1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Alloy Gullwing

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 300SL was also outfitted with Rudge wheels, the NSL motor and Plexiglas windows per aluminum-build specifications.

On May 27, 1955, the alloy Gullwing was shipped to Veron Holz of Bonita, CA. Although the early history of this Gullwing is not known, there is no apparent race record for 5500208. In March 1980, the 300SL resurfaced in San Diego, and it was sold to Hans Dieter Blatzheim of Germany. The purchase price was an astonishing $57,000 for an unrestored car.

In need of some attention, the alloy Gullwing made its way to the well-known Hill & Vaughn restoration shop in Santa Monica, CA. The car is accompanied by a file of invoices and photographs documenting the work performed, including meticulous fitting of the doors, hood and deck lid. Additionally, the engine and gearbox were sent to AMG for rebuilding. For unknown reasons, Herr Blatzheim then requested that 5500208 be sent to Germany. Further photo documentation shows the restoration and assembly of the chassis and completion of the car in silver with gray leather.

In May 1984, 5500208 was sold to Markus Ahr of Germany. During his ownership, work was performed by Daimler-Benz, including a rebuild of the engine. Ahr kept the car into the 1990s, at which time work was performed by Kienle. Photo documentation shows a rebuilding of the transmission, rear end, brakes and suspension completed in 1998. Not long after, the alloy Gullwing was sold to Friedhelm Loh, a noted German collector.

In 2009, Ken McBride of Seattle acquired 5500208. Although his collection was diverse, McBride had always focused on Mercedes-Benz. Late that year, McBride fell ill, and the newly acquired Mercedes-Benz took a back seat. The Gullwing was sent to noted 300SL restorer Rudi Koniczek for some necessary sorting. McBride wanted certain aspects of the car corrected, predominantly the shade of silver and the interior. The alloy Gullwing was stripped and repainted in its original silver (DB 180). The gray leather interior was removed and the correct blue leather was installed. One deviation from the original was the addition of seat cushions upholstered in plaid.

In mid-2011, Koniczek had finished the restoration but McBride passed away before he could see the final masterpiece. Shortly afterward, McBride’s wife, Patty, and the rest of the family chose to show the alloy Gullwing at the Kirkland Concours d’Elegance, where it won its class.

The finish of the 300SL is of the highest level, and the car retains a very correct appearance. The original engine remains, correctly stamped NSL. Additionally, the Gullwing has belly pans, and its chrome Rudge wheels are original. The luggage is properly finished in natural pigskin, the Becker radio is correct, the grille has the proper “curved star” — the list goes on and on.

Furthermore, this alloy Gullwing is accompanied by a tool kit, knockoff hammer, jack, comprehensive documentation, a Mercedes-Benz Certificate, an owner’s manual, instruction manual, spare parts catalog, service book and Becker radio manuals.

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.

Simon Kidston

Simon Kidston - SCM Editor at Large

Simon is from an old British motor-racing family. He started his career at Coys, leaving to co-found Bonhams Europe in Geneva. Over the next decade, he staged high-profile auctions around the world, branching out on his own in 2006 to found Kidston SA, a consultancy responsible for some of the larger deals you rarely hear about. Simon also judges at Pebble Beach and is “the voice” of the Villa d’Este Concours and the Mille Miglia.

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