1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe
Chassis no. 198040-10-5500589
Engine no. 198980550605
Body No. 5500569
Motor sport languished at Mercedes after the World War II, as the company concentrated on rebuilding its passenger car business. Within a few years, however, a competition car was developed, using many parts from the new 300 luxury sedan. The engine was given three carburetors and a new camshaft, and manifolding was improved. To accommodate a low body, the engine was canted 45 degrees to the right. Transmission and axles were from the production 300, but the chassis and body were all new. Principally the work of Rudolf Uhlenhaut, the car comprised a tubular space frame clad in aluminum panels. The configuration of the space frame prevented low sills, so signature gull-wing doors, hinged upward, were adopted in place of a conventional forward-hinged swinging arrangement.
Christened 300SL, for Sport-Leicht (Sports Light), a team of cars was entered in the 1952 Mille Miglia, finishing second and fourth. This promising result was followed by a 1-2-3 sweep in the Berne Grand Prix and, six weeks later, first and second at LeMans. A 1-2-3-4 finish at Nürburgring followed and a 1-2 victory in the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico, the latter bringing Mercedes to the attention of Americans.
Chief among the American observers was Max Hoffman, the New York importer. Hoffman saw a market for a road version of the 300SL, and ordered 1,000 cars. The production 300SL debuted at the International Motor Sports Show in the Big Apple in January 1954. The 300SL name was retained, drawing on the fame of the competition cars, but for in-house documentation the new car was designated W198. The racing 300SLs had been W194.
Having passed through several owners, this 300SL was in original condition when acquired by Roy Warshawsky. Warshawsky, head of the prominent J.C.Whitney auto parts and accessories firm, drove it for about ten years. He then commissioned Chicago-area restorer Fran Roxas to perform a partial restoration. This took place from 1989 to 1991. Paintwork and an engine rebuild brought the car to top condition. After Warshawskys death in 1997 it was sold to Michael Shaw, also of Illinois. Shaw drove it for a year, then decided to have another restoration performed.
He entrusted the work to McCabe Restoration, Ltd., of Mundelein, Illinois. McCabe disassembled the car for painting, repairing dents and defects as necessary. The doors were removed and refitted, and all surfaces were sanded and primed, followed by three color coats. A complete detailing of the engine compartment was carried out, and mechanical defects repaired as required. Upon completion the car was judged in third place of ten 300SLs entered in a show at the Como Inn in Lemont, Illinois. Late in 1999 it was sold to Bill Jacobs, who used it very little. The current owner acquired it in 2006.
Carefully maintained since the latest restoration, it remains in excellent condition. The Rubine Red paint is striking, and nicely contrasts with the tan interior. Just 1,400 300SL coupes were built from 1954 to 1957. This is a chance to acquire an excellent example of an automotive icon.