The world of motorsports lost an icon just last month with the passing of Sir Stirling Moss. While I do follow Formula 1 closely, I do not actively dive into the sport’s rich history. But I have always heard of Sir Moss, being referred to in shows like Top Gear and from Shmee150 when I first saw him review a very special supercar – the Mercedes-McLaren SLR Stirling Moss.
From some of the online tributes I’ve read, it seems Sir Stirling was a true gentleman’s racer and established himself as a legend in racing even without an F1 world title to his name. He died aged 90 on April 12. You can take a quick read about some of his motorsport history in this TopGear UK article here or or the F1 tribute here. I won’t pretend to know of him any more than what I read recently, so I’ll suggest you read some of the other tributes and some even got the chance to meet him. While remembering and learning more about Sir Stirling Moss, let’s take a look at the incredible special edition SLR that bore his name.
To give it its full name, the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is a high-performance sports car that was first introduced in 2003. It was a collaboration reflecting the partnership between Mercedes and McLaren in Formula 1 at the time and the car even borrowed some styling cues from the F1 car itself. The SLR monicker was already established by the German carmaker in racing with SLR race cars having been driven to victory by the likes of Fangio, Kling and of course, Moss. This production car was previewed by the Vision SLR Concept in 1999. For its time, the SLR featured cutting edge technology in its drivetrain, performance and safety equipment.
The Mercedes SLR McLaren was launched with a supercharged 5.5-litre V8 under its enormous hood that churned out 617bhp and 780Nm. It could launch from nought to a 100kph in 3.8 seconds and had a top speed of 334kph. The body was made out of carbon fibre composites to keep the weight low but it was still a heavy car thanks to the comforts that made it a great choice for grand touring. It had clever aerodynamics inspired by the duo’s F1 cars such as a virtually smooth underbody, a special rear diffusor and an adaptive rear spoiler that also doubled as an airbrake. For extra coolness and to achieve that slippery smooth underbody design, the SLR also featured side-exit exhausts. It was and continues to be a very cool car.
A couple of years later, in 2006, Mercedes launched the first variant of the SLR that paid tribute to Sir Stirling Moss – the 722 Edition. It refers to Mercedes’ victory at the 1955 Mille Miglia with Stirling Moss and his co-driver Denis Jenkinson in a Mercedes-Benz SLR which bore the starting number “722” that indicated their start time of 7:22 A.M. The Mille Miglia is an Italian open-road endurance race and literally translates from Italian as thousand miles. Moss won the 22nd edition of the Mille Miglia in 1955 in 10hrs 7m 48s with an average speed of 158kph, on public roads!!
This special edition SLR featured a few modifications like stiffer suspension, better handling, lower ride height and more aggressive aero. There was a bump in performance too and the SLR 722 Edition boasted of 641bhp and 820Nm of torque. It was followed by a Roadster variant of both the standard and 722 Edition SLRs as well as a special 722 GT racing version for an elite group of customers.
But the biggest tribute to Sir Stirling Moss and the subject of this entire article was unveiled in 2009 – the SLR Stirling Moss. It is the crowning jewel for the Mercedes-Benz SLR series of super sports cars in its most unrestrained avatar. The special edition was a speedster variant of the SLR with no roof or windscreen to offers its two passengers the most unadulterated driving experience. Its design and driving experience brings the modern SLR closer to the racecars of the SLRs from the 1950s and thus carries the monicker of Stirling Moss. However, this car was not specifically designed for racing in the 21st century.
The SLR Stirling Moss has the same performance as the 722 Edition – 641bhp and 820Nm. And yet, this super sports car with no roof or windscreen has a top speed of 350kph and can accelerate from 0 to 100kph in just 3.5 seconds, enough to peel back the skin of the faces of its occupants. But that wouldn’t necessarily happen because Mercedes fitted it with two small wind deflectors to protect the driver and co-driver from the airflow. It is a stunning car, both visually and from an engineering perspective.
The limited-edition SLR speedster has a more aggressive, arrow-shaped form with its elongated nose and a small, muscley rear end. It has air scoops just above the heads of the occupants which carry additional roll-over bars. The Stirling Moss edition also sports blacked-out vents on the bonnet and on each side behind the front wheels, which is where the dual-tip exhausts are located too. In keeping with old school race cars, it also features high side skirts which is why the designers gave the SLR Stirling Moss doors that open forwards and up, or “folding swing-wings” as Mercedes calls it. The Stirling Moss edition also features a taller and more effective rear diffuser than previous SLRs. It also adds a feature to allow the driver to manually deploy the airbrake for sporty driving.
The puristic driving ethos carries forward to the interior as well which is quite spartan compared to other SLR models. It features a mix of high-end and race materials like carbon fibre, aluminium and leather. There is also an aluminium plate around the transmission stick that bears the engraved signature of Sir Stirling Moss himself. To protect this special interior, the speedster gets two tonneau covers which can be carried in the boot. With the covers in place, the SLR Stirling Moss looks like a motorsport sculpture. While driving, it looks like art in motion and a fitting swansong for the SLR.
Only 75 units of the Mercedes-Benz SLR Stirling Moss were built in 2009 with a starting price of €750,000. It was only allocated to the most loyal of SLR customers. The racer after whom the car was named has passed but his legend will survive in history, in memories and thanks to this SLR, in sheer driving pleasure as well.
What do you think of the SLR Stirling Moss? Is it still cooler than the modern speedsters like the Ferrari Monza SP, McLaren Elva and Aston Martin Speedster? Do you have any favourite memories of Sir Moss? Let me know in the comments below the gallery. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to The Auto Loons for more cool stories and updates from the car world.