This most interesting example of Mercedes-Benzs charismatic 300SL Gullwing Coupé model is believed to be the car in which Stirling Moss and Peter Garnier the highly influential Sports Editor of The Autocar magazine competed in the 1957 Tour de France Automobile.
The copy of a letter dated May 1968 included within the documentation file accompanying this car is signed A. Neubauer the Daimler-Benz Aktiengesellschafts legendary racing manager and addressed to a Mr W. Baumgartner Jr of Brentwood, Tennessee, USA, the then owner of this Gullwing Coupé. Paragraph two of this Neubauer-signed letter reads: This car was completed and scheduled to be shipped to America in September but due to the loss of one of our four works cars (Moss & Jenkinson destroyed an SL that June and walked away unscratched), I decided to retain this car. It was used sparingly for shortly thereafter the racing division was discontinued. However your SL was fitted with 3.19/1 rear axle (this was unique for the lowest option was 3.25/1) and used for speed tests primarily focusing on fuel economy for the SL engine.
In 1957 there was a request for the car to be made available to Garnier and Moss for the Tour de France. The factory provided the car but there was to be no service back up. Records show that we did in fact prepare the car and transport it to Nice.
The following year my old and very dear friend Juan Fangio requested this car for his dealership in South America. He wished to have the car competitive for hill-climb races. These are unmuffled events and so I had the factory install a straight exhaust system. Our records show that the knock-off assembly with the 3.19/1 was exchanged for a bolt-on 3.64/1 rear axle
The Tour de France Automobile promoted pure racing driver skills. While its road sections looped around France like a rally, its competitive sections comprised numerous circuit races and speed hill-climbs. Prize money was exceptional, hence Stirling Moss initially arranging his entry in one specially prepared 300SL Gullwing in 1956 partnered by rally man Georges Houel, and then driving another in 1957 with Peter Garnier.
The 3-litre 6-cylinder 300SL had a terrific following at that time as it basked in the charisma of the works team 300SLRs 1955 World Championship-winning exploits. In 1956 Moss/Houels main rival was Fon de Portago with his friend Ed Nelson in a Ferrari 250GT. Sir Stirling recalled in his book, My Cars, My Career: We were dogged by a severe misfire
not cured until the final ten-lap test at Montlhéry where I finally set FTD. De Portago and Nelson won from Georges and me in second place. I felt confident we could win next time...
The 1957 Tours prize fund totalled £23,000. Sir Stirling: After scrutineering at Nice before the start Peter and I drove out to La Turbie hill-climb for some private practice. But the local gendarmerie disapproved and fined me 2,700 Francs on the spot, which I thought was rather unsporting of them...But this time the Ferrari GTs proved much too fast
though we ran seventh.
After the St Etienne test we lay fourth and in the final 200km night race at Reims I managed to secure that place overall. We finished despite that persistent water leak, a jamming starter, broken bumper and only second and top gears left in the gearbox
.it was too much to expect the production 300SL to match the latest Ferrari GTs.
This car which features a roll-over cage, cut-away exhaust outlets beneath the passenger door and lovely, apparently original, red interior trim but no carpets was a relatively recent acquisition for the Max Lips Collection. It has seen minimal use in recent years and the usual careful recommissioning is recommended.
We advise that further research is necessary to confirm its related Tour de France history and the legitimacy of the Alfred Neubauer copy letter confirming it. Another, later, letter from Daimler-Benz AG states that
to the best knowledge of Daimler-Benz this Gullwing SL chassis number W196/040/550/0730 has no official racing record
which of course would be the case since Mosss Tour de France exploits were completely unofficial after the Stuttgart companys much-publicised withdrawal from competition at the end of 1955. However, the letter continues Herr Neubauers letter must be accepted as the only evidence of this cars sporting accomplishments.
This remains a most attractive example of the 300SL Gullwing Coupé and the accompanying documentation file is of course available for