<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564

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Lot 104
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe

Sold for US$ 1,875,000 inc. premium
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe
Chassis no. 198.040.5500543
Engine no. 198.980.5500564

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

*Outstanding preserved condition, retaining factory-original paint and interior
*Just two owners from new and in current ownership since 1967
*Matching numbers example factory-fitted with Rudge wheels
*Just over 58,700 miles from new


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 extremely 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 numerous more of the advancements were 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, 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. This prompted the factory to claim it was, "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. These proved to be even more successful from a sales standpoint, with 1,858 units produced.

THE MOTORCAR OFFERED

Hand-built at the Mercedes-Benz works in July of 1955, this exceptional Gullwing was completed exactly as it appears today. The car was painted in the stealth color of DB 40 Black, with the interior completed in code 1079 Red, and has retained these original finishes until this day. According to Mercedes-Benz records, this Gullwing had the factory remark Special Order, and was fitted with the desirable Rudge wheels from the factory. The new Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing was destined for the US market, more specifically Max Hoffmans legendary New York dealership, Hoffman Motors. All of these dates and records are neatly documented in several books, and on the copies of the factory build sheets, which can be found in the car's history file.

The Gullwing's first owner was a local New Yorker, who kept the car until 1967, when he sold the luxurious car to the consignor. Impressively, when adding this up, the car has remained with in the current ownership for over 50 years! When purchased in 1967, the consignor reports that the car was a well-kept automobile, in original condition throughout. At the time, the consignor lived in New York, but relocated to California some decades later, bringing the car with him. It is evident, that he has used it sparingly and always kept it in very good storage. The odometer reads just 58,714 miles today, which matches the condition of the original and preserved car perfectly. Numerous 300SL experts have recently inspected the Gullwing, all utterly impressed by the cars incredible original and pampered condition.

A close look reveals the black exterior paint being largely original throughout. There are light door dings and small imperfections in areas, but all-in-all the factory paint has survived extremely well and should be left just as it is. The red interior—including the beige headliner—is original and shows an absolutely lovely patina. The original ivory-colored steering wheel is in place, as is the original VDO gauges and switch-gear. Chrome and brightwork, as well as lights and lenses, are equally original and preserved, showing very light aging. Furthermore, the factory chassis, body, and paint tags are all original and unaltered. The Rudge wheels are all marked "5/55" (May 1955), perfectly matching the cars completion date at the Mercedes-Benz factory. Even the spare wheel appears to be original, also stamped 5/55, and fitted with a very old, yet lightly used, bias ply tire. Neatly affixed in the trunk is the factory jack. The engine compartment has retained its factory finishes, and, keeping with its authenticity, the engine is the matching numbers unit, which appears to never have been opened up or out of the car.

This exceptional 300SL Gullwing stands out and is among the finest preserved examples Bonhams have ever had the pleasure to offer. This is not a "Barn Find" car, which has been neglected or left out in the elements. This is a well-cared for example, preserved in its original condition. A real "Time-Capsule," ready to be shown in Preservation Class at the most prestigious Concours d'Elegance events around the world. With just over 58,700 miles from new, this Gullwing has only been driven a little more than 1,000 miles a year. The car has seen little use in the past three decades, and a mechanical service is recommended, ensuring proper performance, and safety for the next owner. In current owner ship for more than 50 years, this extremely original Gullwing is a true opportunity for the connoisseur of original, unrestored cars.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note, that close inspection of the car shows some paintwork has been carried out in the original black color. Additionally, this vehicle is titled under the model year 1956 and the title will be in transit.
Contacts
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
<b>1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe</b><br />Chassis no. 198.040.5500543<br />Engine no. 198.980.5500564
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