Arizona

19-20 January 2017

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Lot 158

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing

  • Chassis no. 198.040.5500626
  • Engine no. 198.980.5500627

$1,350,000 - $1,500,000


Please note that Internet bidding is not available for this lot. Interested parties that are unable to attend the sale may register to bid by telephone or place a commission bid online at rmsothebys.com.

215 bhp (DIN), 240 bhp (SAE), 2,992 cc SOHC inline six-cylinder engine with Bosch mechanical fuel injection, four-speed manual transmission, coil-spring independent front suspension, coil-spring and swing-axle rear suspension, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 94.5 in.

  • “The Gym Teacher’s Gullwing”
  • Remarkably original, including beautiful factory interior; original engine
  • Three private owners from new; a California car for most of its life
  • Desirable factory Rudge wheels and fitted luggage
  • A successful participant in numerous runnings of the Colorado Grand


THE LEGENDARY GULLWING

Mercedes-Benz’s 300 SL claimed 2nd in the Mille Miglia, 1-2-3 in the Sports Car Race in Berne, Switzerland, 1st and 2nd at Le Mans, 1-2-3-4 at the Nürburgring, and 1st and 2nd at La Carrera Panamericana. Yet more was to be desired. From his Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Park Avenue showroom, the company’s United States distributor, Max Hoffman, said that there was a market in America for a fast, sensual Mercedes-Benz coupe, and a production version of the racing 300 SL, complete with the fascinating and now legendary “gullwing” doors, necessitated by the unusual, tall frame design, would be it.

The “SL” moniker (translated to English as “Sport Light”) reflected the pioneering use of a welded, tubular-steel, ultra-light frame construction that weighed only 182 pounds. The car also featured fully independent suspension in addition to its fuel-injected, 3.0-liter (2,996-cubic centimeter), OHC straight-six with dry-sump lubrication, and the motor was inclined to the side in order to reduce the height of the front end. The power, rated at 240 brake horsepower at 6,100 rpm (SAE) and 215 brake horsepower at 5,800 rpm (DIN), with the factory-optional or dealer-installed “sport” camshaft, was delivered through a four-speed manual gearbox. A 161-mph top speed and 0–60 acceleration of approximately eight seconds, depending on the rear-end ratio selected from five options, made the 300 SL the fastest production automobile of its time.

Appropriate for an automobile that Max Hoffman had almost single-handedly willed into being, the production 300 SL made its debut in the United States, not in Germany, which was a Mercedes first. More than 1,000 of the 1,400 cars produced between 1954 and early 1957 were delivered through Hoffman, to whose showrooms the rich and famous flocked. The 300 SL was as much a status symbol in its time as it is today, as it was favored by everyone from Hollywood stars to racing legends to genuine royalty.

The 300 SL was also raced and piloted by the top drivers of the day, such as John Fitch, Olivier Gendebien, Paul O’Shea, Prince Metternich, and, of course, Sir Stirling Moss, who holds the “forever” course record for his famous Mille Miglia finish in 1955. It all added to the romance of a car that seemed destined to become a legend the moment production began. It had all of the right ingredients: incredible exclusivity, incredible speed, and an incredible price.

“A thoroughbred in every sense of the word,” advertising boasted, “and a car which will be recognized by all enthusiasts as the ‘last word’ in sporting automobiles; a car which puts indescribable pleasure into driving!”

THE GYM TEACHER’S GULLWING

According to both the Eric LeMoine and Gull Wing Group registries, the 300 SL offered here was originally delivered through Max Hoffman’s New York dealership, in Light Metallic Blue (DB353) over red leather (1079) interior, and equipped with two of the most desirable factory options, Rudge knock-off wheels and fitted luggage.

The first owner of the car was Raymond Maggard of San Pedro, California. Born in Los Angeles, Mr. Maggard was typical of the idiosyncratic and fascinating individuals who bought these cars new. A captain in the United States Army parachute infantry Airborne Division 1510 during World War II, he received the Purple Heart. Upon returning home, he was a track and field star at UCLA, including being the 1947 NCAA champion in the pole vault. He then joined the staff of Gardena High School, where he taught physical education and Spanish, and coached track, tennis, and football for a remarkable 35 years. One can imagine Mr. Maggard showing up at track meets and the football field behind the wheel of a Gullwing, much to the astonishment of his students!

Mr. Maggard eventually sold the Gullwing to another owner in Los Angeles, who put the car into storage, wearing a repaint in dark blue but otherwise remaining original. After being repainted Graphite Grey in 1995, it was subsequently sold through a Washington State dealer to the well-known father and son enthusiasts Peter and Paul Hageman, who became only the third private owners, keeping the car on its longtime California black plates.

In a recent conversation with RM Sotheby’s, Paul Hageman recounted that the car was driven numerous times with comfort and pleasure on the Colorado Grand and the Pebble Beach Motoring Classic, after which the original and matching-numbers engine was expertly rebuilt—for the first time!—by the renowned 300 SL guru, Siegfried Linke. Receipts for the repaint and later service work are both on file, along with an original catalogue and owner’s manual.

Aside from the paint, the car remains thoroughly and wonderfully original, including its red leather interior, which has a wonderful patina, like a comfortable old baseball glove. While it is no longer accompanied by its original belly pans, inspection of many other sought-after features is thoroughly satisfying; the “curved star” in the grille is still present, as are the correct Bosch headlamp rings, and even the original mat in the trunk! While the original luggage is no longer present, a period-correct luggage set has been acquired and installed. Most importantly, all of the Rudge knock-off wheels are original, and have their proper stampings.

There are frequently 300 SL Gullwings available, but few, if any, have the satisfying originality and, to utilize an overused word, patina of this charming beast. It is honest, pure, and will still put indescribable pleasure into driving for its fourth fortunate private owner, following in the footsteps of great enthusiasts, including a war hero as athletic as the car he drove.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

Cameron Smyth

csmyth@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Cameron Smyth joined RM Sotheby’s as a Car Specialist in 2015, working out of our corporate office and providing assistance on c... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Ian Kelleher

ikelleher@rmsothebys.com

+1 212 894 1981
New York, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Politica... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more