1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING
Chassis No. 5500066
Engine No. 5500103
Light metallic green with matching plaid cloth seats
Engine: six cylinder, in-line, single overhead camshaft, 2,996cc, 250bhp at 6,200rpm; Gearbox: four-speed synchromesh manual; Suspension: double wishbone front with coil springs and anti-sway bar, rear, swing axle with radius rods and coil springs; Brakes: vacuum-assisted four wheel finned drums. Left hand drive.
When Mercedes-Benz returned to motor racing in 1952, they dominated the major long distance sports car events with their futuristically styled 300SL race cars. Considerable pressure and a guaranteed 1,000 orders from the Mercedes New York agent convinced Stuttgart to produce a street version of the 300SL, duly launched at the New York Auto Show to ecstatic acclaim. It closely resembled the race car except that, with all-steel bodywork, appropriate road equipment and larger doors, it was even more stunning. To resolve the carburetor location problems, it was the first production car to have Bosch direct fuel injection, with a resultant increase in power to 240bhp.
These cars were not only sensational in appearance, they had a performance that only race drivers normally experienced. It was not surprising that such drivers were eager to buy them, and in order to extract the maximum performance, which ranged from 150-165mph depending on axle ratios, one needed their expert skills. The swing axle rear suspension and drum brakes did require considerable respect when driving on the limit. Even so, these highly specialized and very expensive cars sold amazingly well and 1,400 were hand-built in three years.
As an early example this car shares many of the distinctive features most often associated with the 29 alloy Gullwings including the concave Mercedes-Benz star in the grill, welting between the fender "eyebrows" and the body, plaid fabric seats and a hand-wind clock. Chassis number 5500066 was completed February 4th 1955 and shipped ex-factory later the same month. Factory remarks confirm that it was a special order destined for the Mercedes-Benz Distributors, Inc. in San Antonio, Texas and the first owner is recorded as being Frank Baker from Akron, Ohio. We have been told that Mr. Baker may have canceled his order and instead it passed to Mr. A.O. Smith, Jr. from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Gullwing changed hands once more to Mr. Jim Ash before being laid up in a barn in 1961 where it remained until purchased by a Pennsylvania collector in early 1993. The new owner then undertook a full body-off restoration, repainting the car in its highly attractive and original color scheme of DB 274 light metallic green. A complete photographic record of this work accompanies this lot. By good fortune two yards of the correct pattern plaid seat upholstery was acquired and installed. It is thought that only around seven Gullwings were originally delivered in this livery.
The current fastidious owner acquired the car in 1999 and decided to upgrade the engine to full NSL (high lift cam) racing specification using only NOS parts including one of the last NSL spec camshafts. During the engine rebuild (which was all carefully blueprinted), new valves, guides and pistons were fitted along with an upgrade to the oil system. At the same time a later spec air controller, as fitted to the late Gullwings and Roadsters, was installed. This work was carried out about 700 miles ago and the engine is barely run in. As was factory practice the nuts and bolts are marked with yellow paint to detect if they have worked loose. At the same time all other mechanical aspects of the car were reviewed and restored as required. Items that received attention included new axles and spindles, new brake drums and the early type brake booster was rebuilt. A later 300SL gearbox was also fitted as it is so much quieter than the earlier 'boxes. The rear end with a 3.64:1 final drive was also rebuilt. The owner also located a rare set of NOS Rudge knock-off wheels and hubs which are now fitted. For cosmetic purposes a new set of belly pans were installed during the earlier restoration. The original wheels, gearbox and bellypans will all be supplied to the new owner.
All mechanical and detail work was completed by noted 300SL restorer and former Mercedes-Benz factory engineer, Andrew Bach. A large file of photographs and invoices documenting all this work is supplied. Andrew has meticulously carried out this work to achieve a fully "sorted" Gullwing. The quality of the detail is extraordinary including its complete original toolkit and manual. There is also a correct brass knock-off hammer, jack and spare wheel in the trunk. In 2001 this Gullwing won the Mercedes-Benz USA trophy for the "Most Outstanding Mercedes-Benz" at the Greenwich Concours.
The overall appearance of this car, with its light green metallic livery and plaid seats, is truly striking. An additional horsepower from the improved specification engine and the Rudge wheels with Englebert tires make this example very purposeful. Having seen and driven the car, there is no doubt why the Gullwing was the definitive supercar of its day. We sincerely believe that we have never had the privilege of offering a better example.