Starter 1/43 1952 Mercedes 300SL (Le Mans)
KIT #: 187
PRICE: $20.00 'used'
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Resin, metal, and photo etch parts


The 300 SL (also called W 198) goes back to the racing sports car, Mercedes-Benz W194. In 1951, Daimler-Benz decided to take part in races and build a sports car for this purpose. Mercedes' largest engine, the M186 shared between the 300 "Adenauer" saloon (W186) and luxurious 300 S two-seat tourer (W188) was developed.

In 1952, the W194 took part in the most important races of the year. The new SL competed at the Mille Miglia at the beginning of May and achieved second place. It won the top three places at the Bern Sports Car Prize 131.04 kilometres (81.42 mi). At the 24-hour race at Le Mans the 300 SL won the top two places. First place went to Hermann Lang and Fritz Riess with an overall average 155.6 km/h (96.7 mph), they achieved a new record in Le Mans history. Second place went to Theo Helfrich and Helmut Niedermayr. A race at the Nürburgring ended with a four-fold success. At the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico, the 300 SL again won with Karl Kling and Hans Klenk – despite having a vulture flying through the windscreen.

These successes, especially those on the high-speed open road races, were rather surprising as the W194 engine was fitted only with carburetors, producing 175 hp (130 kW), which was not only less than the competing cars by Ferrari and Jaguar, but also less than the 300 SL road car developed from it and introduced in 1954. Low weight and low aerodynamic drag made the W194 fast enough to be competitive in endurance races.

Mercedes-Benz developed a new version for the 1953 racing season by adding fuel injection and 16-inch wheels. The gearbox was installed on the rear axle. Its body was made of Elektron, a magnesium alloy, to reduce the weight by 85 kilograms (187 pounds). However, the car was not used because Mercedes-Benz decided to take part in Formula One from 1954 onward. Later versions revised the body for lower air resistance and did not adopt the transmission arrangement.


For those of us who like 1/43 kits, Starter's are/were some of the least complex. The molding is superb on the body and the interior. Typically there are air pockets along the underside of the body edges and this kit has some of those. The kits use a vacuformed window assembly that often fits in as one piece making installation fairly trouble free.

For some of the details, a photo etch fret is included and is very well done. One is provided with machined aluminum wheels for which resin inserts are provided. The tires are rubber/vinyl and there are metal axles. Resin headlight inserts are also included. An injected floor pan is provided that will need a bit of trimming as it is a tad oversize. In earlier kits, the pan was often resin and had the interior molded on it. The bag of bits also includes the steering wheel and body screws.

There were no assembly instructions, which is a bit unusual for many kits, but not always for Starter kits unless they are particularly complex. You are provided with a very nice decal sheet that has markings for all three 1952 LeMans cars. A full color sheet is included for painting and provides a guide for which license plate goes with which car. It also matches up the nose ring color. I've used these rather old Starter decal sheets before without any issues and expect this one to work OK as well. I'm going to assume that the white nose ring is for putting under the red or green one. You also get upholstery decals.


For those who have never built a 1/43 resin or metal car kit, this would be a good one to cut your teeth upon. They really are fairly easy to build, even without instructions. Probably the most difficult will be clean-up of the resin bits and painting. There are plenty of reference photos on the web. Use 'Mercedes W194' when searching.


May 2020

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