1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL “Gullwing” Coupé (W198)SOLD

RM Auctions - Automobiles of London - October 31, 2007

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Estimate: 225,000£-275,000£
Estimate: €327,000 - €399,000
Estimate: $450,000 - $550,000

AUCTION RESULTS: Lot was Sold at a price of £312.900

From the Collection of Mr. Bernie Ecclestone

215bhp, 2,996cc overhead camshaft inline six-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, four-wheel independent suspension, and four-wheel drum brakes.
Wheelbase: 94.5in (2,400mm).

As was the case with most of industrial Germany, Allied bombing during World War II decimated Mercedes-Benz’s facilities. Within a few years, however, Mercedes managed to mount a racing campaign with the brand new 300 SLR race car, winning nearly every race their first season out. Juan Manuel Fangio, Mercedes’s loyal Grand Prix powerhouse, drove the Mercedes W196 in 1954 and 1955, winning the championship both times, followed closely by his team-mate, Stirling Moss. Such monumental achievements were responsible in large part for Mercedes-Benz’s immediate and continued motor racing presence. A tragic accident at Le Mans in 1955, however, signalled Mercedes’s temporary abandonment of the sport.

That same year, the road cars picked up where the race cars left off. In 1955, production continued with the 300 SL, capitalizing on the company’s racing successes and benefiting from the technological advancements available therein. 300, of course, represented the engine’s displacement of 3 litres, while SL denoted ‘Sport und Leicht’ (light). Initially introduced as a coupé, the legendary sports car was conceived as a high-performance street machine with a thinly veiled racing character. The gullwing doors became the car’s visual signature and solved the cabin-entry problems posed by the car’s light tubular frame. Compared to competitive sports cars of its time, the 300 SL developed an immediate reputation not only for performance, but exceptional build quality. Whereas comparable sports cars featured carburettors, solid rear axles, and pushrod engines, the 300 SL offered fuel injection, independent rear suspension, and an overhead camshaft.

Originally delivered to New York City, the coupé featured here is a very good original example of Mercedes’s famed 300 SL gullwing coupé. Records indicate that the car resided in southern California for much of its life, in the hands of several collectors, including Stephen Mulhollen, Don Glover, Robert Kohler, Ellis Katalano, and Robert Swanson. In 1995 the car was sold by Pinson Valley Auto Sales to the noted Matsuda Collection in Japan via the well-known west-coast dealer Patrick Van Shoote of San Ramon, California. It was ultimately imported into the United Kingdom in July 1999 by collector Albert Obrist, who resold it to the Ecclestone Collection, where it has remained ever since.

As presented, the car is finished in its factory original and correct Fire Engine Red (colour code DB534 G) which, although in good condition, could benefit from a wet-sanding and buffing. The body panels, from boot to bonnet, fit quite well. The knock-off Rudge wheels are believed to be original to the car, and although potentially requiring replating, are shod in proper Bridgestone radial tyres of the correct size – quite difficult to find yet a necessity for greatly improved handling.

The interior is finished in the correct and original No. 953 Black leather. Save for the seat cushions, which have been expertly recovered, the interior is entirely original and has been dyed where necessary to match the seat cushions in order to ensure that the entire interior will henceforth wear and colour at the same rate.
The chrome trim, brightwork, and dash appear to be in very nice, unrestored condition. The shift knob, steering wheel, and original interior trim are in very good, unrestored condition, and fully support the indicated mileage of just under 21,000.

The engine bay is largely original and quite neat and clean. All fittings, hose clamps, wiring components, and attachments are period-correct. Although not original, the intake manifold has been attractively polished.

The vendor reports that the Gullwing underwent a complete engine-out rebuild, at which time the transmission, driveline, chassis, and engine bay were renewed as needed. The engine runs smoothly and without unnecessary noise. Signs of occasional road use are visible on the undercarriage as is an aftermarket
stainless steel exhaust system.

Of particular interest to the enthusiast is the complete documentation that accompanies this 300 SL. Maintenance records from O’Keefe Coachtrimmers in Surrey and CPC Batteries in Twickenham indicate that work was conducted on the car between February and December 2002, and totalled more than £30,000. MOT test certificates also accompany the car as does documentation of its original export to the United States, change of ownership, and final importation into the UK.

Just 867 300 SL coupés were built in 1955, and fewer still remain today. It is difficult now to imagine the significant advance represented by the 300 SL in its day. Not only did it offer considerable technological advancement and trendsetting design, but the long hood concealed a powerful overhead cam six-cylinder engine with Bosch fuel injection capable of top speeds in excess of 130 miles per hour. Perhaps Autocar’s editors said it best: ‘the effect is electrifying’.

Reference Number 11539

as of 7/22/2007

Car 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL “Gullwing” Coupé (W198)
VIN 1980405500677 
Exterior / Interior Color      Red /      Black 
Configuration Left Hand Drive (LHD) 
Transmission Manual Shift 
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