Auctions and Brokerage
*Please note that this car is titled 1955 and by its engine number.
Formerly the Property of E.D. "Bud" Hartwell
The 300 SL
There is perhaps no sports car more widely praised than the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, and surely none more iconic. The 300 SL, inspired by the legendary 300 SLR, represented a level of engineering and performance unrivaled by any other standard production car of the time. 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. To put it simply, it was perfect.
The 300 SL 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 of fering. Among options most desired, both then and now, Rudge knock-off wheels are the most highly prized.
Admired for their unique appearance and sporting character, Rudge wheels were standard equipment on the first 300 SL competition models and all of the 29 alloy-bodied Gullwings.
The 300 SL presented here is an outstanding example of a factory-delivered Rudge wheel Gullwing – a longtime California car that possesses a charming history and some of the most sought after optional accessories.
Delivered new to the US through official importer Hoffman Motors in New York, this Gullwing made its way to the West Coast early on. The ownership history can be traced back to 1966, when it was sold to 300 SL enthusiast and Gull Wing Group Member, E.D. “Bud” Hartwell of San Diego, California.
Mr. Hartwell saw his first Gullwing in 1955 and the sight of his neighbor’s gleaming red sports car stuck with him for over a decade. In 1966, he began looking for a 300 SL of his own and paid a visit to the local Mercedes-Benz dealership, where sales manager Heinz Gietz showed him a 1955 Gullwing. The next day he discovered this car – the same vintage, similar condition but with the ultra-desirable Rudge knock-off wheels. The 300 SL cost $4,500, which Mr. Hartwell eventually paid off with monthly installments of $123. In
1967, Mr. Hartwell joined the Mercedes- Benz Club of America and the Gull Wing Group. Two years later, he attended his first Gull Wing Group Convention in Reno, Nevada.
Over the years, Mr. Hartwell acquired several 300 SLs – two Gullwings and two Roadsters – but the original Rudge-wheel Gullwing always was his preferred car. With this SL he attended almost every annual Gull Wing Group Convention, usually driving to and from each event.
Though trained as a machinist, Mr. Hartwell came to rely on noted 300 SL expert Jerry Hjeltness to service and maintain his beloved Gullwing. An impressive file of service records and assorted invoices dating back to 1988 attests to the meticulous care and attention that this 300 SL benefited from throughout Mr. Hartwell’s ownership.
In 2010, Mr. Hartwell turned his attention to other automotive pursuits and made the decision to part with his Gullwing. After four decades in the hands of a devoted Southern California caretaker, the 300 SL relocated to the East Coast, where it has remained since.
Between October 2011 and May 2012, world-renowned 300 SL specialists Paul Russell and Company performed a cosmetic restoration and thorough service, while preserving many of the car’s original, unrestored features wherever possible.
During this process, the bodywork was disassembled and carefully prepared before being repainted in Graphite Gray (DB 190). As the body and paintwork were being carried out, the interior was restored. The entire cabin was reupholstered in hand-selected red leather and correct German square-weave carpets, the seats were rebuilt using the correct horsehair padding, and the dashboard was painted to match the exterior color.
With the bodywork and interior returned to their former glory, the 300 SL received a thorough service and any necessary mechanical attention. At this time the valves and timing chain were adjusted; the steering box, axles, brake shoes, hand brake mechanism, and wheel cylinders were all inspected, cleaned, and restored; and the transmission was disassembled to facilitate new fourth gear synchromesh, shims, and a main shaft bearing. All receipts from this process, totaling approximately $100,000, are included with the sale.
Today, this 300 SL remains in outstanding condition inside and out. The matching-numbers engine has been carefully detailed and displays proper factory finishes and correct Bosch ancillary components. The original Rudge knock-off wheels have recently been polished for a consistent show-quality appearance and are stamped with appropriate February 1955 date codes.
Finished in the classic color scheme of Graphite Gray over red leather and outfitted with belly pans, an optional Nardi threespoke steering wheel, and color-matched fitted luggage, this Gullwing has a marvelous period-correct appearance that is both elegant and sporting. The beautifully preserved original tool kit, full complement of owner’s handbooks, and a large file of original records are valuable additions that further underscore the impressive attention to detail that has gone into this car’s exceptional presentation.
Carefully maintained in a discerning Florida collection, this Mercedes-Benz has been driven sparingly since its cosmetic restoration and has not yet been seen or judged at any concours events. A prime candidate for concours, driving events, and Gull Wing Group gatherings, this exceptional 300 SL offers its new owner a wealth of possibilities and is sure to attract admiration wherever it goes.
Generously specif ied, thoroughly documented and beautifully presented in a most attractive color combination, this 300 SL Gullwing is a superb example in all respects and one of the finest factory-delivered Rudge wheel examples to appear at auction in many years. For the collector who has been waiting for the ideal Gullwing to become available, we encourage serious consideration of this magnificent 300 SL.