Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing rodził się jako sportowa maszyna. Model W194 zdobył drugie i czwarte miejsce w legendarnym wyścigu „Mille Miglia”, dodatkowo udało się zwyciężyć w Carrera Panamericana. To, że jego cywilna wersja zagościła w garażach zwykłych śmiertelników, zawdzięcza jednej osobie. Z urodzenia Austriak, Maximilian Edwin Hoffman, to dealer ekskluzywnych europejskich samochodów w Nowym Jorku. Wyczuł on rynek na stylowy, sportowy samochód i naciskał na zarząd Mercedesa w celu stworzenia wersji drogowej, opartej na wyścigowym modelu. Miał on zamówić 1000 egzemplarzy jeszcze zanim zapadła decyzja o seryjnej produkcji i w rezultacie sprzedał około 80% produkcji Gullwing’a właśnie w USA. Prezentowany na aukcji egzemplarz pochodzący z amerykańskiej dystrybucji, jest w pełni oryginalny, o zgodnych numerach podwozia, karoserii i silnika. Jego wartość szacowana przez dom aukcyjny to 1,1 – 1,3 mln euro, czyli około 4,8 – 5,7 mln PLN.
MERCEDES-BENZ 300 SL COUPÉ « PAPILLON » 1955
€1,100,000 – 1,300,000
PLN 4,800,000 – 5,700,000
LES GRANDES MARQUES DU MONDE AU GRAND PALAIS
PARIS, THE GRAND PALAIS
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL ‚Gullwing’ Coupé
Chassis no. 198.40.5500823
Engine no. 198.980.550086
•Delivered new to New York, USA
•One of 867 Gullwings built in 1955
•Matching chassis and engine numbers
•Believed five owners from new
•2011 Schloss Dyck Concours class winner
•Fully restored in 2004 and engine rebuilt in 2015
‚When it was first announced by Mercedes-Benz, the production 300 SL Coupé was a startling car built to the German concern’s customarily startling standards, but above all what left the general public most open-mouthed about the new car was its upward-opening Gullwing doors…!’ – Motors, 1963.
Mercedes-Benz returned to post-war competition in 1952, fielding two of its new 300 SL (W194) sports cars in the Mille Miglia. The pair finishing a creditable 2nd and 4th overall in this most difficult of events and this promising start was followed up by a win in the challenging Carrera Panamericana. The works first raced the 300 SL (Sport Leicht) in open form, but for the Le Mans 24-Hour Race in June a trio of ‚Gullwing’-doored coupés was entered. High sills were a feature of the multi-tubular spaceframe chassis, and while access was not a problem of the open car, the coupé bodywork required innovative thinking – hence the Gullwing doors. Karl Kling and Hans Klenk duly brought their ‚Silver Arrow’ home in first place and the 300 SL was on its way to becoming part of motor sporting legend.
Launched in August 1954, the production 300 SL retained the spaceframe chassis and lightweight aluminium-alloy bodywork of the W194 racer while its mechanical underpinnings, like the latter’s, owed much to the contemporary Mercedes-Benz 300 luxury saloon. A 2,996cc overhead-camshaft inline six, the 300 SL’s engine was canted at 45 degrees to achieve a low bonnet line and produced 215bhp (DIN) at 5,800rpm using Bosch mechanical fuel injection. A four-speed, all-synchromesh manual gearbox transmitted power to the hypoid bevel rear axle. Suspension was independent all round: by wishbones and coil springs at the front, with swing axles and coil springs at the rear.
A production 300 SL (W198) was tested by Road & Track magazine in 1955, accelerating from 0-60mph in 7.4 seconds on its way to a top speed of 140mph. Half expecting the long-awaited 300 SL to provide an anti-climax, R&T were delighted to find the new car, ‚far beyond our wildest expectations. In fact, we can state unequivocally that in our opinion the 300SL coupé is the ultimate in an all-round sportscar. It combines more desirable features in one streamlined package than we ever imagined or hoped would be possible. Performance? It accelerates from a dead start to 100mph in just over 17 seconds. Dual purpose? A production model 300 SL can make a very acceptable showing in any type of sportscar competition. Yet the car is extremely tractable and easy to drive in traffic. Comfort? The fully enclosed 300 SL is the most comfortable (and safe) high-speed ‚cross-country’ car built today.’
A 300 SL roadster featuring conventional doors was first exhibited at the Geneva Salon in May 1957 and, although built in greater numbers, has never matched the immortal Gullwing for desirability. Its racing parentage notwithstanding, the 300 SL remains a thoroughly practical car, as civilised in city traffic as it is exhilarating on the autostrada. By the time 300 SL Coupé production ceased in 1957, some 1,400 examples had found customers. Today the model is both rare and most sought after by connoisseurs of fine automobiles.
One of 867 ‚Gullwing’ coupés built in 1955, this example was delivered new to Mercedes-Benz Distributors Inc of New York, USA in November of that year. According to the 300 SL Registry (copy record on file), chassis number ‚823’ was originally finished in light green metallic with red leather interior, a rare combination. The Register extract confirms matching chassis/engine numbers and states that this car was built with a 3.25:1 ratio rear axle – rare for a US-delivered Gullwing – which reduces engine revs and makes the car more comfortable to drive at high speeds. It is believed that this axle is the ‚Special Order’ referred to in the Register records. In order, the owners listed are Lawrence T Lee of Stafford Springs, Connecticut; Stephen R Narans of Denver, Colorado; and Eric Eichler of Malvern, Pennsylvania. The car spent its life with these three owners for its first 45 years.
The immediately preceding owner, Mrs Suzanna Navarro, bought the Gullwing in 2000 and brought it to Naples (Florida) for a full restoration. The rebuild took four years to complete, and in 2004 the finished car was sold to the current Dutch owner, who brought it to Holland in 2005. At that time (2005) the odometer reading was 2,800 miles (post-restoration). In the current owner’s possession for 11 years, the Gullwing has covered only some 3,500 miles in that time, making the total since restoration circa 6,300 miles. In 2015, the engine was totally overhauled at a cost of €13,342 (see notes and photographs on file). While in the current owner’s possession, the Gullwing won its class at the 2011 Schloss Dyck Concours d’Élégance.
This car has been inspected by Mr Benny Valkenburg, the leading 300 SL authority in Western Europe, who has confirmed its originality with respect to the chassis, body and engine (report on file). It is worthwhile noting that this Gullwing still has the standard gear lever, and not the lower, remote-linkage shifter fitted to many examples. The car comes with an instruction manual; the purchase invoice and some photographs dating from 2004; sundry invoices for minor works; German TüV paperwork; and a copy of the old US title in the name of Mercedes-Benz, Naples.
One of the Bonhams Motoring Department specialists has had the pleasure of driving this beautiful Gullwing, and is happy to confirm that it performed excellently with no faults noted; it responded eagerly to the throttle while the clutch, gearbox, and brakes all worked well – a truly memorable experience.