1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL 'Gullwing' Coupé  Chassis no. 1980405500152 Engine no. 1989805500170

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Lot 138
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL 'Gullwing' Coupé
Chassis no. 1980405500152 Engine no. 1989805500170

Sold for € 563,500 (US$ 628,866) inc. premium
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL 'Gullwing' Coupé
Chassis no. 1980405500152
Engine no. 1989805500170
'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 magnificent Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing is one of just 59 delivered to the UK where they were eagerly snapped up by members of the country's motoring elite such as Rob Walker (F1 team owner), David Brown (Aston Martin proprietor), Earl Howe (BRDC president), King Hussein of Jordan (studying in Britain), R S Wilkins (financier and Brooklands racing driver), Harry Hyams (property magnate) and Daniel de Ferranti (entrepreneur and amateur racer).
Chassis '00152' was ordered by a Mr V D Yates and supplied in April 1955 with the registration '2 DMY'. It is not known how long Mr Yates kept his 300SL but the car remained in England until the late 1980s when it was acquired by the immediately preceding owner, a German doctor. At that time Gullwing values were rising rapidly and the owner decided to embark upon a no-expense-spared restoration. This was carried out between 1989 and 1992 at the Daimler-Benz works in Kassel. As an important client the vendor was entitled to a special 'trade' reduction of 25% on the cost of these works, but even after this discount the total restoration bill amounted to DM460,000. Copies of these invoices are available for inspection in a specially bound book.
Everything possible was replaced or refurbished including the interior, glass, bonnet and boot lids, brightwork, wings, under-trays and instruments. The axles, engine, gearbox and other running gear were rebuilt at the Stuttgart works while the radiator, brakes, electrics and rubber seals were renewed also. The body received new silver paintwork, red leather upholstery and matching red carpets in the original material, plus new beige cloth headlining. Even the original loudspeakers were restored. The car's overall appearance is complimented by the optional (and highly attractive) Rudge knock-off wheels.
Acquired by the current owner at Bonhams & Brooks' Nürburgring Sale in August 2001 (Lot 122), the 300SL shows virtually no signs of use, although being started and gently exercised regularly, the speedometer recording a mere 850 kilometres since the Mercedes-Benz rebuild. The car is in fully working order and ready to drive, though the buyer is reminded carefully to run-in the rebuilt engine.
Offered with UK Swansea V5 registration document, this magnificent example of, arguably, the most charismatic of all post-war sports cars is presented in superb condition. Given the high cost of restoring these technically advanced supercars, the purchase of one already rebuilt by Mercedes-Benz seems astute.

Ce magnifique coupé Mercedes-Benz 300 SL « portes papillon » est un des 59 exemplaires au total livrés au Royaume-Uni où ils furent attendus avec impatience par l'élite automobiliste du pays dont Rob Walker (propriétaire d'une écurie de F1), David Brown ( propriétaire d'Aston Martin), Earl Howe (Président du BRDC), le roi Hussein de Jordanie (étudiant en Grande-Bretagne), R. S. Wilkins (financier et pilote à Brooklands), Harry Hyams (propriétaire foncier).

Le châssis n° 00152 » commandé par M. V. D. Yates fut livré en avril 1955 sous l'immatriculation « 2 DMY ». On ignore combien de temps M. Yates conserva sa 300 SL, mais la voiture resta en Angleterre jusqu'à la fin des années 1980, époque où elle fut achetée par l'avant-dernier propriétaire, un médecin allemand. À cette date, la cote des « Gullwing » croissait rapidement et le propriétaire décida de faire restaurer la voiture sans considération de coût. Les travaux furent effectués de 1989 à 1992 aux ateliers Daimler-Benz de Kassel. Client important, le propriétaire bénéficia d'une réduction de 25 pour cent sur le montant des travaux qui s'élevèrent, malgré cette remise, à 460 000 DM. (Les copies des factures sont disponibles pour examen).

Tout ce qui dut être remplacé ou rénové le fut : l'intérieur, les vitres, le capot et la porte de coffre, les ornements chromés, les ailes, le carénage inférieur et les instruments. Les essieux, moteur, boîte de vitesses et autres organes de propulsion furent reconstruits aux usines de Stuttgart, tandis que le radiateur, les systèmes électriques et les joints de caoutchouc étaient changés. La carrosserie fut repeinte en gris argent, l'intérieur refait en cuir rouge avec moquettes rouge assorties ainsi que le ciel de toit en drap beige comme à l'origine. La restauration s'étendit jusqu'aux haut-parleurs d'origine qui furent conservés. L'aspect de la voiture bénéficie également de la présence de très élégantes roues Rudge, option d'époque.

Achetée par l'actuel propriétaire à la vente Bonhams & Brooks du Nürburgring en août 2001 (Lot 122), la 300 SL ne montre aucun signe d'usage bien qu'elle soit régulièrement mise en route et conduite précautionneusement : le compteur d'indique que 850 km depuis la restauration chez Mercedes-Benz. Elle se présente donc en parfait état de fonctionnement et prête à rendre la route, mais il est conseillé à l'acheteur de procéder à un rodage du moteur refait à neuf.

Proposée avec son document d'immatriculation V5 de Swansea (Royaume-Uni), ce superbe exemplaire de ce qui restera probablement comme la voiture de sport la plus emblématique de l'après-guerre est présenté dans un état exceptionnel. Si l'on pense au coût élevé d'une restauration de ce type de supercar à la technique aussi avancée, l'achat d'une voiture déjà restaurée chez Mercedes-Benz ne peut qu'être vivement conseillé.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that we have received confirmation from Mercedes-Benz Classic that this car was supplied new with Rudge wheels. Veuillez noter que nous avons reçu la confirmation de Mercedes-Benz Classic que cette voiture a été fournie neuve avec des roues Rudge.
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL 'Gullwing' Coupé  Chassis no. 1980405500152 Engine no. 1989805500170
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL 'Gullwing' Coupé  Chassis no. 1980405500152 Engine no. 1989805500170
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