- Three-owner example from new
- Believed to be among the last 20 Gullwings built
- Presented in the attractive color combination of Silver Grey over green
- Matching-numbers chassis, engine, and body according to data card and Gullwing registry
- Long-term second ownership from 1964 to 2011
- Offered with spare wheel and pair of fitted suitcases made by Karl Baisch
The unmistakable flowing silhouette that marks the signature doors of Mercedes-Benz’s 300 SL Gullwing would form the basis of a sports car icon. With its unique “birdcage” frame that facilitated the fitment of the lift-up “gullwing” doors, the 300 SL revolutionized both contemporary car design and sheer performance of sports cars made in the 1950s. Its lightweight construction—or Super Leicht, from which it gains the “SL” part of its name—was intertwined with the power derived from the straight-six, 3.0-liter M198 engine for an enthralling and spirited driving experience.
In the years leading up to the 1954 unveil of the production-spec 300 SL—labelled W198 and eventually offered in Coupe and Roadster body options—the famous German marque would hone the W194, the competition-ready predecessor to the roadgoing car, on motorsport circuits around the world. The earlier car, constructed in time for the 1952 racing season, racked up impressive wins at events including 24 Hours of Le Mans, Eifelrennen at the Nürburgring, and Carrera Panamerica road race in Mexico; many victories came as a result of the efforts of fabled team drivers including Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Hans Klenk, Karl Kling, and Hermann Lang.
Success came at a golden era of motorsport for Mercedes-Benz, and so came the development of the W198. The company looked to build on their racing success with a version of the race car that customers could buy to drive on the road. In recognition of the United States as a critical market, the German marque launched the W198 at the 1954 International Motor Sports Show in New York as the first Mercedes-Benz ever shown overseas before being revealed in Germany. The U.S.-based Mercedes-Benz dealer, Max Hoffman, would deliver more than 1,000 of the 1,400 Coupe versions of the SL 300 made between 1954 to 1957, distributed to his dealership sites across the United States, as the car gained popularity and Gullwing fever struck the country.
This very car was one of the Gullwing coupes to enter the United States in the 1950s. Shipped under order number 850 361 on 12 April 1957, the 300 SL Gullwing left the Stuttgart factory finished in DB 180 Silver Grey Metallic. A data card accompanies the car, but it very difficult to decipher; the interior code listed is believed to be L1, which decodes to dark blue vinyl with blue-grey plaid seat inserts. Optional extras on the car are noted to have been special upholstery, instrumentation in miles, bumper horns, a Becker-Mexico radio, automatic antenna, and rear-view mirror. It is believed that this example was among the last 20 of the Coupe versions of the 300 SL constructed before Mercedes-Benz transitioned production to the Roadster in 1957.
Owner history suggests that this Gullwing was first delivered to a customer in California in May 1957, who would keep the car until selling to Mr. Kent Emigh in 1964. Mr. Emigh was a Mercedes-Benz specialist dealer and mechanic, living in Mountain View, California and he had worked with Max Hoffman to set up the 300 SL dealer network earlier in the 1950s. A big 300 SL enthusiast, he owned many over the years—but only this car would stand the test of time in his collection, remaining under Mr. Emigh’s care for over 45 years. With the luxury of a professional workshop to maintain and service the Gullwing, Mr. Emigh carried out and recorded many repairs in the decades that he owned it, all of which are documented in the car’s history file.
Most notably, Mr. Emigh would refit the interior of the Gullwing in 1973 and installing the existing green upholstery, including the headliner. The notes, which list all work carried out by the mechanic from 1964 to 2011, record that upon purchasing the car, the Gullwing was suffering from engine problems, so it was rebuilt by Mr. Emigh in 1965, commenting, “Complete engine rebuild in my workshop. Had broken rings and considerable fuel in oil causing bearing damage … no other excessive wear noted.” Over the next few decades, Mr. Emigh would record all maintenance tasks, from oil changes and tire replacements to engine strip-downs, along with a record of mileage for most entries. In 2011, with his health forcing his hand, he decided it was time for a new custodian to enjoy the 300 SL. His notes claim the mileage at around 47,000 when he sold the car.
One of the final jobs started by the long custodian of the car, Mr. Emigh sought to find new metal belly pans for the underside of the Gullwing, which were said to have been lost in the 1960s. The next owner took delivery of these, made by the 300 SL specialists, HK-Engineering of Germany, to the cost of €4,754.50 and documented in the paperwork that is presented with the sale of the car.
Current ownership acquired the car in 2011 and chose to have the renowned specialists at Paul Russel and Company in Essex, Massachusetts to address a few minor things to ensure everything was in order. Today the car remains finished in Silver Grey, likely having benefitted from a repaint over the course of its life. It remains trimmed in the lovely green leather interior of the prior owner, Mr. Emigh’s, choosing. The car retains its matching-numbers body, chassis, and engine according to the factory data card and Gullwing registry.
The exterior exhibits the beautiful styling of the 300 SL and is equipped with dual Talbot-style mirrors. It rides on factory wheels with color-matched wheel covers, wrapped in blackwall tires. The interior features a VDO clock and a Nardi wood-rimmed steering wheel with Mercedes-Benz horn button. The Gullwing is accompanied by a copy of its data card, spare wheel in the trunk, and a pair of fitted luggage made by Karl Baisch tucked neatly behind the seats.
Finished in a wonderful color combination, with just three owners from new, including long term single-ownership from 1964 to 2011, this 300 SL exudes the sporting character of what is arguably one of Mercedes-Benz’s most celebrated models, the Gullwing.