17-18 August 2012
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL 'Gullwing' Coupe
To be auctioned on Saturday, August 18, 2012
Sold for $1,171,500
- Chassis no. 198 040 4500080
- Engine no. 198 98 4500093
• Immaculate concours restoration by Gullwing expert Rudi Koniczek
• Four owners from new
• Outstanding color combination
• Mercedes’ most revered postwar sports car
Few sports cars in the history of automobile manufacturing have attained the iconic status of the revered Mercedes-Benz 300SL Coupe, which combines a peerless racing pedigree with a truly innovative design. First appearing in 1952 as a racing sports car intended to return Mercedes to competition relevance, the 300SL was notable for its innovative lightweight space-frame chassis and a retuned version of engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut’s inline six-cylinder engine, which was already employed in the 300 sedans. Of course the most notable physical features of Sindelfingen designer Karl Wilfert’s beautiful coachwork were the roof-hinged doors, which were necessitated by the chassis’s high waist, thus giving the model its eventual nickname, the Gullwing.
Dominating nearly every race it entered, the 1952 300SL attained legendary status with wins at the 1954 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Carrera Panamericana, a cachet that was not lost on groundbreaking U.S. importer Max Hoffman. Since renowned for his savvy of the emerging American market for European sports cars during the 1950s, Hoffman made considerable efforts to convince Mercedes that a strong market existed for a roadgoing series-production version of the 300SL race car. His plea did not fall on deaf ears; at the 1954 International Motor Sports Show in New York, Mercedes debuted its answer to Hoffman’s requests: a luxurious new take on the racing Gullwing.
In addition to a more luxurious cabin upholstered in leather, the 300SL coupe featured a number of improvements over its racing forebear, including doors that were cut substantially lower for easier entry and exit. The road car also significantly improved on the race car’s power output by employing mechanical fuel injection, good for 44 hp more than the racer, and is notable as the first production automobile to feature the since widely-employed method of fuel induction. Produced in a modest quantity of 1,374 examples over a three-year production run, the 300SL Gullwing has since been elevated to a near-mythical height almost unequaled in postwar collectible sports cars.
Embodying all of the sensational qualities that make the 300SL Gullwing such an iconic car, this beautiful example boasts a mere four owners from new and the expert attention of one of the 300SL niche’s leading names. According to factory records, this strapping Gullwing completed assembly on November 18, 1954 and was shipped to New York City one day later. Subsequently, it was initially purchased in early-1955 by a resident of Ann Arbor, Michigan, this car is one of just 167 examples constructed between August and December of 1954.
Within time passing to a second owner in the Ann Arbor area, this car eventually came into the custody of Rudi Koniczek, a renowned restorer of 300SL models based in Victoria, British Colombia, Canada. 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 300SL 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 paint, 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 its current owner, a bi-coastal enthusiast who maintains a fine collection of vintage automobiles at his estate in Montecito, California. Since then, the immaculately restored Gullwing has been 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. Mr. Bianchi attests that he has seldom seen a nicer 300SL Gullwing than this example, which he adds has accrued no more than 400 miles during current ownership. Used once to drive to the annual August collector car events of the Monterey Peninsula in California, this car has otherwise been garaged in a well-maintained state of storage, ever prepared for the possibility of its owner’s occasional arrivals and bouts of use.
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 toolkit, photo-documentation of the restoration process, and a set of owners manuals, this arresting 300SL 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.
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