Automobiles of London

28 October 2009

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Lot 227

1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL AMG Coupé

  • Chassis no. 1980404500066

Sold for £462,000

380 hp, 5,956 cc AMG-tuned Mercedes-Benz M119 V8 with dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and variable intake valve timing, electronic fuel injection, four-speed automatic gearbox, four-wheel independent and adjustable sport suspension, and four-wheel power-assisted disc brakes. Wheelbase: 94.5"

The original Mercedes-Benz 300SL is rightly regarded as one of the most brilliant and iconic sports car of the 20th century. Representing a fusion of competition success with elegance and inspired design, the original, road going car left an indelible mark on the motoring world and continues to be immensely desirable and collectable. As a result, the 300SL, whether in coupé or roadster form, is one of the most highly coveted automobiles on today’s collector car market.

The steady pace of technological advancements, particularly breakthroughs in electronics, engine management and suspension technology, have provided significant leaps in comfort, handling and sheer performance capabilities over the intervening five decades. The 1954 300SL “Gullwing” Coupé offered here has been updated by Mercedes-Benz’s own AMG tuning division and represents a perfectly executed marriage of the timeless 1954 Mercedes-Benz “Gullwing” body and chassis with all the performance and advanced technology of a modern high-performance automobile. According to AMG Project Manager Volker Niewig, the project was initiated following a request by the Royal Family of Brunei.

This particular car, which was completed in 2006, is based on an original 300SL from 1954 and retains the original steel body and aluminium bonnet and boot lid. The body was treated with KTL anti-corrosion coating, finished with metallic paintwork and crowned with 300SL brightwork and trim. Upon closer inspection, a number of subtle body modifications were skilfully executed, including the addition of electrically adjustable rear view mirrors on both sides, as well as a relocated fuel-filler pipe, with a new fuel-filler door at the right rear side of the vehicle. Finally, the exterior package is complemented by green-tinted glass all around, as well as a set of modern AMG light-alloy wheels – an instantly recognizable five-spoke design that cleverly alludes to the car’s origins.

Mechanically, the car features a fully restored original 300SL tubular chassis, which was modified to accommodate a modern AMG M119 V8 engine, displacing six litres and producing 380 horsepower, mated to a Mercedes-Benz W4A four-speed automatic gearbox. Complete with an exhaust catalyst in compliance with today’s stringent environmental regulations, the new engine provides sufficient thrust to propel the 300SL to an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h.

No mere engine swap, these bespoke cars cost in excess of 1 million Euros to build, and their technical packages are thoroughly modern in every respect. Handling was greatly improved by replacing the original swing-axle rear suspension system with a 1989-2001 R129 rear axle assembly. Furthermore, a Bilstein adjustable sports suspension pack was added, as were power-operated AMG C36 front brakes, W124 (E-Class) rear brakes and power-assisted steering. Road grip and steering response also benefit from a set of low profile, high-performance tires, which are sized 235/45 X 17 in front, with 245/45 X 17 tires at the rear.

The car’s cockpit continues to display the original layout, with the exception of the fully adjustable, leather-trimmed Recaro seats, three-point safety belts and a leather-wrapped sports steering wheel. The Nappa leather upholstery extends to the centre console and the lower door panels, contrasting stitching and velour carpeting, as well as luxurious Alcantara covering for the A-column, the headliner and the upper doorframes. The dashboard and the rear luggage shelf are trimmed in leather as well, while carbon fibre is utilised for the piano black instrument panel.

Other subtle interior touches include a steering-column lock for heightened security, as well as a complete set of original 300SL instruments which were cleverly adapted to modern technology and electronic operation. A modern air-conditioning and heating system has been fitted for enhanced comfort, and the entertainment system includes a classically styled Becker radio, complete with a six-disc CD changer and an iPod link, supported by a high-end multi-channel amplifier, speaker system and discreet windscreen-mounted antenna. An additional set of floor mats, as well as a pair of chrome plated door entrance plates with an engraved dedication, round out the luxuriously appointed interior.

Just 11 300SLs were modified by AMG between 1996 and 2009, with five of the cars completed for the Brunei Royal Family and six additional cars for select AMG customers. Of these 11 cars, 8 were coupés, of which four were right-hand drive. According to AMG, all of the cars were built to individual customer orders and specifications, with no further examples expected to be produced. No catalogues, press releases or any other information is available on this completely bespoke project.

Upon completion, each modified 300SL was track-tested by AMG. Given the dramatically enhanced handling and performance upgrades, the car performs exceptionally well with levels of refinement and quality to match the exacting standards of both AMG and Mercedes-Benz.

The AMG light alloy wheels and electrically operated rear-view mirrors were fitted to this particular example upon the original client’s request, but the next owner could easily fit period-style mirrors and wheels if desired. The 300SL has been recently serviced by AMG in Germany and, as offered, complies with Euro2 exhaust-emission requirements. It is currently registered in the UK on 1954 period correct licence plates. It also comes complete with its original 300SL registration documents, as well as an additional German TuV Certificate.

With no other cars planned for production, the offering of this AMG-modified Gullwing is an opportunity not to be missed. Who said you can’t have the best of both worlds?


Please note that, contrary to the catalogue description, this Lot remains under temporary import from Singapore and will be subject to local VAT and import duties if it remains in the EU.

Alexander Weaver

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California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

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Barney Ruprecht

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Ontario, Canada

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Cameron Smyth

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Ontario, Canada

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David Swig

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California, United States

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Don Rose

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United States

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Florida, United States

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Gord Duff

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Ontario, Canada

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Jake Auerbach

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California, United States

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Kurt Forry

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California, United States

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Matt Malamut

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California, United States

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Michael Squire

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United Kingdom

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Mike Fairbairn

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Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

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United Kingdom

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United Kingdom

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Ontario, Canada

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Shelby Myers

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California, United States

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Tonnie Van der Velden

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United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more