1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing
To listen to some people you’d think that every car over 15 years old was a ‘classic’, but age has nothing to do with it. Cars do not become classics, either they are or they aren’t – a true classic has star quality from day one. There has never been a time when a Mercedes-Benz Gullwing has failed to turn heads; like royalty, it was born to prestige and respect.
Those ‘gullwing’ doors helped, of course. When pictures flashed around the world of Hermann Lang climbing out of his car after winning Le Mans in 1952, they could not have created a greater sensation had they been of a flying saucer. In fact, those doors were merely an expedient because the 300SL’s true spaceframe chassis and high sills necessitated hinging the doors on the roof. Such was the stir they caused, however, that the organisers of the Mille Miglia (where 300SLs took second and fourth) tried to ban them.
The 300SL was originally created to prepare Mercedes-Benz for a return to Formula One and there was no intention of production, until American importer Max Hoffman ordered a thousand. The Gullwing’s incredible impact is more remarkable considering the cars had appeared only four times (as well as Le Mans they won the Carrera Panamericana).
As soon as the 300SL entered production it became the most desirable road car in the world. Apart from the fact that its performance blew the opposition into the weeds, nothing could compete with its kerbside presence. On top of that it had Mercedes-Benz build quality and reliability and was a thoroughly practical car. You could load a full complement of luggage, edge into morning rush hour traffic in any capital city in Western Europe without worrying about the clutch or the engine overheating, and arrive at Monte Carlo in the evening still fresh enough to play the tables. Without modifying it in any way, you could also complete in international motor racing. A 300SL was fifth overall, and first in class, in the 1955 Mille Miglia and another won the 1956 Tour de France.
This unusually unspoilt, ‘matching numbers’ Gullwing was delivered new in March 1955 via Swedish Mercedes-Benz agent Philipsons of Stockholm to its first owner, the Western Trading Co. in the same city. Options specified on the factory data card include red leather upholstery (cloth was standard), headlight flashers, screen washers and 1kg of spare ‘DB180’ silver grey paint. The car went through several owners, all in Sweden (full details are available), before acquisition by Mr Roland Viden of Koping in July 1967. He commissioned an engine rebuild by Gunnar Lingholm (invoice supplied) since when just 6,000km have been covered. The car was acquired from Mr Lingholm by the last owner in 1977 and, apart from participation in a historic race at Falkenberg in 1979, has seen little use since. The indicated mileage is 12,836km (112,836km/ 70,116 miles) which is commensurate with the car’s condition and we believe to be the total covered from new.
The paintwork was last repainted in the original DB180 colour some 30 years ago, and the leather upholstery is original, 51 years old and with an attractive patina. On a recent test drive the oil pressure was excellent and apart from vibration caused by what may have still been the original tyres, the car performed faultlessly. It has recently undergone a full service by British 300SL expert Kevin O Keeffe (including new tyres!) and comes with Swedish (EU) registration papers, a rare original 300SL tool kit and a history file.