The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542
Lot 112
The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe
Sold for US$ 1,375,000 inc. premium

Lot Details
The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542 The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland,1955 MERCEDES-BENZ  300SL GULLWING COUPE  Chassis no. 198.040.5500545 Engine no. 198.980.5500542
The ex-Rt Hon. Lord O'Neill – Prime Minister of Northern Ireland
1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE

Chassis no. 198.040.5500545
Engine no. 198.980.5500542

2,996cc SOHC Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
Bosch Mechanical Fuel Injection
240bhp at 6,100rpm
4-Speed Manual Transmission
4-Wheel Independent Suspension
4-Wheel Drum Brakes


*UK delivery Gullwing owned when new by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland
*Professionally restored by Scott Grundfor Company and serviced by Rene Lutheraan
*Matching numbers example finished in its factory delivered livery
*Beautiful example of Mercedes-Benz's legendary 300SL Gullwing
*Offered with MB Classic Zertifikat, copies of build sheets, books, tools and belly pans



THE MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING

Instantly recognizable not only by automobile buffs, but virtually anyone on the planet, the immortal 300SL (for Sports Leicht) Gullwing coupe arguably competes for the title of "Greatest Sports Car of the 1950s", and surely qualifies for anyone's Top 10 list of the greatest automobiles of all time. A period favorite of wealthy celebrities, it ranks today among the most valued and collectable sports cars ever produced.

The 300SL coupe was the direct descendant of Mercedes Benz' Le Mans W194 competition coupe, conceived in 1952 and aimed at wresting the World Sportscar Championship from Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and Lancia, which were dominating post-war endurance racing. Mercedes Benz historian W. Robert Nitzke writes that company management wanted to jump back into Grand Prix racing, where it had been so successful before the war, but lacked the time necessary to design, build, and develop a new single-seater for the 1954 season. Instead, Chief Engineer Fritz Nallinger suggested that the company build a new two-seat sports car utilizing the strong in-line SOHC six-cylinder engine from its luxurious 300 series. Because the engine and drivetrain were relatively heavy, the chassis would have to be very light. Test Department manager Rudolf Uhlenhaut, having some experience with tubular chassis design, sat down with construction engineer Joseph Müller and laid out an extremely light (154 pounds) and rigid lattice-work chassis capable of accommodating the big in-line six. One major problem soon presented itself: There was no way to mount conventional doors without compromising the rigidity of the chassis. The solution was to raise the entry so that the doors cut into the roof, but that meant hinging them from the top, thus giving birth to this car's timeless signature design feature.

The 300SL's first racing trial was the 1952 Mille Miglia, where Kling finished second to Giovanni Bracco's open Ferrari, while Rudolf Caracciola was fourth, the two Gullwings being split by a Lancia. The third coupe had gone off the road early in the grueling contest. Next came the Grand Prix of Berne, where a quartet of 300SLs took the start and swept the top three positions, Caracciola having crashed in what would prove to be his last race.

Then came Le Mans, where Uhlenhaut struck fear into the competition by bringing an SL coupe fitted with a hand-operated air brake mounted on the roof. While that particular car was not raced, Mercedes would tuck the idea in its pocket for future use. After the grueling 24 hour epic, a pair of 300SLs had finished in the top two positions...and were then driven back to the factory!

Mercedes Benz sat out the 1953 and 1954 sports car seasons, concentrating instead on developing its new Grand Prix car, but the SLs weren't done; they reappeared in 1955 as the airbrake-equipped 300SLR, utilizing that feature and a great many more of the advancements successfully tested on the company's Formula One racing cars. The year would bring triumph and tragedy; 300SLRs winning at Buenos Aires, the incredibly difficult Mille Miglia – where Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson won at a record average speed of just under a hundred miles an hour - the Nurburgring, Spa, Zandvoort, Aintree, Kristianstad, Monza, Dundrod, and Sicily's Targa Florio. The only setback, and one that would have devastating consequences, occurred at Le Mans, where team driver Pierre Levegh and more than 80 spectators died in one of racing's worst accidents, prompting Mercedes Benz to withdraw from racing for many years.

New York imported auto entrepreneur Max Hoffman is credited with urging Mercedes Benz to build a production sports car based on the 300SL racing car. The 300SL Gullwing in final form was unveiled at the New York International Motor Sports Show in early February, 1954, and actual production began that fall. The new coupe was slightly changed in appearance from the racing coupes and featured Bosch direct fuel injection. It was, claimed the factory, "the fastest German production sports car". Between 1954 and 1957, a total of 1,400 Gullwings were delivered to eager purchasers, and in 1957, the elegant and improved 300SL Roadster appeared, proving even more successful from a sales standpoint, with 1,858 units produced.


THE MOTORCAR OFFERED

Completed at the Mercedes-Benz works in July of 1955, this exceptional Gullwing was finished exactly as it appears today. Painted in the sporting color of DB 534 Feuerwehrrot, or Fire Brigade Red, the flashy 300SL's interior was completed in the fawn MB-Tex, with seats trimmed in fawn bolsters and fitted with smart L2 Gabardine checked-pattern red plaid cushions. Unlike most 300SLs, this car was not destined for the US market, but for Great Britain and the UK Mercedes-Benz agency in London. The Gullwing was equipped as a special order car, with instruments in English, a 3.42:1 rear axle ratio and fitted with export license plates. All of these dates and records are neatly documented on the copies of the factory build sheets and the Mercedes-Benz Classic Zertifikat assembled in the car's history file.

Soon after arriving in the UK, the exceptional new Gullwing was delivered to its first owner, The Right Honourable Lord Terence O'Neill, Baron O'Neill of the Maine. Born in 1914, Lord O'Neill grew up in London, went to the finest schools, and went on to serve for the British Army in the Irish Guards during WWII. At the end of 1945, O'Neill and his family went to live in Northern Ireland, where he served in a series of political positions. Around the time he acquired the Gullwing, O'Neill was elevated to cabinet level, until his appointment as Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in 1963. Lord O'Neill remained in office until 1969.

Lord O'Neill later sold the red Gullwing to a Mr. Lee, also residing in the UK, who eventually sold the car to a Mr. Handel. The Gullwing made its way to the US in sometime in the 1970s, where Los Angeles resident Mr. Max Spitznagel is believed to have been the next owner, before it was purchased by Downey, California, enthusiast Mr. Friedrich H. Wegener. At this point the Gullwing was still in remarkably original and unrestored condition, still painted red and with the old interior intact, but surely in need of re-commissioning. Mr. Wegener would keep the car in dry storage, surely intending to freshen the car and use it at a later date, however never got around to it.

In 2005, the aging yet original Gullwing became known to renowned 300SL restorer and historian Scott Grundfor. Mr. Grundfor was able to purchase the car from Mr. Wegener on behalf of the current owner, and soon after a full restoration was begun. Photos taken prior the restoration work are present in the car's history file, and clearly show just how original and complete the Gullwing was. Over the next two and a half years, Mr. Grundfor went through the Gullwing from stem to stern, addressing all mechanical and cosmetic aspects, and finishing it in the factory delivered livery. The finished car is nothing short of breathtaking, and is finished to a level of accuracy seen among only the best 300SL restorers.

The 300SL's original drivetrain, including the matching numbers engine, was naturally all retained, and since the car was in such remarkably original condition to begin with, it was not necessary to remove the body from the chassis frame, thereby not disturbing the integrity of the coachwork. In addition to the correct L2 Gabardine checked-pattern red plaid seat cushions, a second set of seat cushions was made in fawn MB Tex, and can easily be swapped as desired. A set of period correct luggage was sourced from Taris Charysin, and is neatly strapped down on the rear luggage tray, and books, history file, tools and the original belly pans accompany the sale of the car.

Having resided for the past decade in the carefully curated collection of a single and devoted Malibu, California based connoisseur of the finest collector cars, this stunning Gullwing is one of the finest examples we have ever had the pleasure to offer for public sale. Service and maintenance work has been performed by Rene Luteraan's Van Nuys Sports Cars, and thanks to his efforts, on a recent test drive a Bonhams specialist had the distinct pleasure of experiencing just how well a good 300SL drives. A wonderful example of the legendary Gullwing, this car has a prominent history boasting noble ownership, an exciting color combination, and will undoubtedly receive invitations to many of the world's most prestigious vintage motoring events.

Footnotes

  • Please note that this vehicle is titled with chassis number 300SL5500542.
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