1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing news, pictures, specifications, and information
Sold for $4,620,000 at 2012 Gooding & Company
If not for ÚS importer Max Hoffman and his passion for a sports coupe based on the highly successful W194 series race cars, the Mercedes-Benz immortal 300 SL line would never have come to production.
The racing success of the factory team was having a positive effect on Mercedes-Benz sales in the ÚS. However, without a car clearly related to the race-winning machines, the marketing advantage of the immensely costly racing effort was limited. Accordingly, Mercedes-Benz management approved the 300 SL project after Mr. Hoffman's firm made a commitment to purchase 1,000 of the cars for ÚS distribution.
Integral to the marketing plan for the groundbreaking new sports car was the expectation that the cars would be used for competition by private owners in order to bolster sales in the showrooms, and the factory ensured that the 300 SL was accepted by the FIA for international competition.
As a result, the production Gullwing could be ordered wîth an all-aluminum body. When chosen, many additional competition upgrades followed suit. A competition camshaft was fitted along wîth stiffer, shorter springs that lowered the car and enhanced peak performance, while racing-specification tires on wider rims promoted better adhesion. Plexiglass windows and vented brake drums were also featured in the package. The cars were nearly 200 pounds lighter than the standard steel-bodied version. In all, just 29 of these aluminum-bodied cars were ordered and built – approximately 2% of the total Gullwing production. This Car
Derived for sport, this aluminum Gullwing did not see competitive use. Completed on April 20, 1955, 5500208 was appropriately finished in metallic silver gray over a blue leather interior. The 300 SL was also outfitted wîth Rudge wheels, the NSL motor and Plexiglas windows per aluminum-build specifications.
On May 27, 1955, the Alloy Gullwing was sent to Rotterdam where it was loaded aboard a Holland America Line ship for transport to New York. Úpon arrival, the Mercedes-Benz distributor sent 5500208 to the West Coast for ultimate delivery to Veron Holz of Bonita, California. The new aluminum-bodied Gullwing would have been an extravagant machine on the roads of San Diego in the late 1950s.
Although the early history of this Gullwing is not known, there is no apparent race record for 5500208. In March 1980, the 300 SL resurfaced in San Diego and was sold through a motorcar locator to Hans Dieter Blatzheim of Bonn, Germany. The purchase price was an astonishing $57,000 for an unrestored car, which the seller most likely assumed was steel. The invoice for the purchase still exists, indicating the alloy chassis number 198.043.5500208.
In need of some attention, the Alloy Gullwing made its way to the well-known restoration shop Hill & Vaughn in Santa Monica, California. Phil Hill and Ken Vaughn had gained a reputation for their high-quality restorations and were frequent winners at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Disassembly of the car began in April 1980, and the car is accompanied by a significant file of numerous invoices and photographs documenting the work performed by Hill & Vaughn.
The invoices identify the completeness of 5500208, as well as its solid state, which was no doubt a benefit of having spent 25 years in Southern California. Some necessary aluminum work was addressed and the meticulous fitting of the doors, hood and deck lid are thoroughly outlined. Additionally, the engine and gearbox were sent to AMG Motorbau in Germany for rebuilding. Subsequently returned to Hill & Vaughn in early 1982, the project was nearing completion. By mid-year, the car was ready for paint and assembly.
For unknown reasons, Herr Blatzheim requested that 5500208 be packed in a sea container and sent to Germany. The car was loaded and loose parts were thoroughly inventoried before shipment in November 1982.
The completion of the restoration was conducted in Germany, but not before the body was stripped and prepared again for paint. Photos dated October 1983 show the bare aluminum skin in outstanding condition, proving straight and showing good panel fit. Further photo documentation shows the restoration and assembly of the chassis and completion of the car in silver wîth gray leather.
In May 1984, the 5500208 was sold to Markus Ahr of Germany. During his ownership, work was performed by Daimler-Benz Aktiengesellschaft including a rebuild of the engine. Herr Ahr kept the car well into the 1990s, at which time work was performed by Kienle Automobiltechnik. Photo documentation shows a rebuild of the transmission, rear end, brakes and suspension. Retaining the silver-over-gray finish, detail work was conducted on gauges and other ancillary components and the project was completed in 1998. Not long after, the Alloy Gullwing was sold to Friedhelm Loh, a noted German collector wîth a passion for significant Mercedes-Benz.
In 2009, Ken McBride of Seattle, Washington, was given the opportunity to buy 5500208. Having had a handful of Gullwings, Mr. McBride appreciated the importance of an Alloy and, for the first time in his many years of collecting, had the chance to own one. Although his collection was significantly diverse, Mr. McBride had always focused on Mercedes-Benz and had acquired a 540 K Special Coupe, a 540 K Cabriolet A and eventually a 380 K Erdmann & Rossi Special Roadster.
After some serious thought, and perhaps a little family persuasion, the Alloy Gullwing was bought for the collection. In the company of a J Duesenberg Murphy Roadster, a Ferrari 410 Superamerica and other significant cars, the 300 SL was more than a notable entry, it was a dream come true for a man who had an Alloy Gullwing high on a short list of cars to own.
In late 2009, Mr. McBride fell ill and the newly acquired Mercedes-Benz took a back seat. At that time, the Gullwing was sent to noted 300 SL restorer Rudi Koniczek at Rudi & Co. for some necessary sorting. Mr. McBride wanted certain aspects of the car corrected, predominantly the shade of silver and the interior. In the months to come, the Alloy Gullwing was stripped to bare metal and repainted in its original silver (DB 180). Necessary body work was conducted and a methodical process was undertaken to ensure proper assembly and fit of the aluminum body. The gray leather interior was removed and the correct blue leather was installed. Some additional mechanical work was conducted, as well as detailing of various components. One deviation from the original was the addition of seat cushions upholstered in plaid, acknowledging the lightweight car's racing alter ego – they are a marvelous touch.
In mid-2011, Mr. Koniczek had finished the restoration but, sadly, Mr. McBride passed away before he could see the final masterpiece. The result was truly spectacular! Shortly after, Mr. McBride's wife Patty and the rest of the McBride family chose to show the Alloy Gullwing at the Kirkland Concours d'Elegance where it rightfully won its class.
The finish of the 300 SL is of the highest level and the car retains a very correct appearance. With a livery that is a tasteful yet bold statement, the quality of the work and attention to detail is obvious and further inspection reveals the purity of this Alloy Gullwing. The original engine remains, correctly stamped NSL, and the body number can be found stamped on the left wheel arch in the engine compartment. Additionally, the Gullwing has belly pans, its chrome Rudge wheels are original, the luggage is properly finished in natural pig skin, the Becker radio is correct, the grille has the proper 'curved star' – the list goes on.
Furthermore, this Alloy Gullwing is accompanied by a tool kit, a knock-off hammer, a jack, comprehensive documentation, the Mercedes-Benz Certificate, an owner's manual, an instruction manual, a spare parts catalogue, a service book and Becker radio manuals.
5500208 is a sensation to drive. Its road manners are what one would expect from any beautifully engineered motorcar. The true excitement, however, is when this supercar comes on cam. With abundant power and torque, and precise gearshift, this Gullwing is simply addictive.
In recent years, these ultra-rare, competition- specification cars have come to be recognized by collectors and enthusiasts for what they have always been – truly the best of the best. They are a tiny group of factory-built, lightweight racers, constructed wîth the express intention of increasing the public visibility of one of the greatest sports cars ever constructed.
Gullwings are routinely acknowledged as favorites in a collection of any size. They are prized for their magnificent engineering and build quality, purity of design and outstanding driving experience. Aluminum-bodied examples – all 29 of which have survived to this day – are very seldom offered for sale.
As one of the most iconic motorcars of all time, it can easily be said that the Alloy Gullwing is the most significant road-going Mercedes-Benz of the post-war era.Source - Gooding & Company
Sold for $770,000 at 2008 RM Auctions
Sold for $1,375,000 at 2011 RM Auctions
Success, in most cases, comes down to being in the right place at the right time. Part of the mystique of Meredes-Benz's 300SL comes down to that fact. It was the right car for the right time. The price almost didn't matter because of it. That's the way it is with most things—if people believe in it, the price, or, all that has to come together to make it happen, will not matter.
When those right moments happen, something, even just one thing, will remain in the minds and memories of those affected. In the case of the 300SL Coupe, it's the doors. True enthusiasts will be able to imagine the lines, the elegance, even the performance of the 300SL. In fact, if somebody describes the beautiful and shapely lines of the 300SL, the true enthusiast will be able to tell it is the 300SL being described. Or, all that has to be said is '300SL' and the elegant design of the Mercedes-Benz will come to mind. But so iconic is the 300SL that almost any everyday person walking down the street will be able to recollect the 300SL if all that is said is, 'It's the car with the gull-wing doors'. A truly remarkable and ground-breaking design is, by definition, one that can cause people to recognize it through description, images or imagination.
Max Hoffman was the Mercedes-Benz importer for the United States. He had taken a step of faith and determined to share his beliefs that a production car version of the 300SL sports-car would be immensely popular. After some initial objections, Hoffman was able to sell the proposition to Daimler-Benz's Board of Directors. He would sell the board on an order for 1,000 examples.
It was less than ten years after the Second World War and many Americans had become fascinated with the smaller European sports cars. They were lighter, got better performance and were much more nimble than many of the American cars of that time.
As the engineers got to work designing and refining the car, many new technological advancements would be employed to set the car apart, but also, to overcome simple practical issues. Unveiled in 1954, the 300SL was truly a technological marvel for its time.
Many car manufacturers of the day were using single, double even triple carburetors to help with fuel flow efficiency and performance. Utilizing success from its sports-car 300SL, Mercedes used a fuel-injection system on its production model. This increased the horsepower of the engine by almost double over a carburetor controlled system. With this system, the 300SL had become the fastest production car in the world at the time.
Some parts of the 300SL's bodywork consisted of steel. However, the majority of the car was made up of aluminum carefully molded and shaped to provide the 300SL its elegant styling. The car's low hoodline and tall rounded fenders sets off the classic contoured look of the SL. The gull-wing doors were incorporated to allow easy entry inside the car despite the tubular frame. Once its passengers climb over the shelf and sit down in the car, the feel of this small and light car, as well as its reputation for fantastic performance becomes readily apparent to the imagination. Sensory overload happens when the car is started. Its 215 bhp 3-liter in-line six-cylinder enabled this beautifully styled car to shed its gentle, elegant persona and let loose. The car could do just as well at the track as on the road. Its 215 bhp and four-speed, fully synchronized transmission help to propel the car from 0 to 60 in around 8 seconds!
Driving the 300SL was not as easy as some other cars of its time. The introduction of new technology meant the 300SL wasn't without its problems, especially because of the motor-driven fuel injection system. But, a classic is still just that. And, while not free of technical issues, the opportunity to drive or own a 300SL makes it still one of the more sought after 'sport-light' cars. In fact, it is one of the most desirable and longed after cars in history.
The 300SL offered at the 2011 RM Auction in Arizona was a specially ordered 300SL destined for New York City in August of 1955. The car underwent an exhaustive restoration, conducted to the highest standards. The interior has undergone a very detailed restoration of its own. Originally, the car's interior was finished in white with blue leather. Since the restoration, the interior was refinished to an all-new and beautiful red leather upholstering. Completed in a graphite grey finish, this 300SL boasts a 215 bhp, 3-liter fuel-injected inline six-cylinder engine and a four-speed manual transmission. It has four-wheel independent suspension. Its suspension comes from wishbones and coil springs and has a swing rear axle. Braking power for this 300SL comes from vacuum-assisted drum brakes at each wheel. Included on the wheels are a set of Rudge wheels. The car even came complete with a matching set of luggage.
Obviously, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL is an iconic car. It has remained on the minds and imaginations of many throughout its existence. Lost perhaps is how truly revolutionary the car was in its day. But, the lasting images in peoples' minds are a worthy testament to the value the car has had on the world since it came into being. The 300SL is so desirable precisely because it is so memorable. Thank you Mr. Hoffman.Sources:
'Buy: Feature Lots (Lot 249: 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Coupe)', (http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=AZ11&CarID=r208). RM Auctions Arizona. http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=AZ11&CarID=r208. Retrieved 5 January 2011.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Mercedes-Benz 300SL', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 14 December 2010, 00:25 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mercedes-Benz_300SL&oldid=402241885 accessed 5 January 2011By Jeremy McMullen
In 1926, Benz & Company and Daimler Motor Company signed an 'Agreement of Mutual Interest,' thus beginning an automobile empire. Prior to merging, both companies experienced success in the realm of European auto racing.
After World War II, the Daimler-Benz factory was in ruins, however, beneath the rubble, many of the factory machines were intact. By spring of 1946, Daimler-Benz resumed manufacture of automobiles and trucks. In the early 1950s, bringing Mercedes back to the exalted position it held in motor sports during the 1930s became a priority. The culmination of that effort is this 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe.
The 300SL began its life as a sedan (the Mercedes 300), was morphed into a race car, and then converted back into a production car. This automotive alchemy was orchestrated by the company's development engineer, Rudi Úhlenhaut.
Úhlenhaut and his team designed an innovative frame consisting of a myriad of small tubes welded together in a very complex pattern. The design of the frame left no room for traditional doors. Race rules required that cars have operational doors, bud did not stipulate how they should open. The resulting 'gullwing' doors are the most distinctive feature of the 300SL Coupe. The aerodynamic body style was described by one critic as having 'the look of power but without brutality.' Indeed, there are no protrusions such as door handles, and the rear view mirrors on this car were post-factory add-ons.
A car described by one enthusiast as being 'as dangerous as romance' could not afford to be slowed down by anything as practical as a door handle. Adventurous drivers could close in on 150 MPH if conditions were optimal, thanks to fuel injection, which was introduced to production cars by the 1954 Mercedes 300SL.
Zsa Zsa Gabor, Ralph Lauren, and Sophia Loren are among the famous owners of the very desirable 300SL Gullwing Coupe.Source - The Frick Car and Carriage
This car is the first of only 29 Alloy 300SL coupes produced. The car came fitted with a lighter body and windows, along with a higher performance engine, special gearing, racing suspension, larger brakes and quick-change wheels.
This low mileage alloy coupe looks exactly as it did at Raleigh, NC, in 1955 for the first and only NASCAR Sports Car Race. Carl Kiekhaefer, of the Mercury Marine Racing Team, owned the car and he used his best driver, Tim Flock, for this race. NASCAR Champion Tim Flock lead the entire race and crossed the finish line well ahead of the rest of the field. Since this was the only NASCAR Sports Car Race ever held, this car is the original and only championship NASCAR Sportscar.
This win is always noted in any history of Tim Flock who was inducted into the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame in 1991.
A Lovely Lady with Bolted-on Eyebrows Coupe
By 1951 Daimler-Benz had recovered enough from World War II to establish project W194 and raid the 300 sedan parts bin to develop nine cars for the 1952 racing season. With these cars, Mercedes-Benz achieved victory in the 1952 sports car manufacturer's championship.
Max Hoffman, the American distributor, convinced Mercedes to develop the model into a commercial road car. The result, introduced in 1954, was the 300 SL coupe, often referred to as the 'Gullwing' because of its unique doors. (Americans actually preferred the roadster version which followed the coupe in production.) The 300 SL road car retained many characteristics of the original race car, and was exceptionally competitive on the track. In the 1955 Mille Miglia, a factory-prepared car was driven to GT Class 1st place by American driver John Fitch.
The car shown car be identified as an early 1955 version because the 'eyebrows' over the front wheels are bolted on, rather than stamped as on integral part of the fender. The only option is the very rare set of Rudge knockoff-type wheels. This car has been in the Chicago area since the early 1970's. It was acquired four years ago by its present owner, who just finished an extensive, all-inclusive restoration back to original condition.
Sold for $726,000 at 2007 RM Auctions
In 2007 this 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing was brought to the Monterey Sports & Classic Car Auction presented by RM Auctions, where it had an estimated value of $550,000-$650,000. It was offered without reserve. It is finished in silver with a black leather interior. This vehicle was order number 664 136 and was completed on June 10th of 1955, upon which it was shipped to Mercedes-Benz Distributors, Inc on June 21st of 1955. The exterior color remains as the original color, DB 180 Silver Gray Metallic. It is a numbers matching car still outfitted with the same four-speed manual gearbox and six-cylinder overhead cam engine as it left the factory. There was much interest in this vehicle and bidding reflected this desire. The high end of the estimated value was $650,000 and bidding soon surpassed those estimates before settling at $726,000 including buyer's premium.By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2007
Probably best known for its 'gullwing' doors, the 300 SL is one of Mercedes most well known automobiles. It's powerful six-cylinder engine helped to push the horsepower to well over 200 and would be its reason for success in an accelerated racing era and would also be the fastest production car of its time. Because of the smaller sized frame, the engine had to be squeezed to make room, which of course would directly effect the interior space. To help with this over-all problem, a folding steering wheel was installed which made it easier for the driver to enter and exit the vehicle. Exterior colors such as black, blue, and red proved to be most successful, but the default color was the ever-popular silver metallic. The 300 SL's performance would undoubtedly be at its best, with a unique tubular frame that withstood fierce driving styles. Helping with handling, its weight would be just under 2,850 pounds. The gullwing SL has become a very sought after collectors piece, with some buyers paying over a half million dollars.Kyle McMullen
This Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing was introduced in 1954 when only 146 units were produced.
This 1955 model is powered by an overhead-cam, fuel-injected, inline, 183 cubic-inch (3.0-liter) 6-cylinder engine developing 190 horsepower. The engine is coupled to a 4-speed manual transmission and can go from 0-60 mph in 7.2 seconds with a top speed of 152 miles per hour.
The chassis gave the car strength and lightness ('SL' stands for 'Sports Light'), but there was a problem: an essential part of the frame lay right where the door hinge in a conventional car would have been. The solution: put the hinge on the roof and let the door swing up.
In 1957, it was the end of the line for the Gullwing, and it took its place in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Max Hoffman, who also persuaded Porsche to build its Speedster and BMW it 507, persuaded Mercedes-Benz to build the 300SL Gullwing. Austrian-born Hoffman was the driving force behind the importation of interesting European cars in the early 1950s. Based in New York, his engine was boundless, his good taste infinite (both his house and Jaguar showroom had been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) and his handshake the only bond necessary.
The current owner purchased this 1955 Mercedes-Benz 'Gullwing' 300SL in 1958 and used it while dating his now wife of 48 years. They drove the car to Carmel in 1960 on their honeymoon and returned from Oregon each August to the Monterey Peninsula.
High bid of $375,000 at 2009 RM Auctions. (did not sell)
This 300SL Coupe was purchased new from dealer Heinz Zegke of Spokane, Washington by Ed Atchinson. It was then sold to a doctor in Great Falls, Montana. It would remain in his care of only a short period of time before it was sold to Mr. Waldenberg of Great Falls, who also kept it for a short time. It was sold, now showing about 20,000 miles on the odometer, to Mr. Curt Hanson of Portland, Oregon in July of 1966. It would remain in storage from 1977 until November of 1981. When it was brought out of storage, it was given a full restoration, which was completed in July of 1982. From there, it was used very sparingly and shown at a few events where it was always trailered. It is a multiple-award winner including a Best of Show honors that it earned at the 1982 Olympia Concours d'Elegance and the 1982 Chico Concours d'Elegnace. It came in second at the 1984 Forest Grove Concours. It won its class between 1982 and 1984 at the Modesto, Hillsborough, OSU Corvallis and Forest Grove Concours events. It was given a 'Distance Trophy' at the 1982 Oakland Invitational Concours and a People's Choice Award in 1983 at the Exotic Sports Car Show in Portland, Oregon.
It was later shipped to Switzerland where it became part of a automotive collection and museum and did not see any road use for the next fifteen years. The present owner purchased the car twelve years ago and shipped it to London. Since that time, it has been stripped down, repainted and brought back to concours-quality condition. It is finished in white and has a red leather interior. Over the past decade it has accumulated a mere 1,000 miles.
There were just 867 300SL Coupes built in 1955 and few remain in modern times. This example is powered by a six-cylinder engine that displaces 2996cc and produces 215 horsepower. There is a four-speed manual transmission, four-wheel independent suspension, and four-wheel drum brakes.
In 2009, this Dual-Ghia Convertible was offered for sale at the Automobiles of Amelia Island auction presented by RM Auctions. It was expected to sell for $475,000 - $550,000. Bidding reached $375,000 but failed to satisfy the cars reserve. The lot was left unsold.By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2009
The 300SL is a very rare car and fortunately for enthusiasts, there are a few tributes, or replica gullwings that were well constructed in recent years.
Anton 'Tony' Ostermeier ran a shop in Gardena, California called Gullwing Car Company. From that location, many well-made, hand crafted gullwings were created. The cars were built on a modern 300E chassis, featured an updated drivetrain, suspension, and brakes that made for a very usable street car. Molds were made from an original 300 SL Gullwing, ensuring accuracy. The panels were made of aluminum reinforced with aircraft epoxy/fiberglass and steel.
The parts crafted by Tony were so accurate and of high quality that they were ultimately purchased and used on authentic 300SL coupes and roadsters. Some parts were even sold to Mercedes-Benz in Germany.
The running gear and suspension were borrowed from the E-class Mercedes 300E produced from 1989 to 1993. Most of the cars built were shipped to Japan and Germany, and only a few made it to the United States. In total, it is believed that only 50 'replicas' were created. They had full leather interior and air conditioning. The 3-liter six-cylinder engine produced 177 horsepower and was mated to an automatic transmission. There were four-wheel disc brakes and a wheelbase that measured 110.2-inches.
In 2009, this 300SL Gullwing Coupe Replica was offered for sale at the Houston Classic Auction in Seabrook, Texas presented by Worldwide Auctioneers. It was estimated to sell for $125,000 - $150,000. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for $120,000, plus buyer's premium.By Daniel Vaughan | May 2009
This 300SL Gullwing was originally purchased by Clifford S. Heinz, Jr., the grandson of Henry J. Heinz, founder of Heinz Foods. The SL stands for 'Sport Light.'
The Gullwing is powered by an overhead-cam, fuel-injected, inline, 183 cubic-inch, six-cylinder engine developing 190 horsepower. This car is capable of 0-60 mph in 7.2 seconds and has a top speed of 152 mph. It is fitted with a four-speed manual transmission. It has rack-and-pinion steering, front independent/rear swing axle suspension with four-wheel finned drum brakes. This 2,860-pound vehicle sold for $12,000 in 1955.
The beauty of the Mercedes-Benz Gullwing earned such fans as Elvis Presley and Sophia Loren.
The current owners purchased this vehicle in January of 2008.
This first owner of this unique Mercedes 300SL Coupe was Adrian Conan Doyle, the youngest son of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes mysteries. His comfortable royalty income allowed Adrian to dabble in racing in the 1930s with Bugattis, Delages, and a Mercedes-Benz SSK. In the post-war years, Mr. Doyle turned his attention to Ferraris and this 300SL. This Gullwing was the only one delivered in this 'silver violet' color (DB377). In later years, the car found its way to California, repainted white. During a full body-off restoration by Paul Russell and Company, the original silver violet was found under the headliner and dashboard to enable a perfect color match. This restoration was completed in 1999.
The production version of the 300 SL Gullwing was introduced at the 1954 New York International Motor Sports Show. 1954 was the first year for the Gullwing and this example carries the S/N 4500016.
This low-slung chassis gave the car strength and lightness ('SL' stands for 'Sport Light') but there was a problem; an essential part of the frame lay right where the door hinge in a conventional car would have been. The solution: put the hinge on the roof and let the door swing up. It was nothing like anything anyone had ever seen before.
This was the first production automobile to employ fuel injection. This car is powered by an overhead-valve, in-line 6-cylinder, 183 cubic inch, (3-liter) engine developing 190 horsepower coupled to a 4-speed manual transmission. The car is equipped with rack-and-pinion steering, front independent/rear swing axle suspension and 4-wheel finned drum brakes. It has a top speed of 152 mph and will travel from 0-60 mph in 7.2 seconds. The car weights 2,869 pounds.
The Mercedes 300SL Gullwing was owned by such fans as Elvis Presley and Sophia Loren.
This 300SL, the 18th of the 29 lightweight coupes, was completed on the 29th of June 1955. It was destined for the Mercedes-Benz distributor in New York and later Foreign Motors Boston. The car stayed in Massachusetts through several owners until traded in on a new 230SL in 1965. A young staff mechanic, Joe Tompkins, managed to talk the Foreign Motors owner Tom Mix into consigning a note to buy the 'trade-in' from the used car department. He kept the car his whole life. For four decades, Joe raced this car at tracks around the east and then prepared it for a successful Bonneville class record run on the salt flats in 1990. Joe passed away in 2007. The present owner commissioned a complete restoration by Paul Russell and Company, which was completed in March 2010.
High bid of $460,000 at 2010 RM Auctions. (did not sell)
This example is the 32nd 300SL built and was delivered new to Zurich, Switzerland. The original engine was rebuilt by the factory in the 1970s and updated with a newer oil system. Mr. Steve Levy of Riverwoods, Illinois purchased the car in 1987 and kept it for a short time, selling it in 1988. During his ownership, he had the car stripped to bare metal and repainted to its original 'db180' silver by restorer Skip McCabe. Dave Twitchell serviced the fuel injection system. A show-quality restoration was completed in the late 1980s, and then put on the show circuit where it was a multiple award winner.
The car has had little use since its restoration. It has been well maintained and carefully stored. The silver paint and red leather upholstery (the way it left the factory).
In 2010, this 300SL was offered for sale at the Vintage Motor Cars of Meadow Brook event presented by RM Auctions. The car was estimated to sell for $475,000 - $575,000. Bidding reached $460,000 but was not enough to satisfy the car's reserve. It would leave the auction unsold.By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2010
Sold for $550,000 at 2010 RM Auctions
Sold for $632,500 at 2012 RM Auctions
The 300SL was the first Mercedes to be introduced in the United States before it was shown in Germany. It was unveiled on February 6th of 1954 in New York. It had a multi-tube space frame construction and a fully-independent suspension. Power was from a fuel-injected, 240 horsepower, 3-liter straight six with dry sump lubrication. Top speed was in the neighborhood of 150 mph and could race from zero-to-sixty in 8.8 seconds, making it the fastest production automobile of its time.
Hoffman's original request was for 1,000 examples. The demanded far exceeded the initial request, with production of the semi-hand-built car reaching 1,400 units.
This 300SL is painted red with a tan leather interior. The odometer reads just 77,000 miles. It has factory original fitted luggage with color that matches the interior. There is a Becker Le Mans radio and the original jack and a complete reproduction tool roll.
In 2010, the car was offered for sale at the Sports & Classics of Monterey presented by RM Auctions. It was estimated to sell for $450,000 - $550,000 and offered without reserve. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $687,500 inclusive of buyer's premium.By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2010
Sold for $676,500 at 2011 RM Auctions
Max Hoffman requested 1,000 300 SL Gullwings but production soon exceeded that figure of the semi-hand-built car. Production reached 1,400 units. The 300SL Coupe was discontinued after the 1957 model year and remains one of the most coveted of all sports cars ever built.
There were 67 examples of the 300SL Coupes produced by Daimler between August and December 1954, accounting for 12% of total production.
This example was shipped new to the Mercedes distributor in New York on December 30th of 1954. It was finished in Medium Red and delivered new with Rudge wheels. The car is now finished in metallic silver-grey with red leather upholstery and still rides on Rudge wheels.
In 2011, the car was offered for sale at the St John auction presented by RM Auctions. It was estimated to sell for $650,000 - $750,000. As bidding came to a close, the car was sold for $676,500, including buyer's premium.By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2011
This 1955 alloy-bodied 300 SL is the fourth produced in a limited run of 29 aluminum-alloy bodied 300 SLs designed for competition and sold to privateer racers. This car was delivered to Formula 1 champion Juan Manuel Fangio, who requested the car be equipped with Dunlop racing tires and the tallest available final drive ratio, allowing a top speed of 161 mph. Fangio took delivery of this car in May 1955 and raced it in the grueling Ciudad de Tres Arroyos Endurance Race that year finishing second overall. Fangio's ownership of this car was brief, but he later raced it in several historic events in the 1970s. Fangio was reunited with the car at his induction into the Motoring Hall of Fame at the San Diego Automotive Museum.
Sold for $847,000 at 2013 RM Auctions
Mercedes-Benz produced 1,371 steel-bodied and 29 alloy bodied 300SL Gullwing Coupes between 1954 and 1957.
In 1952, Mercedes-Benz participated in the 2,000 mile road race called the La Carrera Panamericana. 92 entries began the race and by the end, 53 were eliminated. It was an extremely dangerous and grueling adventure. Mercedes-Benz finished in 1-2-3. Unfortunately, John Fitch was disqualified which left Mercedes-Benz with a 1-2 victory. Within a short period of time, Mercedes-Benz received 400 orders for the 155 mph 300SL Gullwing Coupe.
The La Carrera was only the fifth race the 300SLs had entered. The gullwing coupes placed 2nd in the Mille Miglia, 1-2-3 in the Berne, Switzerland Sports Car Race, 1-2 at Le Mans, 1-2-3-4 at the Nürburgring, and 1-2 in Mexico. Since the car had accomplished Mercedes-Benz's vision for the car, the La Carrera was actually an afterthought. They had planned to cease 300SL production before the November race. However, the company's importer in Mexico City and U.S. distributor Max Hoffman in New York pleaded for an entry.
125 of the first 166 300SLs built in 1954 were sold through Hoffman's New York and Los Angeles dealership. This was the first time a Mercedes was introduced abroad instead of in Germany, making it clear that the United States was the target audience.
In 1954, a Cadillac Eldorado sold new for $5,738. The 300SL retailed for a staggering $6,940, almost 20 percent higher.
After the disaster at Le Mans in 1955, Mercedes-Benz withdrew from racing. Privateers, however, continued to flock to the tracks with their 300SLs, and in many situations, the factory was happy to help them. John Fitch and Olivier Gendebien won their class in the 1955 Mille Miglia, then Gendebien won the Liege-Rome-Liege and Alpine rallies. W.I. Tak won the Tulip Rally, Werner Engle won the European Touring Car Championship, Armando Zampiero won the Italian Sports Car Driver's Championship, and Paul O'Shea won the SCCA's D Production Class in the U.S. In 1956, Prince Metternich finished 6th in the Mille Miglia, Shock and Moll won the Acropolis and Sestriere rallies and the European Rally Championship, Stirling Moss was 2nd in the Tour de France, and Willy Mairesse won the Liege-Rome-Liege race.
This particular 300SL Coupe is a steel bodied, 'matching-numbers' example that was built in August of 1955. It is one of the earliest cars to be fitted with the 'curved' three-pointed star in the grille. The doors, hood, and truck are comprised of aluminum while the rest of the body is made from steel. The engine features a Bosch mechanical fuel injection system, and the engine is canted about 30 degrees to enable the hood line to be brought down.
To make the most of the rear space in the interior of the car, there is fitted luggage. The streamlined belly pans, which assisted the car to its top speed, also serve a function purpose by containing the engine heat.
This example was owned until 1964 by a body shop mechanic at Loeber Mercedes-Benz in Lincolnwood, and then passed to Josef L. Klingler. Klingler campaigned the car in several SCCA vintage events from 1987–1989. Later, Mr. Steven Schultz acquired the Gullwing in 2004. Schultz kept the car until 2012, when he sold it to the present owner.
The car has recently been disassembled and repainted in red. The chrome has been replated. The odometer currently shows 53,943 miles. It has its black leather interior and fitted luggage, and is also equipped with the factory belly pan. There is a Nardi steering wheel, correct Becker Mexico radio, four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes, and a four-speed manual gearbox.
In 2013, this car was offered for sale at RM Auctions Scottsdale, Arizona sale. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $847,000 inclusive of buyer's premium.By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2013
The Mercedes-Benz 300SL was introduced in 1954 as a two-seat sports coupe with distinctive gull wing doors and later offered as an open roadster.
This model was based on the 1952 Mercedes-Benz 300SL type W194 racecar. New York importer Max Hoffman suggested the idea of a toned-down W194 tailored to affluent performance enthusiasts in the booming American market. It was introduced at the 1954 New York Auto Show. The '300' in its name refers to the 3.0L straight six-cylinder engine, and 'SL' stands for 'Sport Leicht' (Sport Light). Just 1,400 examples of this coupe were built, with a costly and complex tubular space frame. This frame necessitated a high entry point, an engineering challenge met with the now-famous gull wing doors.
Aside from the doors, the 300SL was best known for the first-ever direct fuel injection on a production car, and world's fastest top speed. The coupe was available from March 1955 to 1957, the roadster from 1957 to 1963. The engine produces 212 horsepower, and features a SOHC mated to a four-speed manual transmission. Front suspension is double wishbone with coil springs, and a high pivot swing axle is in the rear. Drum brakes are on four wheels.
This example was originally built in January of 1955. It is a meticulously restored example, completed in the correct colors. It features factory-installed Rudge 'knock off' wheels, leather interior, and a Becker 'Mexico' automatic radio.
Sold for $2,530,000 at 2014 RM Auctions
Chassis number 198.040.550368 was completed on May 31, 1955 and delivered as a special order on July 6, 1955, by Max Hoffman's distributors in New York. The car was originally finished in Ivory (DB 608) with an interior in Red (1079) leather, the same color it wears today. It came equipped with chrome Rudge knock-off wheels. The original owner was reportedly Buddy Champlin, the son of Oklahoma oil baron H.H. Champlin. After 28 years, in 1973, Mr. Champlin's 300 SL was listed for sale at $12,000 by the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Tulsa. Mr. David Rogers, a local individual, purchased the car for $10,000. He owned it for a very short time before passing it to Bob Boone, an Oklahoma University student. Boone, in turn, traded the 300 SL to Rennsport Werkstatt, of Tulsa.
Rennsport Werkstatt fitted new pistons, bearings, and chains on the 300 SL, and the valves, water and oil pumps, injection pump, and fuel injectors were all rebuilt. New motor mounts and heating and cooling system pipes were installed, along with a new clutch disc, pressure plate, and throwout bearing. The interior was re-upholstered in NOS factory leather, which was still available in 1974. At the time of the work, the odometer showed approximately 76,400 original miles.
David Jahimiak purchased the car from Rennsport Werkstatt, who owned the car until 1997, when it was acquired at the Door County Gull Wing Group's annual convention by its present owner. During Mr. Jahmiak's two-decade-long ownership, only about 200 miles were added to the odometer.
The car spent nearly six months being re-commissioned, with virtually every mechanical component disassembled and inspected.
Since owning this 300 SL Gullwing, the owner has driven around 20,000 miles. It still has the factory Rudge wheels and original belly pans, as well as its correct trunk mat, tire gauge, tool kit and folio, complete owner's document case with the full set of manuals, official dealer service manual and parts book, jack and wheel chock, and red side-window folios. It has a period-correct Nardi steering wheel, and correct red leather fitted luggage.By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2014
Sold for $1,375,000 at 2015 Bonhams
Widely regarded as the greatest sportscar of the 1950s, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Coupe, with its iconic gullwing doors, established a precedent for the post-war sportscar. Immediately recognizable, the 300SL set the imagination aflame. It was, in many respects, the ultimate vehicle in which to chauffeur someone around. What about heads of state?
Conceived in 1952, the first iteration of the coupe went on to victory at Le Mans. Rudolf Uhlenhaut realized there was still plenty of room for improvement and he would go to work with Joseph Muller designing a lighter-weight version of the victorious Le Mans car. The result would be the iconic gullwing doors and a shape that would be recognizable the world over for generations to come.
Initially, the car was being developed for racing purposes. However, a decision would be made to build a sports car for the public based upon the techniques and advancements made from motor racing.
The coupe's design was well founded. First, the SLs would achieve victory at Le Mans and in a number of other races. Then came the 300SLR. Victories at some of the most grueling events in the world only solidified the reputation of the 300 series sports car.
Chassis 0545 would be completed in July of 1955 and finished in Fire Brigade Red, or Feuerwehrrot.
With an interior trimmed in red and red plaid cushions, this car was not easily overlooked, just as the 300SL was not a car that could be easily mistaken.
Rare among the gullwing coupes, this particular example was not destined for dealerships in the United States. Instead, the car would make its way to London. Besides the bright interior and exterior finish nearly every aspect of the car would be specially-ordered. This would include instruments in English, different rear axle ratio and other little details.
The car's first owner wouldn't be run-of-the-mill either. In the mid-1950s there was little concern for demographics and reputation with classes. This would be proven when The Right Honourable Lord Terence O'Neill, Baron O'Neill of the Maine became the car's first owner.
Serving in the Irish Guards during World War II and serving as a politician in Northern Ireland afterward, O'Neill was already serving as Prime Minister when he made the purchase.
The car would remain with the Prime Minister for a handful of years before it went on to be sold to a Mr. Lee and then a Mr. Handel. Then, at some point in the 1970s, the Mercedes would make its way to the United States and Los Angeles resident Max Spitznagel. Soon afterward, Friedrich H. Wegener would purchase the coupe. At the time, the car retained its interior and exterior finish. However, the car was in need of some repair. Wegener would never get around to it and the car would sit idle until 2005 when restorer Scott Grundfor obtained the car.
Immediately a full restoration would commence. An exhaustive history file would be created documenting the entire process. Over a year and a half of time and effort would go into nearly every square inch of the car. When completed, the mechanicals of the car would be sorted and the Fire Brigade Red finish would remain.
A great deal of the car remains highly original. The drivetrain, engine and even the plaid seat cushions all remain. Period correct luggage have been added while all of the books, history file, tools and other specific details all help to complete the picture.
Iconic and immediately recognizable, 0545 remains a fine example of the famed Mercedes-Benz. Offered at Bonhams' 2015 Arizona auction, the Mercedes-Benz would be a highlight of the event eventually earning a sale price of $1,375,000, inclusive of the buyer's premium.By Jeremy McMullen
The Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing story begins with the 1952 Carrera Panamericana, when a W194 300SL coupe driven by Karl Kling won that grueling road race. Max Hoffman, the impresario of imported cars on New York's Park Avenue approached Mercedes with the idea of producing a road-going version of the 300SL to appeal to sporting drivers in America. Hoffman proposed a modified W194 that kept the roof-hinged doors and the single overhead camshaft straight-six engine but had a more civilized style. The engineers at Mercedes-Benz added the first direct mechanical fuel injection system ever offered in a production engine. Introduced in February at the 1954 New York Auto Show, the 300SL was an instant sensation; the world's first postwar supercar was born. Gullwings are often silver, but this example was ordered with an unusual grey-silk-gloss finish and a turquoise leather interior.
Mercedes-Benz built just twenty-nine aluminum-bodied Gullwings. This example was ordered new by Rene Wassermann of Basel, Switzerland. Mr. Wasserman ordered his new alloy Gullwing with many special options, including special high-gloss white paint, a red leather interior, a sport suspension, two-piece matching luggage, sealed-beam headlights, and instruments in English. The car was completed on October 5th of 1955. Mr. Wasserman opted to pick the car up himself and drive it back to his home in Switzerland. It is not known when Mr. Wasserman sold the car, but by the early 1960s it had been exported to the United States and was in the care of its second owner, Jerome Seavey, of Chicago, followed by John K. Scattergood III, a principal at Blenheim Motors, located in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. The next owner, also of Pennsylvania, was Keystone State politician and enthusiast Senator Theodore Newell Wood. He represented the 20th District of Luzerne, Susquehanna, Pike, Wayne, and Wyoming counties in the Pennsylvania State Senate. He also founded the Brynfan Tyddyn Road Races, which were held from 1952 to 1956.
Ownership of the Gullwing later passed through Bill Kontes and Joe Marchetti, before being acquired by Leslie Barth in 1983. Mr. Barth retained the car until 1989. The next owner was Swedish businessman and collector Hans Thulin, who later sold it to a German collector, who commissioned to Kienle Automobiltechnik in Stuttgart, Germany to perform a full restoration. Upon completion, the car was repainted in traditional Mercedes-Benz silver and re-trimmed in its original color of red leather.
The car passed through a few more caretakers before coming into the care of its current owner. Currently, the odometer displays just 2,481 kilometers, presumably since Kienle's restoration.
There were 1,400 steel-bodied examples built, and just 29 alloy bodied examples. Making this car even more rare are the highly desirable options and accessories, including the Sonderteile engine, sport suspension, Rudge knock-off wheels, and a two-piece luggage set.By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2015
The Mercedes-Benz 'SL Gullwing' was the fastest production car of its day. This example is an early model as the SL grand touring car was introduced in 1954. Though later offered in roadster form, it is the Gullwing that is most distinctive and recognized as a true sports touring automobile. While it was one of the most desirable cars of its time - sought out by the sporting crowd and wealthy, it has remained a sought after sports car today and is highly collectible.
Maybe not as well known, these cars won a number of races in the early 1950's. In fact, they raced at Le Mans, the Mille Miglia and the La Carrera Panamericana with great success. They were piloted by such famous drivers as John Fitch and Sir Stirling Moss.
The standard Gullwing had 215 horsepower utilizing a six-cylinder engine with Bosch mechanical fuel injection. They were mechanically quite complex for 1955. The car could deliver a top speed in excess of 160 miles per hour. The SL moniker referred to 'Sport Light', reflecting the use of tubular-steel and lightweight construction.
This car has received a recent thorough restoration and is shown with the original fitted luggage. The current owner has driven this car through 48 states.
The current owner purchased this 'Gull Wing' in 1983. It was restored and attended the 1986 Mercedes-Benz 100 Year Anniversary Celebration at Monterey and Laguna Seca Race track. In 1994 it was set up for vintage racing and campaigned throughout the country. In 2001, it was entered at Speed Week on the Bonneville Salt Flats. A serious case of 'Salt Fever' resulted in a 15 year assault on the F/GT record. In August 2016 a Mercedes M104 sedan engine built by Roush's Competition Engines was installed. A new F/GT record of 190.759 mph was achieved.
This Gullwing was the inspiration for its original owner, Ernie Spitzer, to found the Gullwing Club of America in 1961. Ernie owned and maintained his car from 1955 to 2012 while keeping fastidious records regarding maintenance and mileage which now shows 34,000+ miles. The car's interior, engine, drivetrain and chassis are all original. Only the exterior paint has been repainted in its original color of DB180 Silver.
With a top speed of 130-155 mph, depending on the axle ratio, the 300SL was one of the fastest vehicles of the 1950's. Its performance, design, reputation, and futuristic Gullwing door's were all responsible for the success of the vehicle. The 'SL' represented 'Sport Leicht' or 'Sport Light'.
An American Max Hoffman is partly responsible for the mass-production of the 300SL. He had urged Mercedes-Benz to create the vehicle for the American market. In 1954, the vehicle was officially presented to the world at the New York Auto Show. This was not its first appearance. It had been raced in several international events that included Mexico's Carrera Panamerican road race, Berne, Nurburgring, and the Mille Miglia. Prototypes had been entered in the 1952 24-hours of Le Mans where they were victorious. These successes on the race track, including endurance runs, guaranteed a reliable, fast, performance machine.
In 1955, the famous Stirling Moss drove a 300 SLR to victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia where he averaged a speed of 157.6 km/h for 1,600 km. (97.9 mph for 994 miles). A 300 SLR was leading the 24 hours of Le Mans when it was withdrawn from the race. A horrible accident had occurred where a car had killed 82 spectators during the race.
The 300 SL was powered by a fuel-injected, overhead-cam, six-cylinder engine and produced around 215 horsepower at 6200 RPM. It was the first vehicle to ever use fuel-injection with a gasoline powered engine. The large drum brakes, independent suspension, and four-speed manual transmission helped give this vehicle super-car status. The silver color was by far the most popular. Other color options available were dark blue and black. Leather interior was optional with cloth upholstery being standard equipment.
The Gullwing or butterfly-wing doors were well received by owners and spectators. They added a distinctive quality that could not be found in any other vehicle at the time. The Mercedes 300SL was first a race car. It was built using a tubular space-frame chassis and conceived by DBAG's chief developing engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut. In an effort to keep the vehicle as light as possible and to retain the necessary strength, Gullwing doors were used. The doors were not without their problems though. Getting into and out of the vehicle was rather difficult. Due to the doors, the vehicle was proned to leaking and difficult to repair. As a result, after 1,400 examples had been produced, the Gullwing doors were replaced by the 1957 roadster. The roadster with its conventional doors, updated suspension, and convertible roof proved to be more popular than the previous design. More than 1,800 roadsters were sold.
Disc brakes were added in 1961 as was the alloy block.
Throughout the seven year production of the 300SL, the car endured major changes both mechanically and aesthetically. Throughout it all, it retained its race-breed heritage and super car status.
By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2010
The Mercedes-Benz 300 was produced from 1951 through 1958 and is one of the most graceful and classic creations of the post-World War II era. The style was both classic and modern and built to high standards. They were constructed from fine materials using the latest in technology and achieving minimal weight with a high degree of strength.
The 300 was built on a traditional body-on-frame construction as many other marque's, including most of the Mercedes-Benz line, had switched to unit-body construction. The body-on-frame construction was ideal for maintaining a high level of quality for vehicles produced in limited quantities. The front end was suspended in place through the use of an independent suspension with A-arms and coil springs. The rear was the tried-and-true swing axle with coil springs.
Under the bonnet was a 2996-cc six-cylinder engine with Bosch mechanical fuel injection that produced 175 horsepower. Considering the modest wheelbase size and the overall low weight of the vehicle, the 175 horsepower was more than enough to carry these custom-built vehicles at highway speeds with little effort. The car was fast, luxurious, safe, and comfortable.
From November of 1951 through March of 1962, there were 11,430 examples of the Mercedes 300 constructed. Most were built atop of a 120-inch wheelbase and with four-door configuration. Just over 700 were convertible sedans.
The 300 had been introduced at the Frankfurt Auto Show. Mercedes-Benz selected the Paris Auto Show to introduce the next iteration of the 300-Series, the 300S. This was a much sportier version that rode on a shortened, 114.2-inch, wheelbase and built in 2-door open and closed configuration. The engine was a multi-carbureted unit that produced just over 160 SAE horsepower.
The Mercedes-Benz 300S was a very fast automobile that still retained luxury, comfort, and style. Built in very limited quantities, it was an exclusive automobile.
Production of the 300S lasted from 1952 through April of 1958 with a total of 760 examples being constructed.
The final iteration of the 300-Series was the 300SC, which made its appearance at the 1955 Paris Auto Show. It was given a detuned version of the 300SL's Bosch mechanical fuel-injected engine and a new 'low-pivot' swing axle rear suspension.
By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2007
Eternal youth is a miracle bestowed on only a small number of cars, and the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL coupe is one of this elite group. The Stuttgart-based brand unveiled its new sports car in February 1954 at the International Motor Sports Show in New York, and in so doing lit the fuse for an icon of the automotive world. With its flat, graceful body, the 300 SL had lost nothing of its freshness even as the millennium drew to a close and was voted 'Sports car of the Century' in 1999. 'Gullwing' doors provided that essential touch of inspiration, opening up towards the sky to reveal a tightly sculptured interior. The history of the 300 SL is inextricably linked wîth the life of an influential admirer. American importer Maximilian E. Hoffman it was who urged Mercedes-Benz to build a road car in the image of its racing coupe, the start of production in 1954 providing a sweet fruit for his endeavors. The assembly lines may have waved goodbye to the last of the only 1,400 units of the 300 SL coupe ever made in 1957, but the spirit of this extraordinary car most certainly lives on.
From the race-track to the road
The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL was conceived initially as a purpose-built racing sports car (W 194). In 1952, the coupe notched up an impressive record of success in the year's major races. At the Grand Prix in Bern the 300 SL sealed a clean sweep of the podium places, an awesome performance backed up by a one-two finish ahead of a stunned field in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Nürburgring duly yielded another one-two-three, and the new Mercedes racing sports car also claimed victory in the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico. It all added up to a majestic return to motor sport for Mercedes-Benz, picking up where the brand had left off during a highly successful period before the Second World War.
Although there were initially no plans to send the 300 SL into series production, the Daimler-Benz Board had been left wîth the words of Maximilian ('Maxi') Hoffman ringing in their ears. The official importer of Mercedes-Benz cars into America campaigned tirelessly for a sports car to offer his well-heeled clientele, and the 300 SL racer fitted the bill perfectly. After lengthy deliberations, the green light was given for series production of the road-trim 300 SL (W 198), as well as a smaller, open-top sports car, the 190 SL (W 121).
The two models were due to celebrate their premieres less than six months after the Board had granted the project their approval. The occasion was the International Motor Sports Show taking place in New York from February 6 –14, 1954 and at the time America's most important auto show. The engineers rose to the challenge of their race against the clock, and the 300 SL and its smaller brother, the 190 SL, were ready to receive the acclaim of the admiring crowds. Series production began in Sindelfingen in August 1954 and the price was fixed at 29,000 Marks – a quite enormous sum at the time, especially when you compared the new model alongside the Mercedes-Benz 170 Vb – on sale at 7,900 Marks. The body
The body of the 300 SL was developed wîth the primary aim of cutting aerodynamic drag to a minimum. The result was a streamlined form wîth few adornments, a car which adhered faithfully to its design brief and which has retained its freshness and allure to the present day. Wonderfully proportioned and extremely dynamic, it was as if the 300 SL – surging forward on its wheels – had been cut form a single mold.
The new sports car was a real crowd-puller, thanks in no small measure to its wonderfully charismatic 'gullwing' doors. Rather than serving merely as a stylistic gimmick, they represented the central element of the 300 SL design, the ultimate example of necessity as the mother of invention. The car's aluminum skin was stretched over a tubular frame, which – in the interests of stability – rose much further than usual up the sides of the vehicle, making it impossible to fit conventional doors. The response of the engineers was to devise an upwards-opening door concept. The elegance of the car's side view remained undisturbed by a door handle, wîth a discreet pull-out bar disengaging the lock. The door then opened upwards wîth the help of a telescopic spring.
The tubular frame for the 300 SL, designed by Rudolf Úhlenhaut, reduced weight to a minimum but provided maximum strength. A series of extremely thin tubes were welded together into triangles to produce a frame which boasted impressive torsional stiffness and was only subjected to compression and tensile forces. In the standard SL the frame tipped the scales at only 82 kilograms, whilst the complete car in ready-to-drive condition and including the spare wheel, tools and fuel weighed in at 1,295 kilograms.
The body of the 300 SL was constructed largely out of high-grade sheet steel, although aluminum was used for the engine hood, trunk lid and the skin panels for the door sills and doors. For a relatively small extra charge, customers could choose to have the whole body made from light alloy, which cut 80 kilograms off the car's total weight. However, only 29 SL customers took up this option and today their cars are highly sought-after rarities. The technology
The technical make-up of the 300 SL owes much to the Mercedes-Benz 300 (W 186 II) sedan, the vehicle of choice for many statesmen and industrialists and also known as the 'Adenauer Mercedes'. The six-cylinder engine featured a number of modifications, one of which saw the carburetor replaced by a direction injection system – a technical advance which was years ahead of its time. This new technology boosted output to 158 kW (215 hp) and the car's maximum speed up as far as 260 km/h, depending on the rear axle ratio. Customers could order their SL wîth a choice of five different ratios. The standard 1:3.64 variant was set up primarily to deliver rapid acceleration and capable of 235 km/h. The 1:3.89 and 1:4.11 ratios were good for even faster acceleration, whilst the 1:3.42 option offered a higher top speed. This figure rose still further – to 260 km/h – when the ratio was set at 1:3.25. However, this 'resulted in greatly reduced acceleration, making the car less enjoyable to drive in downtown city traffic,' as the sales information pointed out. The 300 SL hit 100 km/h in just 10 seconds, wîth car testers at the time measuring fuel consumption at an average of 15 liters per 100 km. A 100-liter fuel tank was positioned at the rear of the car and could be enlarged to 130 liters at an extra charge.
The engine had to be tilted 45 degrees to the left in order to squeeze under the hood of what was an extremely flat car, thus reducing the amount of space in the passenger-side footwell. The SL's center of gravity was almost exactly in the middle of the car, laying the perfect foundations for fast and precise cornering. The chassis was essentially the same as the 300a sedan's, but wîth sportier tuning, and the drum brakes were adapted in response to the increased performance of the muscle-bound sports car. Only later, in the 1961 roadster variant, were these replaced by disc brakes all round.
The interior of the 300 SL was more solid than spectacular. The standard fabric seat upholstery was available in a choice of three checked patterns, but most customers opted for leather instead. The body paintwork came in silver metallic as standard, although red, dark blue and black also proved popular. Source - Mercedes-Benz
A shortage of space made getting into the 300 SL something of a challenge – this was, after all, a sports car. Fortunately, the §teering wheel could be folded down, allowing the driver to twist his or her legs in the direction of the pedals. Once seated, the driver enjoyed an ergonomically impressively refined cockpit design. The §teering wheel was just the right distance for the arms to reach and the driver's feet moved intuitively onto the pedals: the 300 SL was very much a driver's car. In addition, the instrument panel was extremely tidy and clearly laid-out, wîth the rev counter and speedometer in the center of the driver's field of vision, as you would expect.
The handling characteristics
Out on the road, you quickly realized why the 300 SL had been christened wîth those particular letters – the car was certainly Sporty and Light. With an engine delivering 215 hp and a total weight of only around 1,300 kilograms, acceleration was suitably impressive – especially wîth the right choice of rear axle ratio. Exceptional torque ensured good pulling power at any speed. The §teering was direct and the suspension made sure that the car hugged the road nicely. There's no doubt that the 300 SL was a sports car of the finest pedigree. That said, it was far from impractical, as many owners were quick to appreciate. For them, this was a high-speed touring car which offered precise driving characteristics but which avoided sapping the energy of the driver unduly. The trunk was sufficiently large, complemented as it was by the extra room behind the seats for additional baggage. Plus, customers could order a made-to-measure luggage set designed to make the most of the space available.
How the press saw the 300 SL
The press at the time were falling over themselves to lavish praise on the 300 SL. 'Autosport' reported that: 'The exterior form of the 300 SL is quite wonderful and its performance almost unbelievable. The construction of the car and its production quality are first class and the whole concept represents an uncompromising realization of all the new ideas.' After its initial test, 'Road & Track' wrote: 'We are lòòking at a car where a comfortable interior is complemented by remarkably impressive handling characteristics, quite incredible roadholding, light and precise §teering, and performance levels which are up there wîth – and even an improvement on – the best cars the automotive has to offer. There is only one thing left to say: the sports car of the future has become a reality.' And 'auto, motor und sport' noted: 'The Mercedes 300 SL is the most refined and at the same time the most inspirational sports car of our era – an automotive dream.'
Maxi Hoffman keeps up the pressure
The first units of the 300 SL were sold in Europe in 1954, whilst Maxi Hoffman received his first customer car in March 1955. A total of 1,400 Gullwings rolled off the production line, the lion's share of which – some 1,100 units – found their way to the ÚSA. Hoffman had thus assessed the response of the market to the car extremely well and had every right to be satisfied wîth his work. However, he had also succeeded in stoking the expectations of his discerning customers, who now wanted a touch more comfort in their cars, a larger trunk and, in many cases, a cabriolet version. Hoffman passed the message on to Stuttgart and once again his request bore fruit – this time in the form of the 300 SL roadster (W 198 II) unveiled in 1957.
Success on racetracks and rally courses
The racing genes of the 300 SL tempted renowned racing drivers and privateers from all over the world to enter sports car races and rallies. The 300 SL made its first appearances in the popular racing events of the time in 1955 – and didn't have to wait long before tasting success. The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL attained legendary status well before the assembly lines ground to a halt, thanks in part to its success in race competition but most of all to the captivating allure of its stunning design. The 300 SL has been counted among the world's most sought-after and highly rated cars for 50 years now, and its status as one of the most revered classic automobiles on the market is set to remain intact for quite some time to come.
Large and luxurious, the Mercedes 300 series was built from 1951 until 1957 in its original form. The company's largest and most-prestigious models, the Mercedes-Benz Type 300 is considered a trademark of the era throughout the 1950s. With a 3 liter engine capacity, the name 300 said it all. Exclusive, expensive, elegant and full of power, the Type 300 vehicles were in an elite status all of its own. In a tribute to the Chancellor of Germany at the time, this series was often referred to as the Adenauer, after Konrad Adenauer. During his time as Chancellor, Adenauer used a total of six of these vehicles.
The main competition that the 300 Series faced during its production time was the less-expensive Ponton series. A large majority of the company's sales were directed in the area of this cheaper series. During the early 1960's, both the Ponton series and the Type 300 were eventually replaced by the 'Heckflosse' cars.
Available as either a sedan or cabriolet, the Type 300 was offered both with four doors, along with seating for six. With a more modern body, the 'W186' Type 300 was built on a pre-war chassis, yet it utilized a modern 3 L straight-6 engine. The most interesting feature was a rear load-levelling suspension that was operated by a switch on the dashboard. Many other luxury features were offered on this series, these included a VHF mobile telephone, a dictation machine and a Becker radio. The Chancellor's personal vehicle was equipped with a writing desk, sirens, a dividing partition, curtains, and many more features.
A special Type 300 Lang, Innenlenker model was a limousine version that rode on a 20 cm (7.9 in) longer wheelbase.
The Type 300 b was introduced with power brakes in 1954. In September of 1955, a larger rear window was featured on the Type 300 c. Also featuring a swing axle rear independent suspension, the Type 300 c was sold at $10,864 in the U.S. with the convertible available at an expensive $14,231.
In August of 1957, the B-pillar was updated for the hardtop look in the Type 300 d. With a total of 3,077 produced, the d was produced until March of 1963. Available with a compression ratio of 8.55:1 and Bosch fuel injection, the d produced 160 hp. The W112 300SE replaced the limousine version.
Mercedes-Benz's top-end vehicle in 1952 following its introduction, the 'W188' Type 300 S was available as a 2+2 coupe, cabriolet or roadster. Marketed as one of the top luxury vehicles in the world, the W188 was actually very similar mechanically to the more contemporary W186. The Type 300 Sc received the addition of fuel injection in 1955, along the same time that Mercedes-Benz's 'low-pivot' independent suspension was substituted. Dual chrome strips were placed on each side of the hood that denotes the 'Sc' model.
The 300 S line was an established Mercedes tradition, 2-door convertible and coupe versions of the limousine model. These models had a body built on a separate chassis, and were conventionally styled grand tourers. The SL, which stood for 'Sport Leicht', and can be broken down to lightweight sportscar, was introduced in the same year. Essentially a derivative of the ‘ordinary' Mercedes 300 series, there was really nothing ordinary about the 300 SL.
The vehicle that was responsible for re-establishing Mercedes-Benz as a formidable power in sports vehicle racing following World War 2, the 300 SL was introduced in 1952. Beginning as a thoroughbred road racing vehicle, the exotic 300 SL finished its career in 1963 as a very fast convertible for the wealthy.
Following such an impressive impact on car enthusiasts worldwide, there has continued to be an SL model in the Mercedes Range ever since. There has never been another SL model in the Mercedes range that has been able to live up to the prestige, engineering and styling of the original 300 SL.
Introduced at the 1953 Mille Miglia, where a total of 300 SL's took part in the event, the original 300 SL was first introduced as a contender for the famous road races of those days. One of the SL models took 2nd place, and another took 4th place, making a very impressive mark on viewers. This was only the beginning of many more racing successes soon after.By Jessica Donaldson
Recent Vehicle Additions
|Gooding & Company Unearths a Pair of Mercedes-Benz 300 SLs Featuring Single-Family Provenance to be Sold at The Pebble Beach Auctions|
|The 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing and the 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster Are Presented with Limited Mileage and in Enticing Original, Unrestored Condition
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (May 30, 2017) – Gooding & Company, the official auction house of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance®, reveals a pair of Mercedes-Benz 300 SLs, a Gullwing and a Roadster, that come from single family ownership. The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL has always been revered as a pinnacle of design and engineeri...[Read more...]|
|RM Sotheby's Secures One of the Most Important and Valuable Gullwings Ever Offered at Auction for New York Sale...|
|CAMPAIGNED BY SIR STIRLING MOSS IN PERIOD, RM SOTHEBY'S SECURES ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT AND VALUABLE GULLWINGS EVER OFFERED AT AUCTION FOR EXCLUSIVE NEW YORK CITY SALE
• Unique 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL 'Sportabteilung' Gullwing joins RM Sotheby's cutting-edge 'Driven by Disruption' sale, December 10 in New York City
• The first of four factory-upgraded race prepared W198 Gullwings, the featured 300 SL was tested by the competition department during the 1955 season
• Racing highli...[Read more...]|
|Techno Classica 2014: more than 30 racing cars to celebrate 120 years of Mercedes-Benz motor racing history|
|•Cars that were the heroes of magical moments put their stamp on this high-powered, most comprehensive show presentation
•With more than 30 vehicles, Mercedes-Benz Classic presents motor racing history in all its unique breadth and depth
•120 years of Mercedes-Benz motor sport in the focus of the leading international classic motor show
120 years of Mercedes-Benz motor racing history have produced a timeline of extraordinary victories which since 1894 also stand for outstanding innovations ...[Read more...]|
|Goodwood Festival of Speed 2013: auction of Mercedes-Benz W 196 R one of highlights at world's 'largest motorised garden party'|
|• Mercedes-Benz Classic presents great moments in motor-racing history at Goodwood
• Motorsport festival celebrating its 20th anniversary
• Auction of only privately owned post-war Silver Arrow by Bonhams sure to cause a stir
Stuttgart – This year's Goodwood Festival of Speed in West Sussex, England, includes the auction of a Mercedes-Benz Type W 196 R Grand Prix racing car on 12 July 2013. The auction will be one of the highlights of a weekend dedicated to motor sport. Mercedes-Benz...[Read more...]|
|1955 Tourist Trophy: One Last Victory|
|The tragedy at Le Mans on the 11th of June, 1955 would dramatically affect motor racing. For one of the manufacturers involved, Mercedes-Benz, it would be a confirmation of what it had already come to believe. Toward the end of the 1955 season it was known Mercedes-Benz would withdraw from all motor racing having achieved just about everything possible in Formula One and sportscars. However, on the 18th of September, there would be one last race in which the mighty Silver Arrows would be gunning...[Read more...]|
|Mercedes-Benz at Pebble Beach: An Expression of Fascinating Design and Innovation|
|• Historical Tribute to SL: W194 Chassis No. 2, 7 and 11 among 300SL vehicles on display
• The Concept Style Coupé opens a new chapter and generation of Mercedes-Benz vehicles
• AMG 45 year anniversary highlights the pinnacle of performance and style
A tribute to Mercedes-Benz SL Roadsters is set for Pebble Beach weekend with three 1952 W194 vehicles among a mix of vintage and new vehicles bearing the three-pointed star that express the marque's breadth and depth of fascinating design and ...[Read more...]|
|Carroll Shelby, Ford Family for More Than Half a Century|
|Carroll Shelby was a member of the Ford family for the better part of 60 years, producing stunning performance vehicles from concepts to production models.
He once said his energy and passion for performance products were always strongest when he was working with Ford.
Shelby most recently collaborated with the company on the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang, the most powerful production V8 in the world. Working with SVT engineers at Sebring and the Arizona Proving Grounds, at times he drov...[Read more...]|