1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing
- Offered by its third enthusiast owner since new
- Beautiful, correct award-winning restoration by Steve Babinsky
- Finished in its original special-order color combination
- Original numbers-matching engine and drivetrain
- Equipped with original Rudge wheels and fitted luggage
From his Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Park Avenue showroom, Mercedes-Benz’s United States 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 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-cc), 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 bhp at 6,100 rpm (SAE) and 215 bhp 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 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.
THIS EXCEPTIONAL 300 SL
According to the registers of both Eric Le Moine and the Gull Wing Group, this 300 SL was a special order through Max Hoffman Motors, in Black (DB40) with the optional full red leather (1079) interior. Its first owner, Philip Newfiler of Allentown, Pennsylvania, later passed it to Bernard Berman, an Allentown industrialist and early collector of sporting automobiles, whose garage it shared with many fine cars from all eras. Mr. Berman maintained the Gullwing for decades before selling it to its third and current owner, also a Quaker State collector; the 300 SL has remained in Pennsylvania and, in fact, within easy distance of its original home since new.
The consignor elected to have the car restored by the respected Steve Babinsky of Automotive Restorations in Lebanon, New Jersey. Photographic records of the work, which are on file, show the solid and patinaed original condition in which the 300 SL was acquired, including the original stampings and markings on many of its drivetrain components, as well as the body number stampings. It was subsequently painstakingly restored to an extremely high standard, with invoices on file reflecting over $695,000 in work. The owner notes that it retains its original, numbers-matching engine and complete original drivetrain, including its transmission, steering box, and even the set of belly pans! Further, it is equipped with an original set of Rudge knock-off wheels and proper fitted luggage.
Exhibited at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, to much admiration, this is a spectacular Gullwing, with the benefits of a desirable late-production status, many of the best possible accoutrements, matching-numbers authenticity, and an exceptional restoration. It would be a standout wherever it is driven or exhibited by a proud owner.