Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing

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wikicollecting

2015-06-26 10:40:04

The Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing is a German car manufactured between 1954 and 1957. It it generally nicknamed the "Gullwing".

Only 1,400 examples were made during the car's original production run - consequently making it very rare and sought-after among collectors.

 

Value on the collectors' markets

Despite the marque's rarity, examples of the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing crop up fairly frequently on the collectors' markets. Values for Gullwings are generally in the six-figures. The below figures were recorded at sales held by RM Auctions:

Year of auctionAuction eventCar model (year)Sold for
2002Monterey Sports and Classic Car Auction1955$275,000 US
2004The Florida Collector Car Auction1956$211,325 US
2004The Monterey Sports and Classic Car Auction1955$770,000 US
2004Vintage Motor Cars and Boats at the Houston Classic1955$346,500 US
2005The Florida Collector Car Auction1956$294,250 US
2005Vintage Motor Cars in Arizona1956$283,250 US
2006Monterey Sports & Classic Car Auction1956$418,000 US
2007The Ponder Collection1955$506,000 US
2007Monterey Sports & Classic Car Auction1955$726,000 US
2007Vintage Motor Cars in Arizona1956$451,000 US
2008Vintage Motor Cars of Meadow Brook1956$535,000 US

History

The 300SL Gullwing was introduced at the 1954 International Motor Sports Show in New York. It was originally conceived in 1952 as a means of restoring the company's pre-war reputation as a major force in Grand Prix racing.

The 'Gull Wing' coupé transformed the image of Mercedes-Benz, especially in the United States. The model was produced until 1957 when it was replaced by the 300SL roadster, a convertible version with conventional doors and a hard-top option.

Design: notable features

Gullwing doors

The 300SL Gullwing had no tradition chassis independent of the body. So in order to reduce weight, the body itself formed the structure of the car. This required deep truss sections running either side of the passenger compartment.

Since the tubing ran halfway up the car, conventional side hinged, doors would have compromised frame stiffness. The door openings extended into the roof and the only feasible option was to place the hinges in the centre of the roof itself, with the doors opening vertically. These resembled "gull wings" when fully open.

The concept of Gullwing doors required the full weight of the open doors to be supported entirely in the centre of the roof. This is the reason why the roof corner pillars were placed well inboard of the outer lines of the car. This resulted in the pinched dimensions for the cockpit which produced a smaller canopy in relation to the car.

Other 'iconic' features

Another defining feature of the 300SL is the long, low bonnet which required the engine cylinders to be tilted sideways to fit beneath it, thus reducing foot well space on the passenger side.

Other features of doubtful practical value which also defined the Gullwing’s unique shape were the pronounced eyebrow-like splash shields protruding over the wheel arches. Also: the stylised air vents towards the rear of the front wings. These were decorated with chromed streaks, which on some models extend back over part of the doors.

Appearances in popular culture

  • In the 1956 film“High Society, Grace Kelly's character owns and drives a silver 300SL convertible.
  • In the 1958 film The Screaming Skull, the main character drives a 300SL Gullwing.
  • Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau owned this car, and would often be seen driving it in Ottawa and Montreal.
  • In 2005, the car was featured in the Diamonds From Sierra Leone music video by Kanye West.
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