When thinking about car, usually the first association is Mercedes. In very rich history of the German manufacturer, this 300SL left the biggest mark. At Auctions America in Fort Lauderdale from March 22-24, 2013, the 1955 Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing will go under the hammer.
The legendary Mercedes-Benz 300SL set a performance cornerstone for the manufacturer that is still emulated today. Power is derived from its 183-cid, 240-hp inline six-cylinder, single overhead cam, dry sump engine that is laid-over at an angle to reduce hood height, which is mated to a four-speed, synchromesh manual gearbox, which has its own oil pump. This beautiful example benefits from a professional restoration approximately four years ago and remains in concours quality condition. Richly finished in DB320 Blue, it features the optional leather interior in red. Fitted with the optional chrome Rudge centerlock knock-off wheels, this exceptional ‘Gullwing’ additionally carries custom-fitted luggage, radio and belly-pans.
The Mercedes-Benz 300SL was the first iteration of the SL-Class grand tourer convertibles and fastest production car of its day. Internally numbered W198, it was introduced in 1954 as a two-seat sports car with gull-wing doors and later offered as an open roadster. The 300SL was best known for its distinctive gull wing doors, first-ever consumer fuel-injection, and world’s fastest top speed. The gull wing version was available from March 1955 to 1957 and the roadster from 1958 to 1963.
The 300SL was also notable for its advanced lightweight space frame chassis and a retuned version of legendary engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut’s inline six cylinder engine, which was already utilized in the 300 sedans. Of course, the most notable physical features of Sindelfingen designer Karl Wilfert’s beautiful coachwork were the roof hinged doors.
In 1952, the original 300SL (model Mercedes-Benz W194) scored overall wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in Bern-Bremgarten, in the sportscar race of the Eifelrennen at the Nürburgring, and in Mexico’s Carrera Panamericana. It also managed second and fourth places at its first outing, the Mille Miglia in 1952. Low weight and low aerodynamic drag made the 300SL fast enough to be competitive in endurance races.
Produced in a modest quantity of approximately 1,400 examples over a three year production run, the 300SL ‘Gullwing’ has since been elevated to a near-mythical stature, virtually unequaled in postwar collectible sports cars. In period, the list of owners read like a “Who’s Who” of society, glamour and style including Frank Lloyd Wright, Sophia Loren, Pablo Picasso, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Clark Gable.
Today, the 300SL with its unique doors, technological firsts, and low production numbers is considered one of the most collectible Mercedes Benz models, with prices generally in the $700,000-$1,000,000 range. Sports Car International magazine ranked the 300SL as the number 5 sports car of all time.
A pair of 300SLs for sale in 2009 were offered at over $1.3 million from the Foxwood Collection. In 2012, an ultra rare 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL with an all aluminum body (only 29 made) was sold for $4.62 million at the Scottsdale Auctions in Arizona.