Sold After Auction
| London, United Kingdom
- Specified from new with the optional sport suspension and NSL engine; retains its matching-numbers engine
- One of around 300 examples of the Gullwing to feature the desirable performance package
- Originally configured in Light Blue Metallic, now finished in the timeless colour pairing of Silver over a Red leather interior
- Delivered new to the Philippines; later domiciled in the USA, continental Europe, and the UK
- An exciting and rare version of the cornerstone of any serious car collection
The silhouette of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing is surely one of the most recognisable among all the most timeless collector cars. Thanks to its distinctive doors that give the coupé its unique look—made possible by the “birdcage” frame pioneered by Mercedes-Benz—the model took 1950s automotive design by storm. As if the car’s stunning looks were not enough, the Gullwing also packed a performance punch to match. The car’s lightweight construction—dubbed Super Leicht in German, from which the “SL” part of its name is derived—and its 3.0-litre straight-six M198 engine made for the ultimate sports car mix, then as now earning plaudits for an engaging driving experience.
Of course, Mercedes-Benz engineers did not begin designing the 300 SL from a standing start. Both the Gullwing and subsequent Roadster were based largely on the earlier W194, the competition-ready predecessor to the roadgoing car. This had been developed by Mercedes-Benz on motorsport circuits around the world and was built in time for the 1952 racing season, securing wins at races including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Eifelrennen at the Nürburgring, and Carrera Panamericana road race in Mexico. The car was undeniably fast, yet it was the Mercedes-Benz team drivers of the era—including Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Hans Klenk, Karl Kling, and Hermann Lang—that made that age special for the German marque.
This continued success for Mercedes-Benz resulted in the subsequent development of the W198—that would later become the 300 SL—with bosses looking to version of the race car that customers could purchase and drive on the road. The United States was seen as a critical market for expansion and the German marque launched the 300 SL Coupe at the 1954 International Motor Sports Show in New York, notably becoming the first car from the marque ever shown overseas before being revealed in Germany.
Completed by Mercedes-Benz and leaving the factory on 18 August 1956, chassis number 6500206 was originally delivered to the Philippines though its distributor in Manila and surely would have been one of only a handful of 300 SLs delivered to that part of the world. Originally finished in Light Blue Metallic (DB353) with Red leather upholstery, it is thought that early in the car’s life it was repainted in Silver Metallic. Importantly, the car was also specified with the optional sport suspension and NSL-spec engine (Nockenwelle Sport Leicht, which signifies the presence of a lightweight sport camshaft), raising power output to 230 brake horsepower. Of the 1,400 Gullwings produced, approximately 300 were fitted with both the NSL engine and sport suspension, not counting the four Sportabteilung works-prepared Gullwings or the 29 alloy-bodied examples which were built with all available upgrades.
The Gullwing’s first owner was Augusto Santos of Manila. Details of its early history are not well documented, but the car passed through at least one owner in the United States after it was acquired by Sergio T. Naghiat of Riverdale, New York, before being imported to Germany in 2007. By 2009, the Gullwing was located in Austria and noted as having been restored in the mid-1990s. In 2008 the car had been upgraded with a new cylinder head and sport camshaft to ensure smooth operation with modern unleaded petrol. Its next owner in the UK had the car fully repainted in its current Silver before the car returned to continental Europe, where it was purchased by its next owner 2017. It was subsequently acquired again at an RM Sotheby’s auction in 2019.
Over 60 years since its inception, the 300 SL remains one of Mercedes-Benz’s most recognisable cars, and its influences can still be seen in the company’s automobiles today. Well suited for rallies, touring, or club events, the Gullwing is eminently usable and can be found on every collector’s wish list, if not already in their garage. This example is particularly desirable, as it still boasts its matching-numbers NSL-spec engine and sport suspension, and would surely be a thrill to use and enjoy for any collector.