Lot 34: 1956 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING
Only three owners from new
Black 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 Motor 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, but 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.
From information supplied by the vendor, this matching numbers Gullwing was originally owned by Dr. Denton S. Coe of New York City until December 1970, at which time he sold it to Mr. John Church of Norwalk, Connecticut. The current owner acquired the car in 1971 and it has remained his prized possession ever since.
Garaged throughout the vendor's tenure, in 2001 (clearly due to a lack of use for some time) the car was entrusted to Automotive International of Charlotte, North Carolina for necessary restoration work. Initial focus seems to have been to get the car running again and as such a great deal of engine work was undertaken; invoices on file note work to the crank, rods and injection system amongst other ancillaries necessary such as gaskets and other machine work. Accordingly the transmission was overhauled and the whole fuel system appears to have been rebuilt or replaced where necessary, along with a similar approach also paid to the brake system. Aside from other necessary detail work, the decision was taken to repaint the car and by May 2005 the car was finally returned to the owner. Over a steadily-paced four year period, invoices on file for the work total in excess of $75,000.
Best described as a sympathetic restoration, the car presents well today and is an ideal candidate for immediate enjoyment, though as with any car of this vintage we would recommend a service prior to extended use. The interior remains in original condition, showing a respectable patina in almost a cream color and is complete with just over 60,000 miles. With regards to pertinent Gullwing details we note that this car is not complimented with belly pans nor fitted luggage.
A fine example of this outstanding model, we proudly pass on the owner's wishes that the next custodian loves and enjoys this Gullwing as much as he has.
Exceptional Motor Cars|
Christies, Greenwich , CT. U.S.A.
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