1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing
Amelia Island - A Gentleman's Collection: The Pride & Passion of Orin Smith
- The third from last 300 SL Gullwing built; one of only 73 produced in 1957
- Known history from new with only five long-term caretakers
- Wonderful originality and authenticity throughout; original engine
- Long-term maintenance for previous owners by the noted Paul Russell & Company
- Complete with manuals and original tools
- An extremely satisfying Gullwing for the enthusiast driver
THE MENNEN GULLWING
To those who know Mercedes-Benz serial numbers, 198.040.7500077 is instantly identifiable as something truly special. It is a 300 SL Gullwing, of course, but more unusually, it is a 1957 Gullwing, one of just 73 built, very early in that year, before production moved to the new 300 SL roadster. No. 7500074 was only three chassis before the final Gullwing built, and delivery was made on 7 May 1957, making it one of the final 300 SL coupes delivered to a customer. Outside of the famous “alloys,” the 1957s are the last of the legendary breed, the rarest of all Gullwings, and among the most difficult to acquire today.
The original Daimler-Benz data card for this car, a copy of which is on file, notes that it was built with engine number 198.980.7500072, that which is still installed today; both the chassis and engine number stampings are present in their expected locations and appear original and authentic. The car was finished in Fire Engine Red with Black leather interior, and it was optioned for the United States with sealed-beam headlights and turn signals, English instruments, Becker Mexico radio with automatic antenna, and a rear-view mirror.
The car was shipped stateside from Hamburg to original owner George Mennen of Montclair, New Jersey, a prominent Garden State philanthropist and aviator, and the last family chairman of the Mennen Company (manufacturers of men’s toiletries). Joseph M. Stoytak of Springfield, Massachusetts, acquired the car from Mr. Mennen in 1978 and retained it for 30 years, then passed it to David Zagaroli of Hickory, North Carolina, via the well-known specialists Paul Russell & Company, which had cared for the car since Mr. Stoyak’s acquisition. Following brief ownership in New York, the car was acquired by Orin Smith in 2010 and has remained well looked-after in his studious ownership ever since. The Gullwing received major services by Tamburr Motorcars of Melbourne, Florida, later that year, including rebuilding the brakes and rear axle.
Overall the car retains a wonderfully solid and, to use a clichéd but appropriate term, honest appearance, with no suggestion of undue molestation or hasty repairs to be found anywhere; underneath is clean and solid. Repainted correctly some years ago, it has a good patina, with the correct, more recent leather interior being carefully worn-in and as comfortable and well-fitted as an old baseball glove. The steering wheel exhibits minor cracking but is very presentable and in character with the remainder of the interior. The finishes underhood appear original and well-maintained, and Sekurit glass is still present in all the windows, although the original belly pans are no longer present, as is commonplace. Accompanying the Gullwing are an original owner’s manual, a reprint of the factory instruction manual in English, a proper jack and wheel tool, the pair of original and complete tool rolls, and a correct spare.
Many 300 SL Gullwings were driven hard, as their manufacturer intended, necessitating today’s world of fully restored examples of widely varying quality. This car is different; a lovely and sympathetically maintained, carefully curated original, which has been improved only as needed, and retains all the charm and originality of its past. For the enthusiast seeking a 300 SL to drive, there is simply no better or more authentic choice.