Summer Vibes in a 1963 Mercedes Benz 300SL

The road to Istán... 

Friday evening mid-August 2018, my good friend and photographer Rollo Wade and I had the pleasure of driving a stunning 1963 Mercedes Benz 300 SL from Marbella to Istán, not for any reason other than to enjoy the open road, mountain scenery and the pure thrill of being behind the wheel of one of most iconic supercars ever made. 

 

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The Car 

1963 was the final year of production and this car was one of the last 25 to roll off the production line, being one of the last built, it had improved modifications from the factory including disc brakes and a light alloy crankcase. 

The moment I got to know the car it felt like everything had been designed for style and function, as you would expect from a Mercedes, everything worked as it should. The indicator wheel mounted on the steering wheel is also the horn, the wing mirror with the outside temperature reading is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, the perfectly designed luggage boot and the door handle stalks that folds into the car are to just name a few of the great design features of the 300 SL. 

Then there’s the colour, finished in this breathtaking canary yellow with biscuit interior - it really did stop passers by in their tracks... As we drove past a group of Spanish cyclists we heard them say....... "Puto resfriado!!!" (Fuck that’s cool!).

 

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Driving through those winding roads up to Istán the steering felt precise and responsive while the four-wheel independent suspension allowed for a smooth ride and great handling,  the car felt perfectly balanced. I loved the gear change on the 300 SL, it simply clicks in and you know you're planted but I did find myself looking for a 5th gear on the main road. The engine note was low and responded well when pushed. This is a car that wants to be driven. 

 

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Key facts about the 300 SL

• The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W198) was the fastest street legal car of its day

• The first production car to have a fuel injection system

• Introduced at the 1954 New York Auto Show

• Built by Daimler-Benz between 1954 - 1963

 

 

The Journey

The drive from Marbella town to Istan can only be described as a pleasure. With a seemingly endless supply of immaculate cliff top corners, beautiful hidden villas and views of Gibraltar and the North African Coast, this route was looking pretty hard to beat. The route itself covers around 19km of some of the most enjoyable corners anyone could ask for. Long arching turns, hairpins, lefts, rights, even a straight here and there, it’s got it all. Just do be wary of cyclists with questionable sanity peddling furiously uphill for miles on end…

While the sun set behind the hills across from the reservoir below, we made our way up to Istán with smiles firmly plastered on our faces. 

The village of Istán is tucked away beneath the Sierra Blanca. 

The whitewashed houses stand out beautifully from the orange and green of the surrounding mountain range. It’s one of a few Moorish towns in this area to have survived the Christian reconquest of the peninsula in the 15th century. While it’s not as impressive as its neighbour Ronda, it’s still a lovely spot for a bite to eat and a canna or two.

We decided to pull up just outside of town, to give the 300SL (and ourselves) a bit of a breather, (it’s still a clammy 32 degrees here at 9pm don’t forget!) and as we sat looking out over our view we couldn’t help but notice how Californian our little spot looked, not surprising when we later discovered it shares a similar longitude and may have explained the unusually long and golden sunset. 

Views admired and car cooled, we took a moment to take a few photographs and were joined by a group of girls that couldn’t resist a photo opportunity, and of course, we obliged. It’s very hard to look at this car and not enjoy it, it doesn’t matter who you are or the day you’ve had it’s a pleasure to be around and a joy to drive and on a evening like this, one couldn’t ask for more.

As the last of the light began to fade and our new friends had gone on their way we started the drive back to Marbella with thoughts of an ice cold beer, the evening in the mountains and the next “Road to ….

 

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Edward Wood