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

Coys Spring Auction - Royal Horticultural Hall - London - February 27, 2007

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Sold £225,263

The Mercedes-Benz 300SL was conceived as a sports-racer, not a road car, proving its mettle on the track before the production model appeared. In subsequent years standard 300SLs were to notch up an impressive number of competition successes.

It all began with a small number of racing SL prototypes built in 1952 which won that year's Le Mans 24 Hours and the marathon Carrera Panamericana among other contests. As Stuttgart's first post-war competition cars they combined suspension and running gear from the then new 300 series production models with a light, multi-tube space-frame chassis wearing special coupé bodywork. Full-height side opening doors would have compromised rigidity in the high-sided chassis so half-height doors, hinged at the roof centre to lift upward, were developed for the car, the now famous 'gullwing' design.

The 300SL engine was a 3.0 litre in-line six with dry sump lubrication and Bosch mechanical fuel injection, the latter a world first for a production car. It was also one of the most potent engines of its day, providing top speeds of 130 to 165mph depending on gearing. The car's advanced chassis design ensured great strength and safety, whilst providing fine handling thanks to its light weight. An interesting Gullwing feature was the steering wheel hinged at the base of its hub to tilt almost upside down, thus easing driver entry/exit.

SL styling hardly needs comment, except to note that it was much lower and sleeker than that of contemporary sports cars. Distinguishing features such as the big tristar grille emblem, wheelarch 'eyebrows' and egg crate front-wing louvres adorned the body, whilst the purposeful interior was somewhat reminiscent of a Messerschmitt fighter plane!

The 300SL cost a fortune: £5,600 for the Gullwing in 1954 against £1,400 for a Jaguar XK120, but excellence is never cheap, and the SLs were magnificent: solid, handsome and very fast. In fact, nothing could outpace them for years except for the occasional Ferrari, which was hardly a 'production' car in those days. The 300SL won more competitions in its time than virtually any other car since. There are far too many victories to list here: suffice to say that no other manufacturer could field a car that could combine such speed, reliability and all-round ability as the 300SL, which allowed it to excel in events as varied as the Targo Florio, Mille Miglia and Le Mans.

This fine example of one of Germany's finest motoring achievements is presented in red with contrasting tan interior and has resided with its current owner for many years. In fact we believe this car to have at some point been the property of the Hollywood legend Paul Newman when the car resided in the United States.

Its present owner bought the car from Coys in 1982, who then sold the car to a discerning German collector in 1986. As he regretted selling the car and missed both its timeless looks and ingenious mechanicals, he later bought it back and the car has stayed in his collection since then.

During the last 6 years or so the car has benefited from some light mechanical work in order to keep the car in good working order. A file of receipts and copies of bills accompany the car listing the work done such as the replacement of the master cylinder, fitting of 4 new tyres, a new clutch and new rubbers on the ball joints to name but a few.

Recent years have seen yet another rise in values of one of the most iconic cars of the 1950s, surely another reason to get on the Gullwing ladder now!

Reference Number 7195

as of 2/16/2007

Car 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL “Gullwing” Coupé (W198)
VIN 4500071 
Exterior / Interior Color      Red /      Tan 
Configuration Left Hand Drive (LHD)