Lot Number
237

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing

Sold For $1,435,000

Inclusive of applicable buyer's fee.

RM | Sotheby's - MONTEREY 2018 - Offered from a private collection


Chassis No.
Engine No.
Body No.
198.040.5500800
198.980.5500816
198.040.5500778
  • Offered from a private collection
  • Impeccable restoration by marque specialists
  • Extensively serviced by the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center USA
  • Formerly owned by the Bruce Meyer Family
  • Presented in striking colors with Rudge wheels
Please note that this lot is titled as a 1956. Please also 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.

AN ICON OF SPEED AND STYLE

From his Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Park Avenue showroom, Mercedes-Benz’s U.S. distributor, Max Hoffman, said that there was a market in America for a fast, sensual Mercedes-Benz coupe. 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 lbs. The car also featured fully independent suspension in addition to its fuel-injected, 3.0-liter (2,996-cc), 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 bhp at 6,100 rpm (SAE) and 215 bhp 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 U.S., not in Germany, which was a Mercedes-Benz 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 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.

THE RECORD PRODUCER’S GULLWING

The Gullwing offered here was originally delivered in Graphite Grey (DB 190) over Red leather (1079) upholstery, to an owner in Houston, Texas. Its earliest known caretaker was Thomas McLelland of San Diego, California, followed by Leo C. Logsdon Jr., of Pacific Palisades, and finally Rex Harrison. It has been surmised that Harrison was the award-winning British actor of stage and screen, most famous for his lead role in My Fair Lady opposite Audrey Hepburn; indeed, Harrison the actor was known to own a 300 SL Gullwing, though whether or not this was his 300 SL has yet to be definitively proven.

The car was next acquired by Richard A. “Richie” Podolor of Studio City, California, the session musician, record producer, and songwriter, best known as the sound engineer for Steppenwolf’s early hits and as the producer of all of Three Dog Night’s albums. Podolor put the car in his garage alongside a Ferrari 195 Inter, and there the two automobiles remained until 2006, when the garage was opened after nearly 40 years.

Evan Meyer brought the car out of the garage; in an e-mail to a later owner, his father, renowned enthusiast Bruce Meyer, noted that “the paint and interior were original. We did a thorough service . . . EVERYTHING . . . and it was in perfect condition.” For the next three years the car was regularly driven, enjoyed, and loved, until the changing priorities of a growing family forced its sale to Lee Minschul. The car was then partially restored by renowned SL experts at Rudi & Company, including a change to this striking color scheme of Dark Blue over Red, and the installation of Rudge wheels. In 2012 the car was offered for sale by the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Eventually the Gullwing joined the current owner’s collection, where it has been well kept since in utterly splendid condition, exquisite down to the crystal-clear dashboard gauges. Examination shows the presence of the original tags and stampings where they would be expected throughout, including the body number stamp on the firewall, the proper chassis tag and stamping. Accompanying the car is a tool roll and hammer, and factory-style fitted luggage, as well as copies of its Gullwing Register entries and receipts for the service work at the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, California.

This is a wonderful car, with the sort of fascinating history that only decades spent in the automobile-mad world of Southern California can spin.


Addendum

Please note that contrary to the printed catalogue, this 300 SL was restored by Rudi & Company and later serviced by the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center USA.


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