2021 | Pebble Beach Auctions
1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing
$1,200,000 - $1,400,000
Offered with Original Karl Baisch Luggage Set, Belly Pans, Manuals, and Tool Roll
Retains Matching-Numbers Chassis, Engine and Body per Factory Records
Originally Finished in Elfenbein (DB 608) over Red Leather
Outstanding Presentation of a Much-Enjoyed, Late-Production Gullwing
215 BHP at 6,500 RPM
Bosch Mechanical Fuel Injection
4-Speed Manual Gearbox
4-Wheel Servo-Assisted Hydraulic Drum Brakes
Front Independent Double-Wishbone Suspension with Coil Springs
Rear Independent Swing-Axle Suspension with Coil Springs
C. Cramer (acquired new in 1957)Schnabel Family, Pacific Palisades, California (acquired circa 1958)Marshall Tollefson, Prior Lake, Minnesota (acquired from the above in 1959)Bruce Kelly, Minneapolis, Minnesota (acquired from the above via John Olson in 1989)Ingbert Jaus, Germany (acquired in 1991)Symbolic Motorcars, San Diego, California (acquired from the above in 2001)John O’Quinn, Houston, Texas (acquired in 2003)Current Owner (acquired from the above in 2009)
As the road-going development of the racing cars that returned Mercedes-Benz to the top echelons of international motor sports during the early 1950s, the 300 SL Gullwing coupe remains a landmark of design and engineering prowess, and its importance to the automotive landscape and to the Mercedes-Benz company cannot be overstated.
This exceptional Gullwing appears to have been sold new on the West Coast of the US, with Mr. C. Cramer appearing on the car’s factory build record. It is possible that Mr. Cramer never took delivery, or he kept the car only for a short time, as it was soon acquired by an attorney by the name of Schnabel, based in Pacific Palisades, California. In 1959, the 300 SL was acquired by Marshall Tollefson, who was stationed in San Diego with the US Navy. Mr. Tollefson was looking for a suitable upgrade to his Austin-Healey, and ruled out Ferrari and Maserati due to lack of factory support in his native Minnesota. Mercedes-Benz’s association at the time with Studebaker, and their nationwide service program, was the key to his settling on a 300 SL. The young pilot asked a salesman at Hollywood Mercedes-Benz if he knew of any secondhand Gullwings for sale, and was initially rebuffed due to his age, but when he returned the following week, he was given Mr. Schnabel’s name, with whom he quickly struck a deal and purchased the then-32,000-mile Elfenbein (DB 608, Ivory) over red Gullwing. Following his time in the service, the car became Mr. Tollefson’s fair-weather daily driver around his hometown of Prior Lake, Minnesota for at least the next two decades, accumulating some 111,000 miles on its odometer.
Mr. Tollefson recently recounted his joyous years with the car, and he reported that there were a total of four Gullwings known in his state, and the owners were acquainted with each other. In about 1980, Mr. Tollefson damaged the reverse gear’s idler pinion, which required replacement. It is not known if the correct and un-numbered gearbox case fitted to the Gullwing is original to the car.
After a few years of storage, Mr. Tollefson began a body-off restoration on his 300 SL. As the project progressed, he was daunted by the costs he was facing to finish the job, and he sold the disassembled car in 1989, via John Olson, to restorer Bruce Kelly in Minneapolis. Mr. Kelly and his shop staff at Lake Country Classics completed the restoration to a high standard, as documented by numerous photographs. In 1991, Ingbert Jaus purchased the Gullwing and exported it to his native Germany. Mr. Jaus reports that his Gullwing was enjoyed with regularity, and maintained by two Stuttgart-area specialists. Engine-related work was performed by Oldie Service Team, and any necessary chassis, body, or electrical work was carried out by his brother’s organization, The Classic Car Center. The Gullwing made its post-restoration debut at the Ludwigsburg Concours d’Elegance, where it was awarded a first-place trophy, a proud testament to its quality and authenticity. In 2001, Mr. Jaus reimported the car to the US to be sold, and it was briefly owned by Symbolic Motorcars of San Diego, before being acquired by prolific collector John O’Quinn of Houston, in 2003, who kept the 300 SL in his large collection for the next six years.
The consignor acquired the Gullwing in 2009 and has enjoyed it immensely, consistently refining and improving its cosmetics and state of tune. Respected 300 SL expert Mark Passarelli was retained to bring the car to it current state of excellence, with an extensive gearbox service being performed in 2018. The Gullwing includes a proper tool roll, and a pristine set of original Karl Baisch pigskin luggage. He also had a second set of seat cushions crafted in proper Mercedes-Benz red tartan, in addition to its red leather cushions. Earlier in 2021, he had the Gullwing’s paint beautifully refinished, and its combination of colors is truly stunning.
The 300 SL has been driven and enjoyed occasionally in its 12 years in the current owner’s collection, on the gloriously open and picturesque roads in his home state. It stands ready to please its next caretaker with the unique pride and pleasure of Gullwing ownership.