Auctions and Brokerage
Robert Donovan, Glenview, Illinois (acquired circa late 1950s)Gene Baldwin, Rockford, Illinois (acquired in 1962)Current Owner (acquired from the above)
The 1,400 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing coupes of 1954–1957 have, since their introduction and every day since, been acknowledged as some of the most inspired and iconic sports cars of all time – in terms of design, lightweight engineering, and their achievements in competition. But at speed behind the wheel, all of the elements come together in an engaging driving experience that belies the car’s age and analogue components. What Mercedes-Benz accomplished with the 300 SL was truly remarkable, and most anyone who experiences one firsthand is aware that these cars were truly decades ahead of their time.
This 300 SL Gullwing was in the hands of one appreciative owner for nearly 57 years. The Gull Wing Group roster lists one prior owner as Robert Donovan of Glenview, Illinois, but in December 1962, Gene Baldwin, also of Illinois, noticed a classified advertisement in the Chicago Tribune listing a 300 SL Gullwing for sale. Driving to Schroeder Motors in Berwyn, Illinois, on a Sunday, he found the dealership closed upon his arrival, but was able to catch a glimpse of the Gullwing through the windows. Smitten, he made sure to be the first person on site Monday morning when the dealership opened to get first shot at the car. Quickly transacting the deal, he drove the car home – thus commenced a pride of ownership that lasted well over a half century.
Mr. Baldwin recently reported that he found the car to be at all times a strong runner and the picture of dependability. Adding over half of its 89,000 miles during his tenure, only a single failed thermostat, which was quickly replaced, ever gave him any trouble. In the earlier years of his ownership, Mr. Baldwin enjoyed the Gullwing as his daily driver.
In later years, Mr. Baldwin would take part in Gull Wing Group club events, including one memorable meet at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, where the camaraderie of 300 SL ownership gave him the opportunity to swap stories with such sports car legends as Augie Pabst. At some point along the way, likely in the 1970s, Mr. Baldwin had the Gullwing repainted from its original Weiss Grau (White Gray, DB 158) to its current shade of dark metallic silver. While the car was being painted, a set of NOS bumpers were sourced from the factory, and they remain on the car today, showing the proper light paint on the inner side.
Recently in new ownership, the Baldwin Gullwing reveals several subtle hints that it has been the subject of great care, including the matching pair of Bosch-engraved headlight rings, proper short-profile front marker lights, original Continental Record Extra spare, and correct, large-logo Sekurit glass all around, with only the windshield having been replaced. Inside, the instrument panel still presents in its original factory paint finish. The seats and interior panels that received new materials many years ago display an inviting patina, and the ashtray and cigar lighter do not show signs of use. Most important, chassis 5500553 retains its original, matching-numbers engine (5500569), in accordance with its Mercedes-Benz build record.
Today, 300 SL Gullwings and roadsters are a favorite on long-distance tours and rallies due to their durability, reliability, and driving dynamics. The Gull Wing Group, soon to celebrate their 60th anniversary, hosts several events across the country each year. And with the 300 SL Classic touring event now headed toward its third year, the chance to take to the open road in a 300 SL in an organized event continues to increase. This Gullwing would certainly be an eligible and welcome participant on many of the most popular driving events around the world, including the Copperstate 1000, Colorado Grand, and Mille Miglia.
Over six decades have passed since the last Gullwing rolled off the Stuttgart assembly line; most have changed hands many times over and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find one that has been with a single caretaker for the majority of its existence. Chassis 5500553 is one such car that has been enjoyed, respected, and maintained for nearly 60 years. As such, this Gullwing has the pedigree to become an heirloom for its next enthusiastic owner.