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The 300 SL Gullwing is one of the most groundbreaking and important automobiles ever produced and few are restored to such stunning condition as the example offered here. The consignor, an astute collector of German sports cars, began his search in the late 1990s, having wanted a Gullwing since seeing one drive by in California as a child. He tasked famed 300 SL restoration expert Jerry Hjeltness to find him an outstanding example that could be completely restored to show quality.
After traversing the country and physically inspecting several cars, Mr. Hjeltness found a remarkable example tucked away in a garage in Compton, California. The car was owned by a machinist, Joseph Meredith of Burbank, who had put the car in his garage in 1977 with just 54,216 miles recorded. It remained in the garage until 1996 when Hjeltness discovered it. The consignor recently recalled Mr. Hjeltness’ enthusiasm for the car, remarking that it had the best fitting panels of any 300 SL he had ever seen. The car had been painted Red from its original color of White (DB 050) but otherwise remained in incredibly undisturbed and sound condition. The Gullwing had always been in the US and was originally delivered new to Russell Cowles of Minneapolis, Minnesota, likely part of the same Cowles family that owned the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper.
In 1997, Mr. Hjeltness and his team began a complete body-off restoration and records on file document this work. According to a restoration summary written by Mr. Hjeltness, “Our restoration shop has just completed a full body-off restoration/remanufacture process on the above referenced automobile to a 100 point show standard. The car has been completely disassembled. Every component was renewed, restored or replaced to new or better condition.”
In 1997, after the 10-month restoration was completed, the car was shown at the Le Cercle Concours in California where it won Best of Show. After that, the car was picked up by the consignor and driven without issue to Colorado from California. He attended and exhibited the car at the 2003 Gullwing Group convention in Jackson Hole as well, driving it there from Colorado. Besides those outings, the car has been used sparingly on nice days and maintained in his collection of German sports cars. The Gullwing was serviced in 2019 by Farland Classic Car Restoration in Englewood, Colorado at a cost of over $40,000. This included a rebuilt injection pump and steering box, as well as work to the fuel, electrical and ignition systems and some cosmetic work and detailing.
It should be noted that this Gullwing’s factory build record, the Mercedes-Benz data card that is included in the file and available for review, likely contains an error as it lists the engine number as 198.980.75000320, when engine 198.980.65000320 is installed in the car. It is believed that the fact that the seventh digit is a 7 and not a 6 is merely a typographical error. Mercedes-Benz records, which were recently referenced by the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center, did not show any instance of engine 65000320 being installed in any late-production 1956 Gullwing. These records also show that the two 1957 Gullwings produced immediately before and after this example also carried a 65000 engine number.
Today the car remains in stunning condition and its restoration appears incredibly fresh, having been well taken care of by the consignor. It is finished in Silver (DB 180) over a Green leather interior with matching green fitted luggage. According to records of the restoration, the car was also fitted with Rudge-style knock-off wheels. These were acquired at a cost of over $22,000 in 1997, and according to a recent conversation with Eric Hjeltness, he recalled them to be made by Classic Car Craft of Canada, and were in his opinion the most accurate Rudge-style wheel available. The Gullwing also retains its full belly pans.
The 300 SL is incredibly complete, including its instruction manuals, Becker radio manuals, workshop manual, knock-off hammer, tool kit, auxiliary work light, spare tire, and jack. With its sensational and uncommon color combination, its outstanding condition, long-term ownership, and a documented restoration by one of the foremost 300 SL experts in the world, this is a remarkable Gullwing that rewards anyone fortunate enough to inspect it closely.
*Please note that this vehicle is titled by its engine number.