London | Lot 144
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing
£950,000 - £1,250,000 GBP
| London, United Kingdom
5 September 2018
- Owned by the Agusta family for over six decades
- Upgraded with disc brakes for greater usability
- Truly a brilliant Gullwing in all regards
- Retains its original engine and presented in its original colour combination
As Mercedes-Benz’s 300 SL Gullwing has always been considered one of the company’s most iconic and celebrated cars, it is no wonder that the roughly 1,400 examples produced since 1954 have been cherished and loved throughout their lifetimes. When new, these were at the very cutting edge of automotive technology and represented the bright future that the automobile industry was looking forward to. A benchmark in the industry, it was a favourite of scions of industry, heads of state and celebrities worldwide.
To these individuals, the brand-new Gullwing in their garage would often mean different things to those various owners. For some, it reflected their adoration and interest in automotive technology and motorsport. For others, it was a status symbol. For some owners, it was a representation of personal success to remind them of the hard work that brought the Gullwing into their lives. For the Agusta family, who purchased this particular Gullwing new, it was likely all three.
One of Italy’s most important industrial families in 20th century Italy, they distinguished themselves in the manufacture of aircraft, helicopters and motorcycles, establishing businesses that had first-class reputations not only in Italy, but around the world. Founded by Count Giovanni Agusta in 1923, Agusta initially built aircraft, but after the Second World War, the company transitioned to building helicopters, and motorcycle production began as an offshoot of the company. MV Agusta was beginning to become successful in motorcycle racing by the early to mid-1950s, and in racing, the best was yet to come for the company and the family, and would arrive in very short order. If Mercedes-Benz had a ‘who’s-who’ list of potential clients for the 300 SL in 1954, it would not be surprising if the Augusta family were on it.
Delivered from the factory to the Agustas on 11 October 1955 via the famous Milan dealer Saporiti, chassis no. 5500799 was originally finished in Metallic Silver (DB 180) over a Dark Blue (L1) leather interior. Obviously, the car left quite an impact on the family itself as it remained in their care for the following six decades, making it one of only a precious few Gullwings to have enjoyed being owned by the same family for such a long period of time. Throughout their custodianship, it was refinished in its original colour combination and mechanically maintained as necessary. It has also seen a few upgrades to enable continued comfortable modern road use, including the addition of a modern VDO radio/CD/MP3 player, as well as a RetroTrip trip meter.
In 2016, RM Sotheby’s had the distinct pleasure of offering the car on behalf of the Agustas, and at that time it was sold to the current owner in the UK. A wonderful driving example at the time of his purchase, the second owner of this lovely Gullwing wanted to continue driving and enjoying the car as the Agustas had.
When purchased from the Agustas, the finishes under the hood and of the chassis were still in good condition, showing a lovely patina obtained over years of driving enjoyment. Importantly, the correct engine and chassis stampings remain, as do the original data tags throughout. A spare wheel and tire are housed in the boot, and the car is offered with its original German operator’s manual and French maintenance manual. Shortly after its acquisition, the car was sent to marque specialists HK-Engineering for an upgrade to front disc brakes, helping to improve drivability and usability in addition to its modern interior accoutrements.
Truly a Gullwing to cherish, as it was for over 60 years with the Agusta family, this is a car that oozes character. Always properly maintained and preserved throughout its entire life, it remains largely as it was when delivered new today, albeit with a few important upgrades to keep it drivable and enjoyable in 2018, making this car all the more interesting and exciting for a true enthusiast. Few Gullwings have enjoyed such long-term ownership and fewer still have enjoyed such long-term ownership in such an important engineering family. Ready for just its third owner since leaving the production line, the importance of this car simply cannot be understated.