1956 Mercedes 300 SL,
Lot 229
1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL ‘Gullwing’ Coupé Chassis no. 1980406500160 Engine no. 1989805500585
Sold for £288,043 (US$ 452,112) inc. premium

Lot Details
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1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL ‘Gullwing’ Coupé
Registration no. YSU 604
Chassis no. 1980406500160
Engine no. 1989805500585

Footnotes

  • ‘When it was first announced by Mercedes-Benz, the production 300SL Coupé was a startling car built to the German concern’s customarily startling standards, but above all what left the general public most open-mouthed about the new car was its upward-opening Gullwing doors…!’ - Motors, 1963.
    Mercedes-Benz returned to post-war competition in 1952, fielding two of its new 300SL (W194) sports cars in the Mille Miglia. The pair finishing a creditable 2nd and 4th overall in this most difficult of events and this promising start was followed up by a win in the challenging Carrera Panamericana. The works first raced the 300SL (Sport Leicht) in open form, but for the Le Mans 24-Hour Race in June a trio of ‘gullwing’-doored coupés was entered. High sills were a feature of the multi-tubular spaceframe chassis, and while access was not a problem of the open car, the coupé bodywork required innovative thinking - hence the gullwing doors. Karl Kling and Hans Klenk duly brought their ‘Silver Arrow’ home in first place and the 300SL was on its way to becoming part of motor sporting legend.
    Launched in 1954, the production 300SL retained the spaceframe chassis and lightweight aluminium-alloy bodywork of the W194 racer while its mechanical underpinnings, like the latter’s, owed much to the contemporary Mercedes-Benz 300 luxury saloon. A 2,996cc overhead-camshaft inline six, the 300SL’s engine was canted at 45 degrees to achieve a low bonnet line and produced 215bhp (DIN) at 5,800rpm using Bosch mechanical fuel injection. A four-speed, all-synchromesh manual gearbox transmitted power to the hypoid bevel rear axle. Suspension was independent all round: by wishbones and coil springs at the front, with swing axles and coil springs at the rear.
    A production 300SL (W198) was tested by Road & Track magazine in 1955, accelerating from 0-60mph in 7.4 seconds on its way to a top speed of 140mph. Half expecting the long-awaited 300SL to provide an anti-climax, R&T were delighted to find the new car, ‘far beyond our wildest expectations. In fact, we can state unequivocally that in our opinion the 300SL coupé is the ultimate in an all-round sportscar. It combines more desirable features in one streamlined package than we ever imagined or hoped would be possible. Performance? It accelerates from a dead start to 100mph in just over 17 seconds. Dual purpose? A production model 300SL can make a very acceptable showing in any type of sportscar competition. Yet the car is extremely tractable and easy to drive in traffic. Comfort? The fully enclosed 300SL is the most comfortable (and safe) high-speed ‘cross-country’ car built today.’
    A 300SL roadster featuring conventional doors was first exhibited at the Geneva Salon in May 1957 and, although built in greater numbers, has never matched the immortal Gullwing for desirability. Its racing parentage notwithstanding, the 300SL remains a thoroughly practical car, as civilised in city traffic as it is exhilarating on the autostrada. By the time 300SL Coupé production ceased in 1957, some 1,400 examples had found customers. Today the model is both rare and most sought after by connoisseurs of fine automobiles.
    This 1956 Gullwing spent its early years in the USA, picking up a number of concours awards between 1956 and 1961 before being was imported into the UK by well-known collector Reza Rashidian. Since the early 1990s this car has been completely restored both mechanically and bodily, and been kept race/rally prepared with no expense spared. Undertaken by HK Engineering, Jim Stokes and an in-house professional engineer, the work has included an engine rebuild (1997), gearbox rebuild (2000) and a re-spray (2002). Parts renewed include the carpets, headlining, window rubbers, wiring, clutch, brakes, suspension and differential (replaced with a limited-slip unit, original available). Retro-fitted air conditioning is the only other notified deviation from factory specification.
    The current vendor has owned the car since 1992, campaigning it in many touring events and Grand Tours including the Ecurie Ecosse, Italia Classica, Credit Suisse Amalfi and the London to Monte Carlo Grand Tour. He has also raced it at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, Spa Francorchamps, Silverstone, Goodwood Revival Fordwater Trophy and in the 1950/60 Grand Prix d’Europe Sportscar Race in Luxembourg, finishing 3rd. A well sorted and competitive 300SL eligible for a wide variety of the most prestigious historic events, the car is offered with sundry restoration invoices, current MoT/tax and Swansea V5.
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