Auctions and Brokerage
*Please note that this vehicle is titled 1955 and is titled by its engine number.
Vincent Saunders, Costa Mesa, California (acquired circa 1965)Current Owner (acquired from the above)
There is perhaps no sports car more widely admired than the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, and surely none more iconic. The 300 SL, inspired by the legendary 300 SLR sports racing car, represented a level of engineering and performance unrivaled by any other standard production car of the time. Debuting in 1954, the original 300 SL, with its fuel-injected inline six-cylinder engine, exotic gullwing doors, and genuine 150 mph top speed, brought race car performance to the motoring public. Even more impressive was the fact that it was a civilized road car – comfortable, elegant, and reliable.
The 300 SL Gullwing proved to be extremely popular with sports car enthusiasts, and, between 1954 and 1957, Mercedes-Benz built 1,400 examples. Customers could specify from a limited number of options and, through the production period, subtle upgrades were made to improve the overall offering. Among these options, Rudge knock-off wheels are the most highly prized, both then and now. Admired for their unique appearance and sporting character, Rudge wheels were standard equipment on the factory’s 300 SL competition models and all of the 29 alloy-bodied Gullwings. Though Rudge wheels have become synonymous with the 300 SL, they were almost exclusively fitted to the Gullwing; it is estimated that just 25 300 SL Roadsters left the factory with this desirable accessory.
According to factory records sourced from Mercedes-Benz Classic Center, the 300 SL Gullwing presented here was completed in December 1954. It is one of just 167 Gullwings built during the model’s first year of production. Originally finished in Elfenbein (Ivory, DB 608) – one of only 70 Gullwings in this color – the SL featured an equally distinctive interior, with red plaid and tan vinyl upholstery. Factory records also confirm that this car was originally equipped with optional Rudge wheels, Dunlop tires, and US-market equipment, which included Englishlanguage instrumentation and sealed-beam headlamps.
Upon completion, the 300 SL was shipped to Mercedes-Benz’s official US importer, Hoffman Motors in New York City. While the earliest ownership history is not recorded, the Gullwing eventually made its way to the West Coast. According to Eric Le Moine’s definitive Gullwing Register, the car’s first known owner was Vincent Saunders of Costa Mesa, California, who acquired the car in the mid-1960s.
During Mr. Saunders’ long-term ownership, the Gullwing was driven and enjoyed as intended, accumulating over 100,000 miles before being parked in the 1990s. Approximately 10 years ago, the 300 SL was entrusted to marque specialist Steve Marx, also of Costa Mesa, who recommissioned the car for further use, which included attention to the engine as well as the braking and fuel systems. According to Mr. Marx, and further supported by a collection of invoices on file, this work was carried out in a no-expense-spared fashion, yet focused strictly on the mechanical systems, leaving the car’s marvelous, unrestored character intact.
After this work was completed, Mr. Saunders enjoyed the Gullwing for a few more years before selling it to the current owner, a fellow Mercedes-Benz enthusiast. As offered today, this car presents a unique opportunity to acquire a Gullwing that has the time-weathered patina of a long-lost Southern California garage find, yet benefits from recent mechanical attention overseen by a respected 300 SL specialist. Now showing a brown interior and some variations to its finish, it could be restored back to its distinctive original color scheme, though its current presentation would make it an ideal choice for a multitude of driving events, such as the Colorado Grand and Mille Miglia, for which it is eligible. It would also be a standout at any Gull Wing Group gathering or local car show, where its unique appearance is sure to draw a crowd.
Surely one of the most charismatic 300 SLs to come to auction in recent memory, this early production example possesses all the qualities that collectors look for in a Gullwing: outstanding provenance, attractive original colors, Rudge knock-off wheels, and a matching-numbers engine per factory records. For the collector in search of a 300 SL that can be enjoyed on rallies without hesitation and then restored to concours standards in the years to come, we strongly encourage consideration of this fascinating car.