Monterey

13-15 August 2015

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Lot 345

1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing

  • Chassis no. 198.040.4500080
  • Engine no. 198.98.4500093
  • Body no. 198.040.4500080

$1,500,000 - $1,800,000


Please note that this lot is titled as a 1955.

215 bhp (DIN), 240 bhp (SAE), 2,992 cc SOHC inline six-cylinder engine with Bosch mechanical fuel injection, four-speed manual transmission, coil-spring independent front suspension, coil-spring and swing-axle rear suspension, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 94.5 in.

  • Immaculate concours restoration by Gullwing expert Rudi Koniczek
  • Known history, with five owners from new
  • Outstanding color combination; matching numbers
  • Includes a matching luggage set, tool kit, and owner's manuals
  • Mercedes-Benz’s most revered post-war sports car


THE LEGENDARY GULLWING

Mercedes-Benz’s 300 SL claimed 2nd in the Mille Miglia, 1-2-3 in the Sports Car Race in Berne, Switzerland, 1st and 2nd at Le Mans, 1-2-3-4 at the Nürburgring, and 1st and 2nd at La Carrera Panamericana. Yet more was to be desired. From his Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Park Avenue showroom, the company’s U.S. distributor, Max Hoffman, said that there was a market in America for a fast, sensual Mercedes-Benz coupe, and a production version of the racing 300 SL, complete with the fascinating and now legendary “gullwing” doors, necessitated by the unusual, tall “birdcage” frame design, would be it.

The “SL” moniker (translated to English as Sport Light) reflected the pioneering use of a welded, tubular-steel, ultra-light frame construction that weighed only 182 pounds. The car also featured fully independent suspension in addition to its fuel-injected, 3.0-liter (2,996 cubic centimeter), OHC straight-six with dry-sump lubrication, and the motor was inclined to the side in order to reduce the height of the front end. The power, rated at 240 brake horsepower at 6,100 rpm (SAE) and 215 brake horsepower at 5,800 rpm (DIN), with the factory-optional or dealer-installed “sport” camshaft, was delivered through a four-speed manual gearbox. A 161-mph top speed and 0–60 acceleration of approximately eight seconds, depending on the rear-end ratio selected from five options, made the 300 SL the fastest production automobile of its time.

Appropriate for an automobile that Max Hoffman had almost single-handedly willed into being, the production 300 SL made its debut in the United States, not in Germany, which was a Mercedes first. More than 1,000 of the 1,400 cars produced between 1954 and early 1957 were delivered through Hoffman, to whose showrooms the rich and famous flocked. The 300 SL was as much a status symbol in its time as it is today, as it was favored by everyone from Hollywood stars to racing legends to genuine royalty.

The 300 SL was also raced and piloted by the top drivers of the day, such as John Fitch, Olivier Gendebien, Paul O’Shea, Prince Metternich, and of course, Sir Stirling Moss, who holds the “forever” course record for his famous Mille Miglia finish in 1955. It all added to the romance of a car that seemed destined to become a legend the moment production began. It had all of the right ingredients: incredible exclusivity, incredible speed, and an incredible price.

“A thoroughbred in every sense of the word,” advertising boasted, “and a car which will be recognized by all enthusiasts as the ‘last word’ in sporting automobiles; a car which puts indescribable pleasure into driving!”

THE MOTOR CITY 300 SL

The Gullwing offered here, chassis number 198.040.4500080, was completed, according to factory records, on November 18, 1954, and shipped to New York City on November 24. Subsequently, it was acquired in early 1955 through suburban Detroit dealer Falvey Motors, of Ferndale, Michigan, by José J. Calvillo. Mr. Calvillo’s namesake Detroit studio produced commercial artwork for the automotive industry, most prominently the cars depicted in Chevrolet ads of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Factory records indicate that the car was originally finished in Light Blue (DB 334) over a Blue vinyl and plaid (L1) interior; amusingly, by the time the car arrived at Falvey Motors, however, it was apparently finished in Dark Green, which outraged the fastidious and businesslike Mr. Calvillo, who had ordered the car in Silver! Since the car had taken about six months from the order being placed until final delivery, Mr. Calvillo managed to calm himself (with no small assistance from the patient Larry Falvey) and took the car.

Eventually the Gullwing passed into the ownership of Fred T. Haddock, of Ann Arbor, with whom it remained for many years. It then came into the custody of Rudi Koniczek, the renowned restorer of 300 SL models, based in Victoria, British Columbia. Trained by Mercedes-Benz technicians, Mr. Koniczek has been in the business of restoring Gullwings for over 40 years, and many of his restorations have gone on to draw national recognition from venues as sophisticated as the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and Gull Wing Group National Conventions. Mr. Koniczek soon treated this wonderful Gullwing to a rotisserie restoration that left no stone unturned. Every mechanical and cosmetic component was fastidiously restored to original factory standards or replaced with correct new original stock parts. Likewise, the exterior was painstakingly refinished in a resplendently deep coat of Black, complemented with an interior of Dark Green vinyl and plaid seats, both correct colors included in Mercedes-Benz 1954 livery offerings.

In early 2011, this car was acquired by a bi-coastal enthusiast who maintains a fine collection of vintage automobiles at his estate in Montecito, California. In his ownership, the 300 SL was maintained and tended as needed by Jack Bianchi, a well-known veteran of the area’s motorsports community and a respected sports car and race car mechanic.

In its current ownership, the strength of Mr. Koniczek’s award-winning restoration work continues to characterize this stunning Gullwing. The car’s magnificent exterior condition is matched by a beautifully detailed interior, engine compartment, and trunk, as well as the overwhelmingly authentic level of presentation in every mechanical part used. Further enriched by the presence of a matching set of luggage, a complete tool kit, photo-documentation of the restoration process, and a set of owner’s manuals, this arresting 300 SL Gullwing lacks for nothing. It is a show-ready example that invites future ownership to make a competitive run at national-level concours d’elegance and Mercedes-Benz club events. It is among the finest examples available in today’s market and will doubtlessly draw the attention of any serious collector looking to acquire a premium-level early Gullwing.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
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

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

Cameron Smyth

csmyth@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Cameron Smyth joined RM Sotheby’s as a Car Specialist in 2015, working out of our corporate office and providing assistance on c... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Ian Kelleher

ikelleher@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Politica... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
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

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Peter Wallman

pwallman@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007 following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, where he was based out ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
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