Amelia Island | Lot 235
1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing
$1,200,000 - $1,400,000 USD
| Amelia Island, Florida
9 March 2019
- Originally owned by the Prince of Salm-Salm
- Only three caretakers from new
- Retains its original numbers-matching engine
- Very nicely restored and serviced by renowned 300 SL experts
- Finished in a fabulous, factory-correct color scheme
- Includes fitted luggage and Becker Mexico radio
Mercedes-Benz initially had no plans for a series production of its racing 300 SL. However, its U.S. importer, Max Hoffman, had other ideas. Hoffman, a master marketer and a man of great insight, convinced Daimler-Benz to offer a production model by ordering 1,000 of them for sale in the U.S. Fuel injection replaced the race car’s carburetors, and the Bosch mechanical unit would be the first for a production car. After a handful of early production models were made with all-alloy bodies, as the competition cars were, the new Karl Wilfert-designed coachwork was largely constructed of steel. However, the cars retained aluminum doors, hood, and trunk lid, and included the bumpers (with over-riders for U.S.-specification cars). Numerous creature comforts were added as well, including a tilting steering wheel for ease of entry and a sumptuous interior that is requisite for road use.
Of note, the 300 SL was the first Mercedes-Benz to be introduced in the U.S. before it was shown in Germany. When the gull-winged sports car was unveiled in New York on 6 February 1954, it took the automotive world by storm. The “SL” moniker (translated as Sport Light) reflected the pioneering use of welded tubular steel-frame construction. It also featured a fully independent suspension in addition to its fuel-injected, 2,996-cc OHC straight six with dry-sump lubrication. Interestingly, the engine was canted slightly to the side in order to clear the low-profile hood and reduce the overall height of the front end. The power, rated at 240 bhp at 6,100 rpm (SAE) and 215 bhp at 5,800 rpm (DIN) (when fitted with the factory-optional or dealer-installed “sport” camshaft), was delivered through a four-speed manual gearbox. Capable of a top speed of 161 mph and with a 0–60 acceleration time of approximately eight seconds (depending upon the rear-end ratio selected from five options), the 300 SL was the fastest production automobile of its time.
The dramatic, upward-opening “gullwing” doors of the racing version of the car continued into production and contributed largely to the unique visual signature of the 300 SL, as well as its long-standing nickname. When production ended after the 1957 model year, Hoffman’s original request for 1,000 cars was exceeded, as production of the semi–hand-built car reached some 1,400 units. Demand has always been strong, and today, the 300 SL continues to be one of the most recognized and coveted of all sporting cars.
This 300 SL Gullwing, according to official Mercedes-Benz records, was completed by the factory on 11 August 1956 and shipped to the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Düsseldorf, Germany, on 13 August. This Gullwing was special ordered, finished in graphite grey with a blue plaid interior for the car’s first owner, the Prince of Salm-Salm. Notably, Salm-Salm was a small principality located in the north-western part of what is now modern-day France; however, the line of mediatized princes continues to this day.
The Prince retained ownership of his royal Gullwing until Dr. J. Theodore Luros, a neurosurgeon from Indianapolis, Indiana, acquired the car in 1961, as evidenced by the Bill of Sale dated 2 March 1961 that accompanies the car. Dr. Luros was an active member in the Gullwing Group, and a copy of his letter submitted with his application to the club dated 5 February 1972 is also included. As it happens, Dr. and Mrs. Luros saw another spectacular Gullwing at a concours finished in the optional Strawberry Red Metallic (DB543). They fell in love with the unique color and had to have one of their own, so they had their car refinished to match, naturally! This 300 SL comes with Dr. Luros’ original 1961 title together with a batch of his Indiana State registration cards accumulated during his years of ownership.
Dr. Luros enjoyed the car until 2005 when it was purchased by the third owner, a longtime Mercedes-Benz collector who had the privilege of owning several 300 SLs over the years through renowned expert Rudi Koniczek. He entrusted Koniczek and his team of skilled craftsmen at Rudi and Company in British Columbia, Canada, to perform both a cosmetic and mechanical restoration on this very special 300 SL. The restoration work performed is documented with receipts by the previous two owners. Also included is the owner’s manual as well as the Mercedes-Benz Classic documents. This highly original, matching-numbers car is complete with its original belly pans.
Finished in the striking factory color scheme of Strawberry Red Metallic with contrasting tan leather interior, this 300 SL is simply stunning to behold. It is accessorized with highly desirable, color-coordinated fitted luggage and factory-installed Becker Mexico radio, as well as a tool kit. Since restoration was completed, the Gullwing has been driven sparingly and presents splendidly today. This exceptional 300 SL is truly fit for a prince, or any discerning collector wishing to acquire a Gullwing that stands out from the rest.