1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing

Courtesy of Bonhams

Launched in 1954, the production 300SL retained the space frame chassis and lightweight aluminum-alloy bodywork of the W194 racer, while its mechanical underpinnings, like the latter’s, owed much to the contemporary Mercedes-Benz 300 luxury saloon. A 2,996-cc overhead-camshaft inline six, the 300SL’s engine was canted at 45 degrees to achieve a low bonnet line and produced 215 brake horsepower at 5,800 rpm using Bosch mechanical fuel injection. A 4-speed, all-synchromesh manual gearbox transmitted power to the hypoid bevel rear axle. Suspension was independent all round: by wishbones and coil springs at the front, with swing axles and coil springs at the rear.

A production 300SL (W198) was tested by Road & Track magazine in 1955, accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds on its way to a top speed of 140 mph.

The 300SL remains a thoroughly practical car, as civilized in city traffic as it is exhilarating on the autobahn. By the time 300SL coupe production ceased in 1957, some 1,400 examples had found customers. Today the model is both rare and most sought after by connoisseurs of fine automobiles, as it guarantees entry into all of the most exclusive motoring venues and events: Goodwood, the Mille Miglia, Villa D’Este, Pebble Beach and so on.

This magnificent, matching-numbers Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing was completed on January 27, 1955, and shipped immediately to Mercedes-Benz Distributors Inc. in San Francisco, CA. The car stayed in the United States for most of its life and had several owners in California, including James S. Long and Jan Henner Matthias. In 2003, the Mercedes was exported to Europe, where it formed part of the collection belonging to the well-known collector Mr. Pierre Mellinger. According to Anthony Pritchard’s definitive work on the model, Gullwing, The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Coupé, this car formed part of a Swedish collection at some time. More recently, it was owned by a collector from Monaco. The current owner bought the car in 2012.

The accompanying copy build sheet states that this Gullwing was originally finished in white/gray with blue cloth/vinyl interior, and was delivered equipped with the optional Becker Mexico radio and single external mirror. Extensively restored, it has been fully repainted in silver metallic, while the interior has been completely retrimmed in blue leather with matching carpets and beige muslin roof lining. Other noteworthy features include overhauled electrics, original white steering wheel (mildly patinated), four new Dunlop tires and an unused spare wheel.

Currently displaying a total of 81,700 miles on the odometer, the car shows no signs of corrosion or accidents and is presented in generally good condition with excellent interior and very good chrome. It has been driven only occasionally by the current private owner while being kept very well stored and serviced with the other cars in his collection. Offered with the aforementioned build sheet, two expert condition appraisals (2007 and 2014) and French Carte Grise, this most iconic of all post-war sports cars is worthy of the closest inspection.