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Chassis No.
198.040.4500140
  • Delivered new to David Brown, significant British industrialist and owner of Aston Martin Lagonda
  • Presented in as-commissioned DB 353 Blau metal with L1 Blau stoff plaid interior
  • An early Gullwing for tours, events and year round driving
 
Purchased new by British industrialist David Brown

1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL 'Gullwing'


“John Wyer and I decided that, given suitable circumstances and also allowing for the growth of tyres, which he tells me makes quite a difference after 100mph, a maximum of 145mph could be attained” – confirmed 300 SL addict and well-known team owner Rob Walker writing in Motor Sport about Gullwing experiences shared with the Aston Martin racing team manager, then at the wheel of David Brown’s own car

Developed in the uncompromising arena of international motor racing and instantly recognisable today, the immortal 300 SL Gullwing was the apogee of automotive technology of the time: the best of the best. 

The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL ‘Gullwing’

When the Stuttgart Titan returned to motor racing in 1952 it did so with futuristic sports cars that looked as if they’d just landed from another galaxy. The Typ W194 300 SL was entered in five races that year and won four: victorious at Bern, the Nürburgring, Le Mans and the Mexican Carrera Panamericana, only just beaten on the Mille Miglia by an inspired Bracco at the wheel of a Ferrari.

Thanks to a spaceframe chassis that ran level with the driver’s waist, the 300 SL Coupé needed special doors, hinged at the roof and meeting the sills halfway up the side of the car. The ‘Gullwing’ was born.

Work was proceeding apace on the company’s challenger for 1953, a more svelte Gullwing racing car with a now fuel-injected motor, when Mercedes received an urgent request from its East Coast US agent, Max Hoffman. The factory saw the new car as a stop-gap before the straight-eight racers of 1954; Hoffman believed it could be marketed as an ultra-expensive roadgoing sports car.

Hoffman’s initial guarantee for 500 300 SLs clinched it. Rather than building the planned five specialised racing cars for the 1953 Mille Miglia, Mercedes productionised the prototype and the 300 SL was launched to the public at the February 1954 New York International Motor Sports Show.

Until final deliveries were made in early 1957, when the 300 SL roadster replaced it, 1,400 300 SL coupés found homes in the garages of the world’s wealthiest drivers. They were also raced and rallied hard by the most talented all-round professionals of the day. Stand-out Gullwing pilots included Olivier Gendebien (winner of the 1955 Alpine and Liège-Rome-Liège rallies), Count Wolfgang von Trips (who at one point led the 1956 Mille Miglia) and of course Stirling Moss, who finished second overall on the 1957 Tour de France.

Many sports cars, by virtue of their performance, are described as ‘racing cars for the road’. The meticulously built Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing, with searing acceleration and easy 130mph+ performance on everyday highways, really was one.

This Motor Car

David Brown, the head of the industrial conglomerate that produced gears and tractors in Huddersfield, and expensive motor cars in Feltham and later Newport Pagnell, was a discerning judge of the finer things in life. He was a keen fox-hunting man, expert wildfowl shot and enthusiastic sailor at the helm of a powerful motor yacht operating in the Solent or on the Côte d'Azur. His purchase of Aston Martin and Lagonda shortly after WW2 allowed him to indulge his passion for fast and expensive cars. It’s not generally known that during this time he, or more likely David Brown Industries, also bought from ‘the opposition’. Sources suggest he tried at least one Ferrari (a 212 Inter, or 340 America – experts cannot agree) and this metallic blue Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing coupé.

The copy of the Mercedes-Benz data card that accompanies the car confirms its specification of DB 353 Blau metal with L1 Blau stoff plaid (Tartan) interior and that the client is a ‘Mr Brown, London, England’. The document is dated 5 January 1955 and also notes Sonderlackierung, seidenglanz (special ‘silk sheen’ effect paint finish), English instruments and that, as was usual practice, it came with 1kg of paint.

It is not known how long Brown owned ‘4500140’, the second 300 SL Gullwing delivered to the UK. The first went to legendary privateer team owner and scion of the Johnnie Walker whisky dynasty Rob Walker, who was to own an alloy car and a 300 SL Roadster before buying this car from friend and financial backer Dick Wilkins in 1971. In Wilkins’ tenure it bore the mark ‘JJA 3’; Walker re-registered it ‘ROB 2’, the plate carried by his first Gullwing.

Journalist Simon Taylor drove the Gullwing in 1979 when testing Walker’s Lynx D-type, remarking that “for a 3.0-litre road car a quarter of a century old it was astonishingly fast, with a beautiful gearbox and heavy, precise steering… 

In more recent times, when in long-term Italian ownership, ‘4500140’ has competed in the modern Mille Miglia retrospective in 1982 and 1984.

Today, this important Gullwing comes with the benefit of work by pre-eminent model specialist Kienle. It is presented in its original colours of medium metallic blue DB 353 with cloth seats.

 

 
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