Auctions and Brokerage
*Please note that this vehicle is titled by its engine number.
Offered from the Estate of the Original OwnerSigurd Nygren, Salem, Oregon (acquired new in 1955)
The 300 SL Gullwing coupe was the road-going development of the Type W194 racing cars that propelled Mercedes-Benz to the pinnacle of international motorsport during the early 1950s; today, it remains an unqualified landmark of design and engineering prowess. Internally designated W198, the 300 SL Gullwing was reputedly developed at the insistence of renowned New York Mercedes-Benz distributor Max Hoffman as a premium “image car” with an incomparable race-winning pedigree. Introduced at the 1954 New York Auto Show to wide acclaim, the new 300 SL immediately took its place as the world’s fastest production car, boasting three-liter, fuel-injected power, all-independent suspension, and a four-speed manual gearbox.
Production continued through mid-1957 with 1,400 of these virtually handbuilt coupes constructed, overlapped by 1,858 300 SL Roadsters, which continued through early 1963. Regardless of body style, the 300 SL enjoyed instant icon status when new, and it continues to do so today. Few unrestored examples survive, rendering the Gullwing offered here particularly desirable and eminently collectible.
A truly thrilling garage find, this 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing is offered from over 60 years of single family ownership. Accompanied by copies of the factory-original build record and wagenkarte (data card) recently provided by Mercedes-Benz Classic, plus the original new-car delivery form issued by Mercedes-Benz Distributors of California, the 300 SL is further documented by the Gull Wing Group 300 SL Coupe Registry. It was completed on February 23, 1955, and shipped to Mercedes-Benz Distributors Inc. in Hollywood finished in Fuerwehrrot (DB 534) Fire Engine Red and special-order L2 Fawn Vinyl/Red Plaid fabric upholstery, the livery it retains to this day. Other original features include English instrument faces and sealed-beam headlamps.
Sigurd “Sig” Nygren, an assistant engineer in the US Merchant Marine and an avid private pilot, was the original owner of this Gullwing, according to his family. As recently related to Gooding & Company by his stepson, Sig purchased this Gullwing from a Mercedes-Benz dealership in California while between his many long-term voyages. As a pilot, Mr. Nygren initially wanted to purchase one of the lightweight alloy-bodied Gullwings. The dealer offered to order one for him, but Sig knew he would again be away at sea when it arrived, so he made a cash purchase of this Fire Engine Red example directly from the showroom floor and drove the car away.
Many early 300 SL owners were celebrities, wealthy heirs, or world leaders, but Sig Nygren’s road to Gullwing ownership was paved with determination, hard work, and a true affinity for engineering excellence. Sig and his twin brother Albert were raised in a local orphanage in the primarily Scandinavian timber and finishing community of Svensen, Oregon. At age 18, the brothers joined the Merchant Marine and earned private pilot’s licenses. During WWII, both Albert and Sig were assistant engineers, tending the massive power plants deep within the ships they crewed.
Both of the brothers survived their dangerous wartime service, with Sig serving on transport ships in convoys between the US and the wide-ranging Pacific theater of operations. Postwar, the brothers remained in the Merchant Marine for their entire working careers, returning to live on the West Coast and continuing to enjoy private aviation when not at sea. Interestingly, Sig and Albert logged air time in a first-generation Taylor Aerocar, the innovative “flying car” designed and built in a batch of just six by Moulton Taylor in Longview, Washington.
Given the brothers’ marine-engineering and aeronautical backgrounds, it’s not surprising that Sig enhanced the Gullwing’s already comprehensive instrumentation with the addition of an aircraft chronometer, altimeter, and thermometer, all still in place. Other updates included fog lamps, a reverse light with toggle switch, windscreen defroster fan, and an eight-track player with sound delivered via six speakers, including two liberated from a Mercedes-Benz 300 D Adenauer sedan. Sig drove and enjoyed his 300 SL through 1976, when it was last licensed for the road in Oregon. Subsequently, he parked the car inside one of his aircraft hangars, where it remained through his passing in December 2013. While the Mercedes was on the road, it was serviced at Rasmussen Motors, the Mercedes-Benz dealer in downtown Portland, Oregon, and the Gullwing’s document file includes a service reminder from Rasmussen dated 1968. At the time of cataloguing, the odometer showed only 31,239 miles, a figure supported by two service stickers affixed to the car – dated 1968 at 27,477 miles, and from 1974 at 30,773 miles.
A true survivor, the 300 SL is unrestored and remains incredibly original. While there is evidence of paint repair at the front and rear of the car, with some overspray noted at the bumper-attachment points, plus various chipping and flaking, the Gullwing nonetheless maintains a consistently patinated and authentic look. The Gullwing’s sleek steel bodywork appears solid and its belly pans remain in place.
Of particular note to the Gullwing faithful, this SL is one of precious few still retaining the factory-original inspection tags – complete with the Mercedes- Benz star on their clasps – on the oil tank, coolant reservoir, and fuel tank. The interior retains its original special-ordered upholstery and, while showing some damage, clearly benefits from long-term, dry storage and the protection of the included fitted car cover. The engine turns freely by hand, and though the car was not used on the road, Sig reportedly would start the engine whenever he returned from sea. The Gullwing ran as recently as 15 years ago; still, it will require sympathetic recommissioning before use.
As offered, the Gullwing includes a number of prior registrations dating to 1959 and a metal license-plate tag from 1958; a Mercedes-Benz dealer service reminder; various books and manuals; and an old, and possibly original, fitted 300 SL car cover. Inside the trunk compartment are the spare wheel and tire, a tool kit, and miscellaneous spare parts and accessories, such as a period vacuum. A wonderful laminated photograph also accompanies the sale of this Gullwing, showing Sig Nygren and his brother Albert standing in front of Taylor Aerocar N101D.
The supply of single ownership cars from the 1950s is finite and dwindling. Discoveries such as this are to be cherished, as one day they will no longer be possible. Coming from the loving care of only a single steward, this 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing offers an unparalleled opportunity for the next owner to selectively preserve its originality, or restore it to concours-quality standard.