1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing
"When it was first announced by Mercedes-Benz, the production 300SL Coupe was a startling car built to the German concern's customarily startling standards, but above all what left the general public most open-mouthed about the new car was its upward-opening Gullwing doors…!" - Motors, 1963.
Tested by Road & Track magazine in 1955, the 300SL accelerated from 0-60mph in 7.4 seconds, going on to achieve a top speed of 140mph - outstanding figures for its day. Half expecting the long-awaited 300SL to provide an anti-climax, R&T were delighted to find the new car, "far beyond our wildest expectations. In fact, we can state unequivocally that in our opinion the 300SL coupé is the ultimate in an all-round sports car. It combines more desirable features in one streamlined package than we ever imagined or hoped would be possible. Performance? It accelerates from a dead start to 100mph in just over 17 seconds. Dual purpose? A production model 300SL can make a very acceptable showing in any type of sports car competition. Yet the car is extremely tractable and easy to drive in traffic. Comfort? The fully enclosed 300SL is the most comfortable (and safe) high-speed 'cross-country' car built today."
This 300 Sport Leicht Gullwing was shipped on 27th July 1955 to Mercedes-Benz Distributors Inc of New York City for one Russell Hanford of Spokane, Washington, USA, finished in DB 158 white grey with 1079 red leather trim. It is noted in factory records, as were many other 300SLs, as a 'special order'. The Gullwing Group lists the following owners:
- Rudi Goldblum (Moscow, Idaho)
- Jay Wieber (Spokane, Washington)
- Robert W Kullberg (Portland, Oregon)
- Malcolm Teeples (Sunnyvale, California)
- James L Berggren (Mont Pelerin, Switzerland)
- Robert A Ball (Yakima, Washington)
George Merahtzakis (Zurich, Switzerland)
Between 1980 and 1981 the car underwent restoration by Mercedes-Benz in Freiburg on behalf of Mr Berggren (bills are available). Later, in 1990, the interior was retrimmed in red leather, perfectly complimenting the classic DB180 silver grey paintwork. When inspected we noted a tidy engine bay, solid coachwork with older paint and good window rubbers, good chrome and unblemished glass. The interior is lovely apart from some wear to the drivers seat, and a period Heuer Autavia stopwatch is mounted on the dashboard, with the original Becker Mexico still in place underneath. In the boot area red carpets match the cockpit and the jack and hammer sit next to the spare wheel. A noteworthy and attractive option on this Gullwing is of course the Rudge knock-off wheels.
Following the above owners the Gullwing was acquired by a Swiss gentleman, Jean-Pierre Huber of Flims, on whose behalf our team sold the car at our Monaco auction in May 2005 to a British collector based in Hong Kong. From him it passed to the present UK based owner although it retains Swiss papers. Currently located in the UK, it has been freshly serviced by historic racing specialist Neil Twyman and has a recent MoT certificate.
Very few cars can match the iconic status of the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing. Fewer still can boast of eligibility for quite so many historic events (Mille Miglia, Tour Auto, Colorado Grand, Villa d’Este…the list is endless). What’s more, the author can think of no other 1950s motor car which, when properly sorted, can still be used and driven fast on a daily basis. Fashions come and go but a Gullwing's place in motoring history, and its status as a blue chip collector's car, are both assured.