1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe
Chassis no. 198.040.5500183
Engine no. 198.980.5500184
2,996cc SOHC Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
Bosch Mechanical Fuel Injection
212bhp at 5800rpm
4-Speed Manual Transmission
4-Wheel Independent Suspension
4-Wheel Drum Brakes
*One of 12 Gullwings delivered in Strawberry Red Metallic
*Matching numbers example
*Expertly restored by Rudi Koniczek
*Originally delivered to European royalty
*Multiple-time California Mille finisher
The 300SL Gullwing Coupe
Max Hoffman rarely missed an opportunity. The impresario of imported cars on New York's Park Avenue built the U.S. presence of most European brands after World War II Jaguar, Allard, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Mercedes-Benz and more and when Mercedes-Benz won the Carrera Panamericana in 1952 with a W194 300SL coupe driven by Karl Kling, Hoffman seized the moment.
He approached Mercedes with a radical idea: take the charismatic tube frame W194, with its high performance 3-liter engine and characteristic roof-hinged doors, and create a road car based on it. It was audacious, but Hoffman had a highly developed sense for the U.S. market and backed up his suggestion with his checkbook. He placed an order for a thousand luxury high performance coupes based on a more civilized version of the W194.
Mercedes-Benz, still valiantly trying to shake off the devastation of the war and the weak European market, took him up on it and the 300SL was born.
Hoffman had proposed a relatively direct transformation of the multi-tube framed W194, retaining its roof-hinged doors, tall, wide sills, 45° canted triple-carbureted single overhead camshaft inline six and fully independent suspension with more civilized accoutrements. The engineers at Mercedes-Benz weren't satisfied with such a simple transformation and added the first direct mechanical fuel injection system ever offered in a production automobile. Introduced at the February 1954 New York Auto Show, the 300SL was an instant sensation.
Its curved doors soon brought it the nickname "Gullwing" which has stuck for well over half a century and been copied by many lesser automobiles hoping to capitalize on the 300SL's halo. The body design was refined for the street and added eyebrow moldings over the wheel wells to signal an association with Mercedes-Benz's later race cars. The driving position, steering wheel location, controls and instruments' visibility were carefully refined by M-B to make driving the 300SL a rewarding experience.
Over the next three years Mercedes-Benz built over 1,400 300SL Gullwings. The majority were sold through Max Hoffman in North America, validating both the reality of his vision and returning many times over the confidence he showed in backing its development.
Ever since 1954 the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing has been one of the cars every collector must own or experience.
The Motorcar Offered
The stunning Gullwing depicted on these pages is one of only a dozen delivered in the striking shade of DB 543 Strawberry Red Metallic, with upholstery in red plaid fabric and fawn vinyl and a factory-fitted Becker radio. It was completed on March 29th, 1955 and shipped on April 4th to Wurzburg, Germany. The 300SL was destined for royalty; its first owner being recorded as His Serene Highness Emich Kyrill, 7th Prince of Leningen in Amorbach, Germany. We can only imagine he enjoyed some happy miles with his wife, Duchess Eilika of Oldenburg, the daughter of a princess.
Subsequent owners included Arthur D. Gimble, a US Army officer based in Schweinfurt, Germany. Its next known owner was Louis C. Meyer of Van Nuys, California, and later Rudi Klein of Los Angeles.
By 1972 the Gullwing was in the possession of John L. Getz of Lomita, California; receipts on file document his ownership. In October of 1980, Getz sold the car to Mr. Guenther Karl Schennach of Paso Robles, California, an active member of the Gullwing Group. Schennach was obviously a serious Gullwing enthusiast, and a stack of receipts document his loving restoration of the Gullwing in 1981-82. DMV receipts on file show that the car had been registered with license number '300 CYN' - perhaps even a coincidence given California's plate numbering system at the time - but Schennach applied for a new vanity license plate 'GW300SL', which the car bears to this day.
In 2005 the very well-maintained Gullwing passed to the vendor thru noted 300SL restorer Rudi Koniczek, who proceeded to comprehensively restore the car to Concours standards. Presented in the factory color of Anthracite Grey over a stunning green and grey plaid pattern upholstery, it is the ultimate visual expression of the early 300SL Coupe. Since its restoration, the Gullwing has been driven regularly, including on long-distance tours such as the California Mille, which it completed successfully in both 2007 and 2011. An extensive file of receipts from the current ownership period attests to regular and fastidious maintenance to ensure a virtually 'turnkey' experience.
During a recent test drive by a Bonhams specialist, the Gullwing proved to be an excellent companion for the open road, feeling much as it might have when delivered to His Serene Highness when new. With good power, very effective brakes, and an intuitive transmission that is easy to shift, just a few miles in the 300SL is all it takes to see how far ahead of its time it was in 1955. A tight suspension and responsive steering gives the driver a healthy dose of confidence for living out his or her Mille Miglia inspired fantasies.
Here is an opportunity to own a truly great example of the legendary 300SL Gullwing - a car with a well-known history and an extensive record of careful maintenance through the decades. In short, a blue-chip collectors' motorcar that can be driven, shown, and enjoyed with great pride.