A NEW APPROACH IN AN AGE OLD BUSINESS+44 (0) 1926 691 141
Buyers Premium 7% + local taxes,VAT and customs arrangements if applicable
Instantly recognisable not only by automobile buffs, but virtually anyone on the planet, the immortal 300SL (for Sports Leicht) Gullwing Coupe arguably competes for the title of 'Greatest Sports Car of the 1950's', and surely qualifies for anyone's top ten list of the greatest automobiles of all time. A period favourite of wealthy celebrities, it ranks today among the most valued and collectable sports cars ever produced.
The 300SL Coupe was the direct descendant of Mercedes Benz Le Mans W194 competition Coupe, conceived in 1952. It was aimed at wresting the World Sportscar Championship from Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and Lancia, which were dominating post-war endurance racing. Mercedes-Benz historian, W. Robert Nitzke, writes that company management wanted to jump back into Grand Prix racing, where it had been so successful before the war, but lacked the time necessary to design, build, and develop a new single-seater for the 1954 season. Instead, Chief Engineer, Fritz Nallinger, suggested that the company build a new two-seat sports car utilising the strong in-line SOHC six-cylinder engine from its luxurious 300 series. Because the engine and drivetrain were relatively heavy, the chassis would have to be extremely light. Test Department manager Rudolf Uhlenhaut, having some experience with tubular chassis design, sat down with construction engineer Joseph Müller and laid out an extremely light (154 pounds) and rigid lattice-work chassis capable of accommodating the big in-line six. One major problem soon presented itself: there was no way to mount conventional doors without compromising the rigidity of the chassis. The solution was to raise the entry so that the doors cut into the roof, but that meant hinging them from the top, thus giving birth to this car's timeless signature design feature.
New York imported auto-entrepreneur, Max Hoffman, is credited with urging Mercedes Benz to build a production sports car based on their 300SLR racer. He was remarkably persuasive and the new 300SL Gullwing, in final form, was unveiled at the New York International Motor Sports Show in early February 1954, with production beginning that Autumn. The new Coupe was only slightly changed in appearance from the SLRs but featured Bosch direct fuel injection. This prompted the factory to claim it was, "the fastest German production sports car". Between 1954 and 1957, a total of 1,400 Gullwings were delivered to eager purchasers, and in 1957, the elegant 300SL Roadster appeared, these proving to be even more successful from a sales standpoint, with 1,858 finding homes.
Finished in gleaming black with a fabulous red leather interior, this left-hand drive 300SL (W198) stands head and shoulders above any restored Gullwing we have seen for a long time. We understand that it was restored by Brabus GmbH of Bottrop who are known worldwide for the quality of their work building, developing and tuning Mercedes-Benz. They also have a much-respected restoration business and are certainly in the top five of Gullwing experts in the world. At the time of printing, we were not able to confirm the level of restoration applied to this amazing example, so for further information please contact Silverstone Auctions.