1956 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 compete 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 very late specification, 'matching numbers' Gullwing was shipped from Germany on 13th December 1956, destined for the marque's distributor in Miami, USA. The factory data card shows black paintwork (code DB 40) with 'special order' white leather upholstery (code 1097) and grey headlining, a rare and very elegant colour combination. Later in the car's life matching fitted luggage and distinctive, highly polished Rudge type knock off wheels have been added, both desirable options with strong aesthetic appeal.
It's also worth mentioning, from a collector and driver's perspective, that the late build date of this Gullwing ensures it features every one of the 61 detail improvements which were introduced during the model's production run, the most important being the improved braking system.
In the early 1990s the Gullwing was offered for sale by the factory's Oldtimer Centre in Stuttgart and was acquired by Herr Franz Gunter Drees of Oestrich-Winkel, passing in 1998 to well-known collector Klaus Flettner of Oberursel who registered it as 'HG-F300H'. That year a comprehensive mechanical overhaul was performed by renowned 300SL specialist firm Kienle, near Stuttgart, before the car passed to the present Swiss owner, one of the country's foremost car collectors, in 2003.
Since then the Gullwing has been maintained by a team of two full-time mechanics, successfully completing the 2007 Tour Auto across France but otherwise leading a sedate existence. It is only now being sold following the acquisition of one of the 29 aluminium bodied Gullwings.
Swiss registered and accompanied by copy old German (EU) papers and sundry history/ restoration documents including a detailed Kienle appraisal (1998), this is a stunning example of the iconic 300SL Gullwing, eligible for arguably more historic events than any other car and with the substantial attractions of its rare, elegant colour scheme and desirable options.