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Lot 362: Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing

The Scottsdale Sale, Bonhams (17 January 2013)

Max Hoffman rarely missed an opportunity. The impresario of imported cars on New York's Park Avenue built the U.S. presence of most European brands after World War II  Jaguar, Allard, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Mercedes-Benz and more  and when Mercedes-Benz won the Carrera Panamericana in 1952 with a W194 300SL coupe driven by Karl Kling, Hoffman seized the moment. He approached Mercedes with a radical idea: take the charismatic tube frame W194 with its high performance 3-liter engine and characteristic roof-hinged doors and create a road car based on it. It wasn't just daring, it was audacious, but Hoffman had a highly developed sense for the U.S. market and backed up his suggestion with his checkbook. He placed an order for a thousand luxury high performance coupes based on a more civilized version of the W194. Mercedes-Benz, still valiantly trying to shake off the devastation of the war and the weak European market, took him up on it and the 300SL was born. Hoffman had proposed a relatively direct transformation of the multi-tube framed W194, retaining its roof-hinged doors, tall, wide sills, 45 canted triple-carbureted single overhead camshaft inline six and fully independent suspension with more civilized accoutrements. The engineers at Mercedes-Benz weren't satisfied with such a simple transformation and added the first direct mechanical fuel injection system ever offered in a production automobile. Introduced at the February 1954 New York Auto Show, the 300SL was an instant sensation. Its curved doors soon brought it the nickname "Gullwing" which has stuck for well over half a century and been copied by many lesser automobiles hoping to capitalize on the 300SL's halo. The body design was refined for the street and added eyebrow moldings over the wheel wells to signal an association with Mercedes-Benz's later race cars. The driving position, steering wheel location, controls and instruments' visibility were carefully refined by M-B to make driving the 300SL a rewarding experience. Over the next three years Mercedes-Benz built over 1,400 300SL Gullwings. The majority were sold through Max Hoffman in North America, validating both the reality of his vision and returning many times over the confidence he showed in backing its development. Ever since 1954 the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing has been one of the cars every collector must own or experience. This beautiful 1955 (titled as a 1956) Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe is a freshly and completely restored example in the extremely attractive and desirable color of Strawberry Red Metallic (DB543) with beautiful beige leather upholstery. The records indicate a completion date of July 27th, 1955 and it was shipped to the United States in the original livery of DB180 Silver Grey metallic with 1079 leather upholstery. As documented in the Gullwing Registry, previous owners include a Mr Peterson of West Virginia, George W.Gaw of Ohio, Clem Standish also of Ohio then Ben W. Baskin and Harvey L. Rice, both of Pennsylvania. The 300SL was bought by the present owner in 1988 and a complete restoration begun. A year later he succumbed to the entreaties of a friend and sold him the partially-restored Gullwing but it progressed slowly, if at all, over the next dozen years. Eventually the current owner bought it back. Over last few years the restoration was carefully and systematically completed with a new interior. A set of factory-correct belly pans were made and fit carefully to the restored body and chassis. A set of five Rudge centerlock wheels were obtained and installed with blackwall tires to give it the finishing touch and accent the 300SL Gullwing's many competition successes. It has recently been completed and thoroughly detailed to accurate, showroom condition. It runs and drives perfectly and will give its new owner the opportunity to experience the sensational performance and dramatic appearance that made Max Hoffman's and Mercedes-Benz's gamble of producing the 300SL pay off. The 300SL was the supercar of its era, and, as expressed in this superbly restored Strawberry Metallic Gullwing Coupe, it has the same effect today.

Lot Details
Auction The Scottsdale Sale
Bonhams, Arizona, USA
Lot Number362
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price$809999
Hammer Price (inc premium)$895999
Condition rating
Registration number
Chassis number1980405500521
Engine number1989805500534
Engine capacity (cc)2996
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors