17 May 1999
1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300 SL GULLWING
Chassis no. 5500639
Red with light tan leather interior.
Engine: six-cylinder in line, 2996cc, 240bhp at 6100rpm; Gearbox: four-speed manual; Suspension: independent front by wishbone and coil springs; rear by pivot swing axles; Brakes: four wheel hydraulically-operated drum. Left hand drive.
When Mercedes-Benz returned to international endurance sports-car racing in 1952 their legendary team manager Alfred Neubauer ensured they brought to the programme all the dedication and skill that had reaped such success in Grand Prix racing between 1934 and 1939. The 300SL sports racer had a straight six, dry sump engine lying on its side - to reduce bonnet height - in a space frame and was clothed by a scientific coupe body with famous upwards opening "gullwing" doors. The team triumphed at Le Mans and in the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico. Stuttgart resisted attempts to put this highly specialised machine into even limited production until their New York distributor guaranteed to take one thousand. Although Mercedes strayed little from the sports-racer's layout, they made a characteristically thorough job of civilising it for street use. There were bigger doors, an interior that at the very least may be described as luxurious, the 240bhp engine was the first production unit to be given Bosch fuel injection. Exquisitely constructed, the 300SL was extremely expensive and provided performance that until then had only been experienced by racing drivers. The 150 mph 300SL looked sensational and was received with great enthusiasm when it was launched at the New York show in 1954. Its appeal was not lessened when stories of the respect it demanded when driven on the limit began to circulate. Mercedes responded with an improved, low-pivot rear swing axle and the 300SL built another reputation in major events such as the Tour de France, the Mille Miglia and the Lieges-Rome-Lieges Rally which it won outright. In three years just 1400 of these jewels of high speed automotive engineering were hand crafted.
This example has been the subject of a painstaking restoration. The vendor has owned it since 1991 and has regularly maintained it.
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