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Lot 65: 1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING

Exceptional Motor Cars, Christies (18 August 2005)

PROPERTY FROM THE DANIEL SNYDER COLLECTION, OWNER OF THE WASHINGTON REDSKINS



Mercedes red with tan leather interior

Engine: six cylinder, in-line, single overhead camshaft, 2,996cc, 240bhp at 5,800rpm; Gearbox: four speed synchromesh manual; Suspension: double wishbone front with coil springs and anti-sway bar, rear, swing axle with radius rods and coil springs; Brakes: vacuum-assisted four wheel finned drums. Left hand drive.

When Mercedes-Benz returned to motor racing in 1952, they dominated the major long distance sports car events with their futuristically styled 300SL race cars. Considerable pressure and a guaranteed 1,000 orders from the Mercedes New York agent convinced Stuttgart to produce a street version of the 300SL, duly launched at the New York Auto Show to ecstatic acclaim. It closely resembled the race car except that with all-steel bodywork, appropriate road equipment and larger doors, it was even more stunning. To resolve the carburetor location problems, it was the first production car to have Bosch direct fuel injection, with a resultant increase in power to 240bhp.

These cars were not only sensational in appearance, they had a performance that only race drivers normally experienced. It was not surprising that such drivers were eager to buy them, and in order to extract the maximum performance (which ranged from 150-165mph depending on axle ratios), one needed their expert skills. The swing axle rear suspension and drum brakes did require considerable respect when driving on the limit. Even so, these highly specialized and very expensive cars sold amazingly well and 1,400 were hand-built in three years.

Chassis number 766 was completed in September 1955 and shipped from the factory on October 10, 1955. Factory records confirm that it was a special order destined for the Mercedes-Benz Distributors, Inc. in New York, NY and the first owner is recorded as Mr. Dan Harvey. While built in 1955, this Gullwing is titled as a 1956 model which also probably confirms the year in which it was first sold. The second owner is recorded as Mr. Louis Reinhardt of St. Petersburg, Florida, who reported that the car was fitted with a 3.64 rear axle ratio and a Judson electronic magneto. Originally a black and red model, the intervening history is unknown at the time of writing until the immaculate car was purchased by the noted collector, Mr. Patrick Ryan in 1991. The car had been restored by Steve Patience in California prior to Mr. Ryan's ownership and it is still in concours condition. The car also has the more desirable flip-steering wheel, fitted luggage and belly pans for the engine. Purchased in 2001 by Mr. Snyder, it has been used sparingly, driven under controlled circumstances and frequently serviced.

We have no doubt that this example is ready to be enjoyed by a new owner and suggest close inspection of this fine and most desirable Gullwing.

Lot Details
Auction Exceptional Motor Cars
Christies, Los Angeles, U.S.A.
TypeCar
Lot Number65
Estimate$250000-$300000
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price$345000
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Year1955
Condition rating0
Registration number
Mileage-
Chassis number198040-5500766
Engine number198040-5500798
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors