Lot 282 - 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL 'Gullwing'
|Odometer reading||23,492 miles|
|Estimate||£925,000 - £1,125,000|
Instantly recognizable not only by automobile buffs, but virtually anyone on the planet, the immortal 300SL (for Sports Leicht) Gullwing coupé arguably competes for the title of 'Greatest Ever Sports Car' and surely qualifies for anyone's Top 10 list of the greatest motorcars of all time and it ranks today among the most valued and collectable sports cars ever produced.
The most striking aspect of the Gullwing, at first glance anyway, is its appearance. The smooth flowing lines are difficult to fault and are timeless to the point that the cars are continually confused by the lay person with a far newer model. The doors, of course, are the outstanding feature, and with both of them open, the appellation 'Gullwing' becomes obvious. The shape is both elegant and functional. The few fittings are constructed in typical Daimler-Benz fashion, both in design and execution. The bumps in the hood, the belt mouldings of anodized aluminium (along with the majority of the trim mouldings), the upward opening doors - they are all there for a reason, be it to clear the engine, cover a seam in the body panels or provide access to a complicated chassis. In modern terminology, the Gullwing is a fully integrated design, a claim that few cars could make at the time. Though the 300SLs were built on a production line in Sindelfingen, assembly was carried out almost entirely by hand with the only automated system being used to lower the steel body onto the tube frame chassis during final assembly.
The Gullwing Coupé was in production for a surprisingly short three years, during which only 1,400 examples were built. In 1957, the Coupé was replaced by the Roadster version with improved rear suspension, lower and narrower side sections and a remounted spare wheel that offered an actual trunk with luggage space. Not only did the styling put Mercedes-Benz in a class by itself, the engine was unlike anything in other production cars, even those of a sporting nature. To accommodate the low, sleek lines, the engine was canted at a 45⁰ angle to the left. To make the engine as low as possible in the car, the production car used a 'dry-sump' oiling system with oil pumped from a separate tank rather than being held in a sump beneath the engine.
Completed at the Mercedes-Benz works in March of 1955, this exceptional Gullwing is finished in the sporting colour of DB534 Feuerwehrrot, or Fire Brigade Red, the interior is finished tan leather hide throughout. It was ordered new by Adam Opel AG of Mainz, Germany in February under order or 'Kommission' number '5 245 0008' on behalf of Mr. Zdunek, a special client. This, in itself, is unusual as very few of the 1955 Gullwings were sold new into Europe, rather most stock was sent directly into the USA. The original colour scheme then was silver with a red interior but was changed around some years later.
Shortly after being sold new, the legendary American automotive architect and head of design at General Motors, Harley Earl, arranged for the purchase through his close contacts at Opal and had it shipped to his home in the US before retiring from GM altogether. Once retired, this and several other of his motorcars were sold and subsequently acquired by a not insubstantial collection of Harry Eynon where it would remain for the next 30 years before passing to his son, Dennis. Robert Sage then bought it from Dennis and began the painstaking 'body-off' restoration that began in 1990 and did not finish until 1994. It was during this process of restoration that the colour was changed from DB180 Silver/Grey metallic to DB534 Fire Engine Red and the interior changed from red leather to tan. It was also found to be in remarkably original condition and without signs of accident damage or corrosion anywhere.
Upon completion of the works, the car was sold to a Museum in Japan under the watchful eye of its private collector. It would remain here before purchase and shipping to the USA in 2014. It has now been fully re-commissioned by renowned 300SL specialists in the UK, Templar and Wilde and also benefits from a complete rebuilt engine (run-in to 1,000km), re-commissioned fuel-injection system, a rebuilt steering box, and new clutch. Together with new tyres, full UK registration and a full set of belly pans (not fitted), this stunning example has also been confirmed by the Mercedes-Benz factory to be an all matching-numbers Gullwing. A wonderful example of the legendary car, this has a prominent history boasting solid ownership and an exciting colour combination. It will undoubtedly receive invitations to many of the world's most prestigious motoring events.