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SLR Roadster heralds return of Gullwing

The new-age Mercedes Gullwing will be the fastest car in the history of the three-pointed star and should be previewed early in 2009, perhaps even at the Geneva Motor Show in March, for sales from 2010.

It gets its name from the scissor-style lift-up doors used on a similar road rocket, the Mercedes SL which hit the road in 1954, and is expected to have the same styling and performance impact as the original.

Mercedes has decided to build the born-again Gullwing as it splits its road-car future from its Formula One partner, McLaren, despite the British team's reputation for creating high-performance halo cars.

It will be pushing much harder with the AMG sub-brand which has been a global hit, including Australia where sales set a per-capita world record, and will become the new flagship for both Benz and AMG.

McLaren has its own supercar in final development for a preview in 2009 but it is the Gullwing which is creating the most interest in Mercedes' future-car programs.

The car has been testing for more than a year and looks to be a long-nose two-door coupe which is likely to have the first in a new generation of AMG turbocharged V8 engines. It should easily crack 300km/h and have a Ferrari-style 0-100km/h sprint time.

The Gullwing is an open secret in the Mercedes-Benz world, where plans call for a production run of up to 5000 cars during a 5-10 year model life.

This is a massive contrast to the SLR, which has never sold to the expectations of either Mercedes or McLaren and came with a $1 million-plus pricetag.

The final SLR model was unveiled at the Paris show a fortnight ago with a roadster open-topped body and the 722 performance package created to pay hommage to the SLR which won the Mille Miglia road race in Italy in 1955 wearing the 722 number to reflect its 7.22am start time.

Details of the new Gullwing are still being protected by Mercedes, but it is expected to have a race-style monocoque body built from a combination of aluminium and carbon fibre.

The engine choice is not confirmed, as AMG is moving to turbos but the Gullwing could stay with an updated version of the current 6.2-litre V8 - called the 6.3 by Benz - but the company's powerplant chief Dr Leopold Mikulic says it will have more than 400 kiloWatts of power.