Monterey

Monterey Conference Center
18 - 20 August 2022
Lot 327

1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing

Offered From The Terence E. Adderley Collection

United States | Monterey, California

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Chassis No.
198.040.6500044
Engine No.
198.980.6500054
Body No.
A198.040.6500040
Documents
US Title
To be offered on Saturday, 20 August 2022
  • Just two recorded owners since 1968
  • Presented in Fire Engine Red (DB 534) over black leather (953)
  • Powered by its numbers-matching, 3.0-liter, straight six-cylinder engine
  • Delivered new to Paris, France with desirable Rudge wheels; one of very few examples so equipped
language

MERCEDES-BENZ STRIKES GOLD

While Mercedes-Benz initially had no plans for series production of its racing 300 SL, its US importer, Max Hoffman, had other ideas. Hoffman, a master marketer and a man of great insight, convinced the automaker to offer a production model by ordering 1,000 of them for sale in the United States.

After a handful of early production examples were made in alloy, as the competition cars were, the new Karl Wilfert-designed body was largely steel, retaining aluminum doors, hood, and boot lids, and included the bumpers (with overriders for US-spec cars) and numerous creature comforts, including a tilt steering wheel for ease of entry and a sumptuous interior suitable for long-distance road use. Of particular note, the 300 SL was the first Mercedes to be introduced in the United States before it was shown in Germany, and when it was unveiled in New York on 6 February 1954, it took the automotive world by storm. The 300 SL is truly one of those rare specimens in automotive history which ingeniously blends breathtaking styling with remarkable engineering and cutting-edge technology.

The “SL” (translated to English as Super Light) moniker reflected the car’s pioneering use of welded tubular-steel frame construction. The 300 SL also features a fully independent suspension and a uniquely configured fuel injection assembly (the first four-stroke direct-injection program on a gasoline-powered production car) based heavily on the company’s contemporary diesel system. Displacing 3.0-liters, the “M198” OHC straight six-cylinder engine further utilizes dry-sump lubrication and a distinctive, canted position which reduces the car’s front-end profile and combats oil starvation in high-speed corners. This revolutionary engine produced 215 horsepower in standard trim, which was delivered through a four-speed manual gearbox.

A 161-mph top speed and 0–60 acceleration of approximately eight seconds, depending upon the rear-end ratio selected from five options, made the 300 SL the fastest production automobile of its time. The remarkable, upward-opening “gullwing” doors of the racing version of the car continued to production and contributed largely to the unique visual signature of the 300 SL.

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 just 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. It is almost indisputably considered a “core” model for any serious collection.

RUN THESE RUDGES TO PARIS

Offered today from the esteemed collection of Terence E. Adderley, this 1956 300 SL Gullwing is presented in the attention-grabbing shade of Fire Engine Red (DB 534) over a black leather interior with black carpets.

According to its accompanying factory data card, chassis 6500044 was originally clad in the standard Gullwing color of Silver-gray metallic (DB 180) over a cabin trimmed in a special-order upholstery combination featuring black leather (953) with gray cloth trim (L1). Additional options specified by the Mercedes-Benz distributor in Paris, France included sealed-beam headlamps with separate parking light, “long distance” high beam bulbs, windshield washer, 3.25 ratio rear axle, and a supremely rare and desirable set of motorsport-derived Rudge wheels.

Though Rudge wheels are presently “all the rage” among 300 SL aficionados, in truth, this option was rather unpopular when originally offered. As such, 6500044 is believed to be one of approximately 130 Gullwings to come factory-equipped with them (accounting for less than 9% of standard production orders between 1954 and 1957). Probably the last of those 22 300 SLs completed at Sindelfingen during February 1956, our subject lot was delivered to Paris in early March. It is no doubt that this 300 SL would have been a rare sight in that famous city, and surely it was provided to a person of distinguished taste befitting its special-order status.

Though most 300 SLs were delivered new to the United States (thanks to Hoffman), the American market’s thirst for even more examples of this incredible model proved truly insatiable. As such, like so many of its European-delivery Gullwing and Roadster brethren, this chassis was also imported to the United States rather early into its life.

FROM JACK TO TERENCE

By 1968, 6500044 had been acquired by the distinguished 300 SL collector Jack Bart in Greenwich, Connecticut. A photo on file from the time of his purchase shows that the car still retained its original color combination, Rudge wheels, and also an interesting pair of fender-mounted mirrors of non-standard design. After nearly two decades of careful use, exhibition, and active involvement in the Gullwing Group International, Bart submitted 6500044 to a sympathetic restoration by Lordship Restorations in neighboring Lordship, Connecticut. It was during this undertaking that our subject lot was refinished in its present color scheme.

Of course, the car’s numbers-matching straight six-cylinder engine, belly pans, and date-coded set of Rudge wheels were all retained and refurbished to the handsome state of presentation in which they remain today.

After 44 years of immensely rewarding ownership, Bart sold this 300 SL Gullwing to Terence E. Adderley in March 2012. During its residency within the Adderley Collection, 6500044 has remained in a carefully preserved and rarely used state within climate-controlled storage. In preparation for sale, it has been treated to a comprehensive detailing, fuel flush, rebuilds to its wheel cylinders, and a fine-tuning of its famous Bosch fuel injection system.

Every collector has to own and drive a 300 SL Gullwing once in his or her life. This example is an ideal opportunity to capture one of fine quality that has been preserved, enjoyed, and cared for by great enthusiasts. With just two recorded owners over the past half-century, 6500044’s prospects are further enhanced by its factory-provided Rudge wheels, full set of belly pans, numbers-matching engine, and fantastic color combination.