Now on Display: Sophisticated Safety

November 16, 2017

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The Automotive Hall of Fame is proud to present “Now on Display”, a new blog series chronicling our various display vehicles and the Inductees they represent. Our first installment in this series features this pristine Mercedes-Benz 280SL representing Bela Barényi, the legendary Mercedes-Benz engineer who established the field of passive automotive safety.

The Automotive Hall of Fame has added several new vehicles to the museum for our winter displays. The latest vehicle to enter the stable is this beautiful example of a 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280SL Roadster.

Finished in Signal Red, this 280SL is quite the eye-catcher. It is on loan to us courtesy of owner Micheal Salemi

One of Mercedes-Benz’s longest running models, the 280SL was part of the second-generation of the SL line. The first SL appeared in 1954 and became an automotive icon thanks to its on-track success and unique “gullwing” doors. The second-generation SL made its debut in 1961 and shifted the vehicle’s focus from a toned-down race car to a luxurious “grand tourer.” The car enjoyed sales success around the world and was extremely popular with U.S. buyers. More than half of the 23,885 SLs produced were sold in the North America and are still popular with classic car enthusiasts today.

This 280SL is on display in representation of Automotive Hall of Fame Inductee Bela Barényi (pictured left). Barényi, who is regarded as “the father of passive safety,” was one of the lead engineers for the second-generation SL chassis. During his career with Mercedes-Benz, Barényi developed the world’s first comprehensive vehicle safety program to prevent human injury during an automobile accident. His efforts resulted in such automotive safety innovations as crumple zones, non-deformable passenger cells, and collapsible steering columns.

These and other safety features became hallmarks of Mercedes-Benz automobiles like the 280SL and were later adopted by manufacturers around the world. In addition to Barényi’s passive safety innovations, all second-generation SLs were equipped with technologically advanced suspension, powerful brakes and modern radial tires, resulting in a superb handling vehicle that was also safe.

Bela Barényi (right) pictured with stylist Paul Bracq (left) at the launch of the second-generation SL at the Geneva Auto Salon in 1963. This is the only known picture of the two icons together

This vehicle and others can be seen at the Automotive Hall of Fame during our public museum hours Friday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission to the museum is $10, $6 for seniors (62+) and Students (13-18), $4 for children. For questions, please contact us by phone at (313) 240-4000.

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