If automotive historians were to pick the top collector car of all time, the Mercedes 300SL Gullwing would have to be in contention. Few cars have had to much impact or been so far ahead of their time as the 300SL Gullwing by Mercedes-Benz. The list of “firsts” it accomplished for factory production cars would amaze you. In the early 1950’s it was a vision of our automotive future.
Fast forward to today, and these automotive treasures all all million-dollar collectibles. This week, Legendary Motorcars, a classic car dealer and restoration facility, just listed a 1956 Mercedes 300SL Gullwing with history and provenance to spare. It is the most interesting Gullwing we’ve come across in years. It was was special ordered, finished in graphite gray with blue plaid interior for the car’s first owner, the Prince of Salm-Salm (a principality in western France.) A neurosurgeon from Indianapolis, Indiana bought the car in 1961 and had it painted a rare factory Mercedes color, code DB543, which was Strawberry Metallic. The car retains its paperwork from Dr. Luro’s ownership. He retained ownership until 2005. The third owner had a cosmetic and mechanical restoration done by reknowned Mercedes Gullwing experts at Rudi and Company in British Columbia, Canada.
Today, Legendary Motorcars tells us it is simply stunning to behold. Accessorized with highly desirable, color coordinated, fitted luggage and factory installed Becker Mexico radio, it comes with the Mercedes tool kit. Readers will note the beautiful tan leather interior.
Mercedes 300SL Gullwing Historic “Firsts”
Visually, the Mercedes 300SL Gullwing is best remembered for its canteleavered doors, later copied by Lamborghini. That is the innovation for which it is most remembered. But Mercedes also deployed the first Bosch mechanical fuel injection, coil spring independent front suspension, plus coil spring and swing-axle rear suspension. Of particular note, the 300 SL was the first Mercedes to be introduced in the United States before it was shown in Germany, and when it was unveiled in New York on February 6th, 1954, it took the automotive world by storm. The “SL” (translated to English as Sport Light) moniker reflected the pioneering use of welded tubular-steel frame construction.
The beginnings of the legendary Mercedes 300SL Gullwing harken back to the road racing scene of the early 1950s. Mercedes-Benz wanted to get back into racing so they designed what they believed to be the best car for road racing competition. The Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing was the first of a legendary line of SL sports cars which would change the world. Indeed, they dominated their class on the Grand Prix circuit, winning the 24 Hours of Lemans in 1952, and also winning the Carrera Panamericana.
In 1954 Mercedes came out with a street version Mercedes 300SL Gullwing for the new car buying public. In doing so they kept the tubular frame and fully independent front suspension. It was the Straight Six Mercedes 2,995 cc single-overhead cam engine that received Bosche fuel-injection for the first time. Said to have 215 base horsepower, it was capable in factory form to reach speeds of 160 miles per hour, making it the fastest production car in the world at that time.
In its day this Gullwing Mercedes was very expensive with a price equivalent to $9,000. Thus, only 1,400 of these cars were produced between 1954 and early 1957.