BOSTON – The first lucky (and affluent) customers are beginning to take delivery of their ’08 Mercedes SLR McLaren gull-wing sports cars.

Mercedes declines to say precisely how many of the super cars will be built at the McLaren factory in Woking, U.K. But Greg De Smith, a marketing specialist for the product, says it will be “substantially fewer” than 500 units.

In a recent interview here, De Smith says customers still can order the car that bristles with Formula 1 technology. However, it cannot be registered in Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin because the SLR McLaren’s twin dual exhausts are illegal in those states.

The U.S. will get half of the total SLR production. Dealer allocation is based on sales of the previous McLaren sports coupe. Not every dealer will get an SLR, while others may get several. The car’s base price is $495,000, and De Smith says the sticker can rise to $515,000 with a few options.

Mercedes offers buyers and a guest a trip to Woking for expert instruction on how to drive the SLR, but those customers will have to pay their own airfares. Buyers may need that training because the SLR has a top speed of 206 mph (332 km/h) and accelerates from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 3.8 seconds.

The SLR evolves from the 300 SL Gullwing sports car first introduced as a production model in 1955. It is powered by a 617-hp supercharged 5.5L AMG V-8 engine that can generate 575 lb.-ft. (780 Nm) of torque. AMG also supplies the Speedshift R 5-speed automatic transmission with three automatic and three manual shift modes.

The engines, which are hand-built at the AMG factory in Affalterbach, Germany, are mounted behind the front wheels in a front/mid-engine position. No oil pan is needed because a dry-sump is used. This allows the engine to be mounted very low in the frame.

Mercedes says the SLR is the first production car to have a front crash-module made exclusively of carbon fiber. It absorbs four to five times as much energy as a similar module produced from conventional steel.

McLaren engineers used ceramic disc brakes to provide excellent stopping power. The lightweight discs tip the scale at half that of conventional brakes. They also boast eight-piston calipers in front and four-piston calipers in back for quicker response.

In addition, an adaptive rear spoiler in the trunk lid increases down force to improve stability during braking. During hard braking above 59 mph (95 km/h), the air brake pops up at a 65-degree angle to help stop the SLR in an astonishing 114 ft. (35 m).

To increase safety, the car has steel-reinforced A-pillars and two fixed rollover bars. There also are adaptive front airbags, knee and side airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners and a tire-pressure monitoring system.