Lot 343

Dare to Dream Collection

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing


$1,655,000 USD | Sold

Canada | Toronto, Ontario



Chassis No.
Engine No.
Body No.
Front and Rear Axle Nos.
5500713 / 768
Canadian Registration
  • The most advanced production automobile of the 1950s—a race car for the street
  • Desirably equipped with Rudge knock-off wheels and fitted luggage; striking cosmetic restoration by noted specialists Rudi and Company
  • Well-known ownership history for decades; retains numbers-matching chassis, engine, front and rear axles, and body
Please note, this lot is registered in Canada and import duty will be applicable to all countries outside of Canada, including the United States. RM Sotheby’s will assist buyers with importation and for residents of the USA, in obtaining a US title.

In many senses, while the Lamborghini Miura was the first automobile to be referred to by name as a “supercar,” the actual title of “first supercar” status belongs to the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL. Like the Ferrari F40 and its like, it captured the aura of being exactly what it was: racing car technology, loosely disguised for the street. Its specifications in 1954 were as advanced then as the carbon fiber exoskeletons of today.

Power came from an overhead-cam six-cylinder engine, mounted at an angle within the engine compartment and equipped with Boch mechanical fuel injection and dry-sump lubrication. It was wrapped in steel and alloy bodywork, designed for maximum streamlined efficiency, and wrapped around a tubular frame. The latter necessitated the car’s most distinguishing feature, doors hinged at the roof, which when opened created the famed “gullwing” appearance.

Every trip in a 300 SL would be a unique experience, including that of getting into the car: mastering the art of first straddling the door sill, swinging one’s right hip in, and then drawing in the rest of the body and pulling down the door. Once fitted, a 300 SL suits its owner like a tailored tuxedo; the steering wheel is at an optimal position even for stockier drivers, and the gearshift falls, as they say, readily at hand. It is sleek, cozy, and evocative today. In the world of the 1950s, it was a spaceship.

Automotive press of the time agreed. “For a passenger who has not traveled in the 300 SL before, the effect is electrifying,” noted Autocar. “The occupant receives at first a mild pressing back into the seat and then, as the power comes in between 3,500 rpm and 4,000 rpm, he feels as though he is being rocketed through space. Up to 70 mph is available in second gear, and then comes a quick movement into third. The rev counter needle drops back for a second or two and, again at 4,000 rpm, the effect of being urged forward by some irresistible force is felt. The acceleration is truly remarkable…Press the accelerator well down even at over 100 mph in top gear and, again, there is the feeling of being on the end of a rope that is being pulled hard from in front of the car. The way the 300 SL does it all with so little fuss is almost uncanny.”

CHASSIS NUMBER 198.040.5500681

The 300 SL Gullwing offered here was originally ordered from the Mercedes-Benz distributors in New York City, finished in Fire Engine Red (DB 534) over Black leather (953) interior, with the data card noting high-gloss paint as well as special upholstery. Its earliest known owner, as recorded in the Gull Wing Group Registry, was Theodore Soltis of Wilmington, Delaware. Subsequent owners are recorded as Henry K. Mearig, Jr., of Manheim, Pennsylvania, later a noted Saab and Volvo dealer in Lancaster and a regular participant in Quaker State hillclimbs during this era, as well as several enthusiasts in New York State. Afterward the car briefly returned to its homeland when purchased by Ehlich Renhard of Düsseldorf; information in the file indicates that it was first restored in Mr. Renhard’s ownership.

In 1998 the 300 SL was purchased by the prolific sports car collector Gene Ponder of Marshall, Texas. Mr. Ponder retained the Gullwing in his noted collection for over eight years, before selling it in 2007 to well-known vintage Mercedes-Benz enthusiast Thomas Taffet of California. It then transacted to the current owner, who has maintained it in the Dare to Dream Collection for the last decade.

During its time in the Dare to Dream Collection, the 300 SL has been cosmetically restored by the famed 300 SL specialists Rudi and Company to the same color scheme of the car in the renowned Ralph Lauren collection, Silver Gray (DB 180) with a pigskin-grain brown leather interior. Additional mechanical services have been undertaken as necessary, with invoices for the latter included in the history file. The car is still fitted with its numbers-matching chassis and engine, as noted on the data card, as well as its numbers-matching body and front and rear axles; its gearbox is a replacement unit numbered 003165. It is presently equipped with reproduction Rudge wheels and a set of fitted luggage—two of the most desirable and sought-after options for a 300 SL—as well as a set of belly pans.

It is an ideally specified example of that modern rocket, the father of the supercars to come.