the platform, aluminum frame and suspension when Daimler caught wind of the project and eventually worked side by side with the Chrysler engineers until they took the project over. There's just too much Viper in this design to refute the report. Even the air vents in the interior look like the Viper's. The roofline, grille, side vents, and cockpit shape all scream Viper in my book.
Bob Johnson, you are correct if you like to live in the past. I prefer the SLS over the slow old 300.


Left Lane news also ran a story on the Viper SLS connection, concluding that MB "leeched" off Chrysler's engineering designs of the next Viper, which instead became the SLS.


With each passing year I come to believe the old SL Gullwing is probably my favourite car ever. I've never even seen one in person.

I don't doubt those places published that info but there's such a thirst for auto news online they often run stuff like TMZ does. We don't because we're trying to point out the things car buyers are interested in. But everyone loves pics of cars like those above so that's why the piece is there.

I'd have to do more research on the SLS to refute every point you bring up. I just recall all the info that came out when it debuted revolved around how big a deal it was to take the SLS in house and cut off McLaren. I'd be shocked any of the Mercedes head honchos would want their super car to have anything to do with the Viper no matter how good the Viper design may have been. I would guess that every piece of the SLS is unique to Mercedes vs. Chrysler of that era. Just a guess.

Hey othree, shoot me an email at i'll see what i can do about some desktop shots for you. thanks for looking!


Dave, thanks.
You might be right, but Daimler Chrysler was a merged company at the time, and it wasn't a merger of equals. Daimler had the motive, the means and the opportunity to take whatever new designs they wanted for their use, just as Chrysler grabbed the rear suspension for the 300 from the E-class. Either way the SLS looks like a great car - just hope the new Viper keeps up its reputation.


i would love some high res shots as well.


Zack, maybe I'm missing the point, but the Viper is one heck of an automobile. A true force and brute of a sports car. I can't see one hurting the other from a technology standpoint. I don't see how having Viper technology can hurt the SLS that much. Sure, the branding would be negatively hit, but Viper performance clothed in an M-B? It's sure to make me goose-neck when I see one pass!


Exactly. And it's easier to swallow the idea of MB using Dodge technology, based on the latest story that MB is now in talks with Toyota to purchase its designs for Hybrid technology, including motors, batteries and other hybrid tech.

Both cars are absolutely wonderful :) But if I really have to choose which to buy I would choose 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG...I think...


A "subtle tip of the cap" aesthetically? If your idea of subtle is a sledgehammer over the ole' melon, then yes, the SLS pays subtle homage to the 300SL. In that subtle way the new Mustang pulls from the cues of the '69...

Great photos, tho...

It's super good!
new car - new live!

Jeff Zekas

I was delivering the L.A. Times on Sunset Blvd during the summer of 1972, when I heard a roaring noise approaching... coming towards me at high speed was a silver 300 SL, pursued by a Shelby Cobra, both screaming full bore past Deadman's Curve! I've never forgotten that sight, which is probably why I prefer the "old" Merc, with its street cred, over the "new" Merc, which will spend most of its time sitting in a garage in Beverly Hills!

Jeff Zekas

P.S. love the photos... too bad they don't put soft brown leather seats and wood steering wheels in NEW sports cars! The tail lights on the SLS look like they were taken off a Saturn Sky... ugh... my favorite Mercedes is still the McLaren or the new GLK... both functional and attractive motor vehicles.

The photos are great! Both cars are my desired cars :). The old one looks a bit more classy!


As someone who like to take pics of cars, i think the pics posted above are great !
Even if i could afford these i would never get any of these vintage cars, but the old benz is definitely one of the more beautiful cars around.
PS. What is that cream colored car in the 4th picture, to the top right of the picture ??

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