1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing  Chassis no. 1980406500273

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Lot 407
1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing
Chassis no. 1980406500273

CHF 400,000 - 450,000
US$ 420,000 - 470,000
1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing
Chassis no. 1980406500273
"When it was first announced by Mercedes-Benz, the production 300SL Coupe 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.

Created to spearhead Mercedes-Benz’s return to competition in the post-WW2 era, the 300SL sports-racer debuted in the 1952 Mille Miglia, finishing second and fourth overall. Wins in the Carrera Pan-Americana and at Le Mans followed, and the 300SL was on its way to becoming part of motor sporting legend. The first racers were open-topped, but before the ‘52 season’s end the distinctive gullwing-doored Coupé had appeared. Unusually high sills were a feature of the multi-tubular spaceframe chassis, and while access was not a problem of the open car, the adoption of coupé bodywork required innovative thinking - hence the gullwing doors.

Launched in 1954, the production 300SL retained a spaceframe chassis and bodywork similar to that of the racer though, like the latter’s, its mechanical underpinnings 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 lower, more aerodynamic bonnet line, and using direct fuel injection produced 215bhp (DIN) at 5,800rpm. A four-speed 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.

Tested by Road & Track magazine in 1955, the 300SL accelerated from 0-60mph in 7.4 seconds, going on to achieve a top speed of 140mph - outstanding figures for its day. 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 sports car. 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 sports car 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."

This magnificent 300 Sport Leicht Gullwing was sold new on 19th December 1956 to one Michael Anderson, of Arcadia, California, USA, subsequently passing into the ownership of Mr Philip Dater, of Albuquerque, New Mexico. In the 1970s the car was bought by French collector Edouard Bitec, of Fumon les Lacs and sold to the present owner in Belgium in 1995.

Between 1995 and 2003 the car underwent a complete no-expense-spared restoration and is accompanied by a sizeable file containing all invoices and photographs (120 in number, including views of the dismantled engine) relating to the work carried out. Rebuilding the cylinder head to ‘unleaded’ specification, fitting an improved (240bhp) ‘Sport’ camshaft and a stainless-steel exhaust system are worthwhile enhancements undertaken. The mechanical rebuild was entrusted to Stark, a company specialising in the restoration of classic Mercedes-Benz models and enjoying close links with the Stuttgart factory, while the interior re-trim is the work of Kohlberger.

Finished in the original silver grey with classic light blue tartan upholstery, the car is presented in very good condition in all respects, having covered just 4,100-or-so kilometres since completion in 2003. In a recent test drive at Spa Francorchamps, this consummate Grand Routier performed as though it had just been delivered new from the factory, cruising effortlessly at 200km/h (124mph). Worthy of the closest inspection, it is offered with Belgian registration papers. Local taxes will be liable if the car remains in Switzerland.

Cette magnifique 300 Sport Légère "Papillon" fut vendue neuve le 19 décembre 1956 à un M. Michael Anderson de la ville d’Arcadia, en Californie. Elle fut ensuite entre les mains de M. Philip Dater d’Albuquerque, au Nouveau Mexique. Dans les années 70, la voiture est achetée par le grand collectionneur français Edouard Bitec de Fumon les Lacs et vendue, en 1995, à l’actuel propriétaire belge. Entre 1995 et 2003, cette automobile bénéficied’une restauration complete, pour laquelle sont à disposition toutes les factures et un dossier très important de photographies (environ 120) depuis la mise à nu du châssis. Certaines amélirations ont été apportées telles qu’une culasse passée au sans-plomb, un arbre à cames retravaillé (permettant de développer 240 ch.) et d’une ligne d’échappement en inox. La mécanique a été confiée à Stark en Allemagne, restaurateur spécialisé dans les Mercedes Benz classiques et ayant des liens étroits avec l’usine de Stuttgart, pendant que l’intérieur était réalisé par Kohlberger.

De colori gris clair, intérieur en tissu écossais bleu ciel, la voiture est présentée en excellent état à tous les niveaux, n’ayant parcouru que quelques 4100 km depuis la fin des travaux en 2003. Dans un récent essai sur le circuit Spa-Francorchamps, cette grande routière s’est comporté comme si elle sortait d’usine, montant sans effort à une vitesse de croisière de 200 km/h. Cette indémodable et légendaire automobile de la marque à l’étoile sera livrée avec des papiers de circulation belges. Les taxes d’importation seront à régler si la voiture demeure en Suisse.
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