1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing
- Full concours-quality restoration by marque specialists Scott Grundfor and Kienle
- Decades of well-known ownership history
- Desirable upgrades of NSL camshaft, fitted luggage, and Rudge-style wheels
- Accompanied by restoration and service documentation and a copy of the factory build sheet
- A fine example of an iconic Mercedes-Benz
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; a production version of the racing 300 SL would be it, complete with the fascinating and now legendary “gullwing” doors necessitated by the unusual, tall “birdcage” frame design.
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), overhead-cam straight-six with dry-sump lubrication, and the motor was inclined to the side in order to reduce the height of the front end. 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, the power 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!”
CHASSIS NUMBER 198.040.5500397
The 300 SL Gullwing offered here, chassis 5500397, is recorded in the Gull Wing Group Register as having been originally delivered by special order through Max Hoffman’s New York salesroom, finished in Black with a Light Grey interior. Its earliest known owners were in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, including William Charles Young of Chevy Chase, Maryland, followed by Laurence R. Langfeldt of the District of Columbia.
In 1974, the car was bought by Earl J. Broyles, a well-known businessman and antique automobile collector from Fredericksburg, Virginia. Mr. Broyles is known to have owned the 300 SL for several years. Subsequently, it was acquired by Frank E. Gump of Summit, New Jersey, a Gull Wing Group member, for whom it was regularly maintained by the well-known East Coast facility Paul Russell & Co. of Essex, Massachusetts.
In 2007, the 300 SL’s ownership was taken over by Tom Horan of Denver, Colorado, the well-known enthusiast currently serving as Chairman of the Colorado Grand. While in Mr. Horan’s ownership, it was fully restored to concours quality by another well-known expert, Scott Grundfor of California, one of the country’s foremost specialists. More recently, in 2011, the car has undergone further mechanical restoration and service by the noted German firm Kienle, with receipts on file for work totaling some €64.000.
The car’s body is finished in White (actually closer to an attractive cream) with proper Red upholstery in the correct leather; the bodywork was correctly media-blasted and prepped prior to painting, and the brightwork both inside and out is correct and fresh, with triple-plated chrome used for the exterior. As part of the Grundfor restoration, the engine was upgraded for improved power with the desirable NSL camshaft, as was used in the competition Alloy Gullwings, and stainless-steel exhaust was installed. The chassis still has the original front belly pan, while the wheels have been changed out for correct Rudge-style knock-offs, a popular factory option in the period. Within the dashboard is the original Becker Mexico automatic signal-seeking radio, with a new automatic Hirschmann antenna. The interior boasts a proper wool headliner and German square-weave wool carpeting, with a set of correct reproduction luggage fitted to the trunk.
Inspection reports on file from previous owners indicate that the car retains its original bodywork and correct number stampings and plates throughout, as well as the original engine; the transmission is also of the correct type. Exhaustive effort was obviously made to keep the car as authentic as possible and ensure the best presentation from top to bottom.
In addition to the aforementioned luggage, this Gullwing is equipped with a small roll of reproduction tools; a jack; its original set of wheels; a collection of receipts, documents, and photographs from previous ownerships covering much of the car’s maintenance and restoration work from the past three owners; and both a copy of its original Mercedes-Benz data card and a fascinating inspection sheet from the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center that details its numbers throughout.
A superb Gullwing in every respect and benefiting from care and restoration by all the most respected craftsmen and facilities, this is an excellent 300 SL deserving of the best collection.