At the Geneva Motor Show in 1957, Daimler-Benz unveiled the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL roadster (W 198 II series). This fleet-footed open-top sports car was an update of the 300 SL Gullwing coupe which had been built from 1954 to 1957. Compared with its predecessor, the roadster had a modified front end and headlamp lenses which were arranged vertically. It also had improved running gear, with its doors hinged at the front and a soft-top roof that was easy to open.
The idea for the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL roadster came from Maximilian "Maxie" Hoffman, an Austrian-born importer of Mercedes-Benz vehicles to the United States. In order to turn the racing sports car (W 194) into a production coupe, Rudolf Uhlenhaut worked on a space frame and technology from a 1953 racing prototype. This was adapted into a three-liter six-cylinder in-line unit for the series SL by Karl Wilfert and Friedrich Geiger; the engine featured the first ever direct gasoline injection and had an impressive output of 215 hp (158 kW).
Maxie Hoffman had already seen success with the Mercedes-Benz 190 SL roadster (W 121), which was based on the Mercedes-Benz 180 and had been released in 1955. By 1957, Hoffman wanted to replicate this success with the more powerful 300 SL on the North American market, so he urged Mercedes-Benz to develop a roadster counterpart.
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