<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 69
1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE

US$ 1,200,000 - 1,350,000
£ 920,000 - 1,000,000

Quail Motorcar Auction

14 Aug 2020, 11:00 PDT

Los Angeles

1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE
Chassis no. 198.040.5500099
Engine no. 198.980.5500100

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

* Offered from private collector ownership of more than 20 years
* Desirable early Gullwing in iconic livery for model
* Original U.S. New York delivered example
* Copy of Factory Datacard on file


Previewing in Bedford Hills, New York by appointment. Please contact [email protected] for scheduling.


The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing

In 2021, Daimler-Benz will celebrate a remarkable 135th anniversary of their birth, their history is a rich tapestry of engineering innovation, sports competition and refined luxury above all. Across the spectrum of automobiles to have emerged from Benz, Daimler and Mercedes works if there was one single production model which encapsulates those core values and resonates across generations, it would almost certainly be the 'Flügeltürer' or Gullwing of the 1950s.

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

A year after the Gullwing had debuted at the New York Auto Show, car '99' in the sequence was delivered new through to the New York area almost certainly through Hoffman's esteemed Park Avenue dealership which in 1955 was devoted specifically to sell Mercedes. The Frank Lloyd Wright designed building was itself an icon which Mercedes-Benz took over in 1958 and remained as their agency until its sad demise in more recent years. Based on its delivery details and timing, it is just possible that the car may have graced that shop window, before finding its first custodian in March 1955. As supplied this icon of design wore its most popularized paintwork scheme of DB180, Silver Metallic, while its interior mirrored that of some of the Grand Prix cars of the period being in L-1 Gabadine Blue Plaid seats.

History charted through the Gullwing Group Registry sees the car migrate to the West Coast, where it was owned by Carl de Bickere, and later John W. Hamilton of Newport Beach, both from California. In the early 1990s the Gullwing was offered publicly at a Don Williams and Richie Clyne 'World Classic Auction', when it was described as having had a 'recent frame-up restoration including drive train' and having fitted luggage. By 1996 was the property of Daniel Eaton of Paradise Valley, Arizona.

A lifelong fan of the brand, and seduced by the iconic status of this model, the present owner acquired the Gullwing at public auction in April 1999. By then, it had long since lost its factory belly pans and in its previous restoration the factory welted fender 'eyebrows' had been blended directly to the bodywork. Learning of its original paint and upholstery colorway which he preferred to the then red and tan combination, after a few years of ownership he elected to restore the car and return it to its original colors. That work was begun by noted Mercedes-Benz engineer Andrew Bach and ultimately completed by Kent Bain's Automotive Restorations at Stratford, Connecticut. On file are extensive invoices for all the work it received, together with a copy of the factory Mercedes-Benz Datacard, supplied by the Classic Center. From the Datacard, and correspondence with Mercedes-Benz Classic, it is apparent that at some point the gearbox has been replaced with another slightly later '55 unit.

A now 15-year old rebuild has worn well, with the car seeing relatively modest use more for enjoyment than formal touring. It has been shown at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance and also the Greenwich Concours d'Elegance, garnering awards on no fewer than three occasions.

This is a benchmark 300 SL Gullwing, benefiting from an early chassis number, in the archetypal livery for the model and equipped with the appealing options of both plaid seating surfaces and fitted luggage.





Footnotes

  • Special formalities are required to bid on this lot. Contact Client Services at +1 (212) 644 9001 or [email protected] at least 48 hours in advance of the auction. Please also note Online Bidding is not available for this lot.
Contacts
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
<b>1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE</b><br />  Chassis no. 198.040.5500099 <br />Engine no. 198.980.5500100
Auction information

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

Please Note the Buyer's Premium for this auction is as follows:

The final bid (hammer) price of each lot will be subject to a buyer's premium. For MOTOR VEHICLE property the premium is 12% on the first $250,000 of the bid price and 10% on any amount of the bid price exceeding $250,000.

CHARITY LOTS 1 through 6 will not be subject to a buyer's premium.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international transport as well as export licenses please contact the Motorcar Department at [email protected]

Lot symbols
Uplift and storage charges

£25 + VAT uplift and storage at £5 + VAT per lot per day