Written by independent automotive journalist David Neyens
Lot #1415 – 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing will be selling with No Reserve at our 2022 Scottsdale Auction.
Based on the initial Mercedes-Benz 300SL racing cars of 1952 that utterly dominated European sports-car competition, including 1-2 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, plus another 1-2 victory in Mexico’s deadly Carrera Panamericana, the roadgoing 300SL “Gullwing” of 1954-57 was never meant to be. That is, until famed New York automobile importer Max Hoffman successfully lobbied the Daimler-Benz board of directors to authorize limited production. Introduced at the February 1954 New York International Motor Sports Show alongside the touring-oriented 190SL, the glamorous 300SL was mostly hand-built and immediately recognized as an object of automotive desire for the world’s business, entertainment, and social luminaries. Today, the unforgettable 300SL ranks among the most collectible and valuable of all postwar sports cars.
Development and engineering of the roadgoing 300SL fills many excellent and authoritative volumes, requiring no repetition here; suffice it to say, the 300SL’s features, engineering, and immense performance remain advanced and relevant, even by today’s jaded standards. Featuring an ultra-lightweight spaceframe chassis, the 300SL’s highlights seem modern even today, including direct fuel injection, a 3.0-liter SOHC inline 6-cylinder powerplant, dry-sump engine lubrication, fully independent suspension, and of course, upward-opening “Gullwing” doors. Most of these brilliant and potent performers carry fascinating provenance and this stellar example from 1955 is certainly no exception. One of 855 produced during 1955, it was originally finished in Strawberry Red and trimmed in optional Beige leather upholstery. Most intriguing, it was delivered new to the Ministry of Police in Havana, Cuba on June 16, 1955.
Pre-revolutionary Cuba was a favored destination for wealthy tourists and expatriates. During the 1950s, Argentine racing driver and future automobile manufacturer Alejandro de Tomaso enthusiastically convinced his friend, Cuban president Fulgencio Battista, to support a new Grand Prix race in the Cuban capital of Havana. Advertised with great fanfare and fueled by a generous purse, the first Cuban Grand Prix was held in February 1957, attracting the world’s top manufacturers and all-star drivers including Carroll Shelby, who finished second overall in a Ferrari 410 Sport to reigning Grand Prix World Champion Juan-Manuel Fangio in a Maserati 300S. Driven at the 1957 Cuban Grand Prix with Mercedes-Benz sponsorship by noted Cuban racing driver Santiago “Chaguito” Gonzales for the Cuban Ministry of Police, this 300SL won the over 2-liter Sports class — a sterling performance for the hometown driver and team.
Following his Cuban GP class victory, Gonzalez drove this 300SL, race numbered 4, to an electrifying overall victory — in record time — in the IV Classic Rally from Pinar del Rio, Cuba’s world-famous tobacco capital, to Havana. According to a translated race report included with the vehicle, “Chaguito traded the 168 kilometers in a fabulous time of one hour, 2 minutes, 32 seconds, and 2 tenths, to beat Pepillo de Cueto and his Jaguar number 11 in an emotional duel. The ‘Chaguito’ – del Cueto duel monopolized the attention of the public, who followed the race step by step according to the radio stations broadcast throughout the Malecon area through gigantic speakers.” This performance is but one of the many racing exploits of “Chaguito,” whose career included drives with Jaguar D-types at the Sebring 12-Hours in 1956 and 1957, the 1000-kilometer 1957 Venezuelan Grand Prix with a Porsche 550 RS Spyder, and a return to Sebring in 1958 with a Ferrari 500 TRC.
By 1961, the 300SL was purchased by its second owner and exported to California. A thorough restoration was performed under the third owner during the 1990s at about 92,000 kilometers (57,166 miles), including a bare-metal repaint in Fire Engine Red, restored interior, rebuilt VDO gauges, restored brightwork, and rebuilding of the matching numbers ‘M198’ SOHC inline 6- cylinder engine, 4-speed manual transmission, and brakes. The custom-made fitted luggage, while not original, beautifully replicates the factory items. A second engine rebuild was performed under the fourth owner in 2003. At the time of writing, this outstanding 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL (Lot #1415) now has 95,377 actual kilometers (59,265 miles) of use. It will be offered with No Reserve at Barrett-Jackson’s 2022 Scottsdale Auction January 22-30.
A wealth of excellent
Title: 1955 300SL GULLWING: Racing Provenance, Documentation and a Comprehensive Restoration Give this Mercedes-Benz Wings
Sourced From: www.barrett-jackson.com/Media/Home/Reader/1955-mercedes-benz-300sl-gullwing-crossing-the-block-2022-scottsdale/
Published Date: Thu, 09 Dec 2021 18:05:57 +0000