1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing
- Long-term ownership since 1999
- Original matching-numbers engine
- Award-winning restoration by Automotive Restorations
- Documented with restoration invoices and photographs
- Winner of 2010 and 2016 Greenwich Concours Most Outstanding Mercedes-Benz Award
- Includes original two-piece luggage set
Few sports cars in the history of the automobile have attained the iconic status of Mercedes-Benz’s celebrated 300 SL coupe . . . and for good reason. Few sports cars combine the peerless racing heritage and truly innovative design and engineering of Stuttgart’s post-war debut.
First appearing in 1952 as the W194 sports racer, the 300 SL was intended to return Mercedes-Benz to competition relevance and was notable for its advanced lightweight space-frame chassis; the disadvantage to such a construction was it was much more space-consuming. In order to allow quick and easy access to the cockpit, the 300 SL gained its most notable feature: the roof-hinged doors. This unique feature earned the model its eventual nickname, the “Gullwing.” More so, it is equipped with a retuned version of engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut’s inline six-cylinder engine, already used in the production 300 sedans, W194 dominated the racing scene.
With victories at the 1952 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Carrera Panamericana, the 1952 300 SL W194 attained legendary status – a cachet that was not lost on the U.S. importer Max Hoffman. Since renowned for his savvy of the emerging American market for European sports cars during the 1950s, Hoffman made considerable efforts to convince Mercedes-Benz that a strong niche existed for a road-going series-production version of the 300 SL race car. His plea did not fall on deaf ears, and consequently the company introduced a luxurious new take on the racing Gullwing at the 1954 International Motor Sports Show in New York. In addition to a more luxurious cabin upholstered in leather, the road-going 300 SL, classified as the W198, featured a number of improvements over its racing forebear, including gull-wing doors that were cut substantially lower for easier entry and exit.
The road car also significantly improved on the race car’s power output by employing mechanical fuel injection, good for an additional 44 hp and a claimed top speed of 150 mph (depending on specified final ratio). The model is notable as the first production automobile to feature the since widely copied method of fuel induction. After the W198 commenced production in August 1954, numerous subtle mechanical developments were undertaken during the course of the first year, including a re-designed clutch assembly, a revised position for the shifter, and adoption of Daimler-Benz’s proprietary recirculating-ball steering system. Gearing ratios were also adjusted, with the final drive ratio of 3.64:1 eventually made a standard specification, while other ratios were available as options.
Offered here is an early 1955 model, delivered to Hoffman’s New York dealership in March of that year. With only 51,198 miles on the odometer, this Gullwing has been kept as the prize jewel it so clearly is. Records show that it spent some time in California, later in the ownership of Carl deBickero, before being sold to John W. Hamilton. The current owner purchased the 300 SL in 1999 before embarking upon a thorough restoration to concours condition. Performed by Connecticut-based Automotive Restorations, the comprehensive work returned this 300 SL to its original and classic colors of Silver (DB180) with the desirable blue-grey plaid interior (L1). Since completion, the restoration has won chassis 5500099 Greenwich Concours’ Most Outstanding Mercedes-Benz Award twice, in 2010 and 2016. Incredibly handsome, from the garage of a true collector, this 1955 Gullwing even comes with its original matching two-piece luggage.
Complete records and photographs of the restoration are on file, and all documents during current ownership prove this Gullwing has seen nothing but the best care over the past two decades. Produced in a modest quantity of 1,374 examples over a three-year production run, the 300 SL coupe has evolved into one of the most collectible sports cars ever built, and perhaps the most historically important sporting model ever produced by Mercedes-Benz. It could be said that no collection is truly complete without one – especially one as on the button as this example.