Mercedes-Benz Open Air Motoring Celebrates 55 Years

Emmanuel P January 21, 2011

Roadsters first emerged from Mercedes-Benz’s workshops when in 1954, the 190 SL was introduced with the 300 SL gullwing at its New York world premiere. Production for this series was begun in 1955 after a five-month development period. By the end of the model’s production in 1963, almost 26,000 190 SLs had moved off the assembly line.

The evolution continued with a compact roadster study that was presented in 1994 at the Turin Show, presenting what Mercedes believed a roadster should be for succeeding generations. A refinement of the concept study was showed at the Paris Motor Show later that year. Series production for the internally-designated R170 SLK, as it would come to be known, was begun in 1996. A main feature of the car was its folding hardtop roof which used an electro-hydraulic system that enabled the roof to fold down into the trunk in 25 seconds. Further refinements through the years gave the SLK the Electronic Stability Program, a six-speed manual transmission and SPEEDTRONIC in its equipment package. New bumpers, side skirts, taillights, trims and other refinements were added as the years progressed.

The second generation SLK was launched in 2004. A facelift in 2008 was introduced for this SLK which the company had designated the R171. For 2011, the R172 was introduced to the world, bringing with it the design, performance and comfort levels that the public has come to expect with the Mercedes-Benz SLKs. 55 years have passed since the introduction of Mercedes-Benz open-air motoring concepts, and the latest generation only shows that some pleasures remain timeless.

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