Monterey

13-15 August 2015

The Pinnacle Portfolio: A Rare Collective of Automotive Distinction

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Lot 109

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Alloy Gullwing

  • Chassis no. 198.043.5500786
  • Engine no. 198.980.5500728
  • Body no. 198.043.5500021

$5,500,000 - $6,500,000


215 hp, 2,996 cc SOHC inline six-cylinder engine with Bosch mechanical fuel injection, four-speed manual transmission, coil-spring independent front suspension, coil-spring swing axle rear suspension, and four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 94.5 in.

  • One of only 29 aluminum-bodied examples originally produced; only 2% of total Gullwing production
  • Features the most desirable factory upgrades and options, including a Sonderteile motor, sports suspension, and Rudge wheels
  • Formerly owned by Swiss industrialist Rene Wassermann and Pennsylvania State Senator Theodore Newell Wood
  • Restored by world-renowned specialist Kienle Automobiltechnik
  • Matching numbers
  • The ultimate rendition of the famed Gullwing


For both the jet set and the burgeoning sports car crowd, there was one sports car that reigned supreme in 1955, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL “Gullwing,” as it became known. The car was so nicknamed for its unique roof-hinged doors, and it was the vehicle that had it all. Gorgeous proportions, brilliant race-bred engineering, and blistering performance made the Gullwing not only one of the most desirable vehicles of the 1950s but one of the most desirable vehicles of all time.

However, not all Gullwings were created equal, and if you were a well-heeled sports car enthusiast in 1955, the aluminum-bodied 300 SL was the car to have. Its lighter bodywork made it even more competitive against other British and Italian 3-liter sports cars. Additionally, these cars were also outfitted with the Sonderteile engine, which utilized a competition-spec camshaft, increasing power output by 15 horsepower. With both a slight increase in power and decrease in overall weight, the additional performance in these cars was instantly discernable from behind the wheel.

It goes without saying that the alloy Gullwing was the cream of the crop and handedly capable of outperforming all of its competitors on both road and track.

CHASSIS NUMBER 5500786

The example presented here, one of just twenty-nine aluminum-bodied Gullwings built by Mercedes-Benz, was ordered new by Rene Wassermann, an industrialist and sports car enthusiast who was living in Basel, Switzerland. The car’s factory build sheet notes that Wasserman ordered his new alloy Gullwing with a plethora of special options, including special high-gloss white paint, a red leather interior, a sport suspension, two-piece matching luggage, sealed-beam headlights, and instruments in English, surely making it one of the most well-specified Gullwings built.

The car was completed on October 5, 1955, and rather than having it delivered to his home in Switzerland, Wasserman picked up the car himself and drove his new 300 SL back home. While it is not known when Wasserman sold the car, by the early 1960s it had been exported to the United States, where its second owner was Jerome Seavey, of Chicago, followed by John K. Scattergood III, a principal at Blenheim Motors, located in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.

THE SENATOR’S GULLWING

This 300 SL remained in Pennsylvania with its next owner Keystone State politician and enthusiast Senator Theodore Newell Wood. Along with representing the 20th District of Luzerne, Susquehanna, Pike, Wayne, and Wyoming counties in the Pennsylvania State Senate, Senator Wood enjoyed sports car racing in his spare time and served as the president of the Hill Climb Association. He also founded the Brynfan Tyddyn Road Races, which were held from 1952 to 1956, with the last year featuring Carroll Shelby as a driver. The SCCA even gave Senator Wood a free lifetime membership for his efforts in sponsorship and participation in racing in the Northeast.

After passing through the hands of Bill Kontes and Joe Marchetti, the 300 SL was acquired by Leslie Barth in 1983. Barth kept the car until 1989. In its next ownership, with Swedish businessman and collector Hans Thulin, it was consigned to Kienle Automobiltechnik in Stuttgart, Germany, one of the world’s foremost facilities, known for their restorations on Mercedes-Benzes and 300 SLs in particular. The car was sold to a German collector, who in turn commissioned Kienle to perform a full restoration. Notably, damage to alloy-bodied 300 SLs is remarkably common, as the aluminum is notoriously thin and can quite literally bend under the pressure of an ill-placed hand. Furthermore, the bodies are known to deteriorate at the mounting points, where aluminum meets steel. As a result, almost all lightweight examples have been reskinned or repaired at some point, and on this particular car, any parts of the body that were irreparable were replaced.

Upon completion, the car was repainted in traditional Mercedes-Benz silver and retrimmed in its original color of red leather. As is to be expected, the quality of the workmanship is absolutely superb, with the tremendous attention to detail and factory correctness befitting of a Kienle restoration. Indeed, aside from this car’s rarity as an alloy-bodied Gullwing, its association with this restoration facility is a point of pride and desirability all its own.

With a subsequent owner in 2002, the 300 SL was inspected by Mercedes-Benz Classic and determined to still retain all of its original mechanical components and drivetrain. After passing through a collector in Switzerland, the car was acquired by its current custodian. The Gullwing has been preserved in immaculate condition ever since, with its odometer displaying only 2,481 kilometers, presumably since Kienle’s restoration.

Not only is this one of just twenty-nine aluminum-bodied 300 SL Gullwings produced (as compared to over 1,400 steel-bodied cars), it also features all the highly desirable options and accessories one would want on a Gullwing, including the Sonderteile engine, sport suspension, Rudge knock-off wheels, and a two-piece luggage set. Following a recent test drive by an RM Sotheby’s specialist, he found the options on this example to be immediately apparent, making the car noticeably quicker than the “standard” 300 SL Gullwings, and he also reported that it was “dialed in” and great fun to drive.

For the discerning collector, it would be difficult to find a more desirable example than this matching-numbers car. This is, quite simply, one of the most sought-after and rarely seen Mercedes-Benzes in the world.

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