Mercedes-Benz 300 SL 'Gullwing' (1956)

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Originally Finished in Elfenbein (DB 608) over Red Leather

United KingdomLocation: United Kingdom United KingdomTitle/Tax Status: United Kingdom
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Unquestionably the most iconic sports car of its era, Mercedes-Benz’s 300 SL ‘Gullwing’ was a car far ahead of its time. Tracing its origins to the W194 race car which saw success at events including the Mille Miglia and 24 Hours of Le Mans, U.S. distributor Max Hoffman convinced a road-legal version of the W194 could be lucrative.

Built on a spaceframe chassis constructed of welded tubular steel, the construction of the chassis itself necessitated its characteristic roof-hinged doors, which became a staple of the car’s design. At its heart was a 3.0-litre OHC straight-six engine making 240 bhp at 6,100 rpm fitted with fuel injection, making this the first fuel-injected road-legal automobile. Boasting a 161 mph top speed, it was the fastest production automobile of its time.

Thanks to the car’s incredible performance and styling, Hoffman’s intuitions proved to be right and the 300 SL was an instant hit. For the ‘in’ crowd, it was the car and 300 SLs found homes not only with celebrities and barons of industry, but also a handful of racing drivers, once again proving the 300 SLs performance credentials. Owners included the Shah of Iran, Sophia Loren, Briggs Cunningham, and John von Neumann and many more.

This wonderful 300 SL spent the early part of its life on the west coast of the United States of America. Factory records denote it was supplied new to Mr C. Cramer although shortly after it was acquired by a lawyer, Mr Schnabel of Pacific Palisades, California.

Stationed in San Diego with the US Navy, Marshall Tollefson spent much of 1959 seeking an upgrade to his venerable Austin-Healey. After ruling out the Italian sports car options – neither Ferrari nor Maserati had any factory support in his home state of Minnesota – he settled upon Mercedes’ 300 SL.

Initially dismissed due to his age, it wasn’t until his second visit to Mercedes Benz of Hollywood were his details passed on to Mr Schnabel. A deal was quickly put together and Tollefson was the proud owner of a 32,000 mile 300 SL. Over the course of the next two decades, he would use the car in as much as possible when weather and time would permit.

Tollefson enjoyed the car in his hometown of Prior Lake, just outside Minneapolis. He made full use of the 300 SL and during his ownership, covered over 110,000 miles in the car. The car was placed into storage and Tollefson took the initial steps towards a bare-metal restoration. Overwhelmed by the size of the project, the 300 SL would be sold to restorer Bruce Kelly in 1989, already disassembled.

Kelly and his company Lake Country Classics completed the project over the course of two years to a very high standard and the car was subsequently exported to Germany, notably winning a 1st place trophy at the Ludwigsburg Concours d’Elegance post restoration.

Since the early 2000s, this example has spent time in several large collections in the USA used sparingly. It is accompanied by a tool roll, original Karl Baisch pigskin luggage set, and today presents at our showrooms outside London, with UK registration in progress and UK taxes paid.

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  • Mercedes-Benz 300 SL 'Gullwing'
  • £POA
  • DK Database ID: #1732

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