43rd Gullwing Made: 1954 Mercedes 300SL

We have now featured one of the more epic barn finds of the last decade a few times on the site, but it’s hard to resist providing yet another update on the 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing found in a Florida storage unit. This is the 43rd 300SL ever made, and the new caretakers recently staged a photo shoot with an environment more fitting for a car that’s been laid up for decades. Find the full story here on Classic Driver, which dove into the car’s next stage in the hands of Mercedes-Benz Classic, the company’s official restoration arm.

There’s a few good reasons why this 300SL has proven so captivating since its discovery. For one, as an early model, it boasts a number of features that give it “almost-prototype” status, in the words of Classic Driver. The eyebrows over the wheel arches being one of the them, and the elongated shifter extending out from the dash. The fact that the 300SL is so undisturbed despite being used as a daily driver is what’s so captivating about a car like this.

The third and final owner was a naval officer who routinely made runs in the car from Jacksonville, Florida up to Washington, D.C. and Virginia, following the car’s extensive usage in competitive driving events in the early days of the SCCA in Florida. For whatever reason, it was stripped for a repaint and then parked, with the paint job never happening and the car not turning a wheel again until its discovery by the chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.

The 300SL is now owned by Mechatronik, a classic automobile dealer specializing in significant Mercedes-Benz cars. Mercedes-Benz Classic will be documenting the car in its current condition as an act of preservation and informing future restorations, given how original it remains. While it’s sad to lose a U.S. car to an overseas collection, the silver lining is that it will not be restored: the perfect patina it wears is impossible to replicate and has made it possible to recall all of the details typically lost in an over-zealous restoration.

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Comments

  1. jerry z

    Curious what kind of money that car brought.

    Like 4
  2. CCFisher

    I guess finding an early 300SL in a storage unit wasn’t glamorous enough, so they staged a barn find. I’d rather see it as-found.

    Still a sensational car, though.

    Like 17
  3. Will Fox

    Wow….surprised it wasn’t another Porsche 356. Those seem to be falling out of barns these days……..

    Like 8
  4. Ken Carney

    For years I’ve always wondered why the
    kit car industry never did a replica based on this car. I could just see a good quality replica sporting a 205 HP Buick
    3800 V-6 mated a 4 or 5-speed transmission along with a good road
    holding suspension that would make it
    a really fun daily driver at one half the
    cost of an original car. Yeah, these would still be in rich man’s territory, but
    at least it would be something we could
    aspire to. That’s just my opinion, what’s
    yours?

    Like 10
    • RayT Member

      It has been done: https://www.motor1.com/news/233765/mercedes-300-sl-gullwing-replica/

      I’m pretty sure someone did a fiberglass “kit” car as well, but that was many years ago so I have no details.

      Like 8
    • Ross W. Lovell

      Greetings All,

      Someone made a kit of the 300SLR and it could use MB power or the Chrysler Slant six.

      Slant six with the aftermarket Eldebrock manifold was pretty good.

      No one wanted to deal with GullWing doors and lack of AC.

      Like 3
  5. Rodney - GSM

    Since not every 300SL ever made is accounted for there is always hope that one day it will be you who pulls open that rusty barn door and is greeted by the shining star of Mercedes Benz.

    Like 7
  6. CJinSD

    When you’re talking about a car that was only made in 1,400 examples, number 43 hardly seems special or early.

    Like 5
  7. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Seems it was fer sale awhile back with pictures of the storage unit as found inside and out of it.

    Like 6
  8. Chris In Australia

    I can’t be the only person who finds these ugly as. The clumsy ‘eye brows’ over the wheels, large radius on the windows, bulging dog dish hubcaps.

    Like 2
    • TVC15

      Chris , that’s because your looking at the car upside down

      Like 10
      • Steven Ligac

        Haha TVC15!

        Like 1
    • Theodore C Kardos

      You might be more suited to a TR7/Karmann-Ghia ~ That’s cool Their out there & Cheap … These cars are for the PUREST … The — I have one because I CAN buyers. (Just not U!)

      Like 2
    • Rodney - GSM

      Chris, perhaps if you think of it as a very beautiful zaftig aryan princess who happens to run very fast you will feel better. Does that help?

  9. GTPRED99 Member

    Tom on Barn Find Hunter did a story on this car last year.

    https://youtu.be/hvPg00usX_w

  10. SaabVertGuy

    Is it just me? I am sick of all of the attraction paid to “patina”. Cars, in some sense, are living breathing objects to collectors like us. Why wouldn’t you do all that you could to restore something like this back to the form and condition which made it a classic in the first place? Preserving patina is, imho, simply the laziest and cheapest way possible to own a car. None of our beloved classics became considered as classics because they were rusty, scratched, dented, faded, ripped, torn, cracked and missing parts semblances of their former selves. They defend it by saying “it’s only original once”. That’s a load of crap. It’s not original in it’s current state. It’s had decades of abuse and alteration done by the elements and other owners. Original to me is how it left the factory not how it ended up decades later. I collect and restore Saabs and do everything in my power to return them to their “original” state of being. I certainly don’t look at surface rust or missing paint and think it’s quaint or that I should just clear coat over it. If you wouldn’t have bought it on a new car lot back then, as new, why would you want to continue the beat up look of it now? Sorry, just had to rant a little today because sadly, this trend doesn’t appear to be going away.

    Like 23
    • Cobra Steve

      @SaabVertGuy, your comments made me chuckle and nod with agreement. I, too, prefer my cars to appear “as they left the factory” but that is a personal opinion. “Proper” restorations are expensive and if someone wants to drive their pride and joy in “dilapidated” condition, then so be it.

      As I have written before, “If we all had the same taste we’d all be driving black 1953 Chevrolets. It would be a boring world indeed.” Nothing against black ’53 Chevy’s, just an observation about the importance of variety.

      By the way, there’s not a day that goes by I don’t regret buying my friend’s ’62 300SL roadster (with hardtop!) for $5K back in 1979. Hindsight is always 20/20!

      Like 6
    • Mike

      It’s not just you,, it’s me too. I see it this way,,, as a hobbyist, I prefer the car to look as it did when new. That’s what drew us to our particular choice in the first place. But now days sometimes the cars we loved back then are simply out of reach financially. So do I buy this thing and leave it as a rusted out hulk, or pass in hopes of someone with the means buys it and brings it back to life,,, I choose the latter. Sure I’d love to have certain cars, but if I can’t, I’d like to see them owned by someone else who can do them justice. And clear coat over rust and faded paint is the worst thing I’ve ever seen,,, right up there with rat rods. In my opinion it comes down to laziness, lack of willingness to learn to do it yourself, or just money, or lack there of.

      Like 7
    • Chasgould

      Actually, While I admire the skill and effort (and cost) that a proper restoration requires, I prefer original (as found) condition if it can be reasonably preserved and is reasonably presentable.
      I recognize and appreciate opposite opinions, but my philosophy is that cars are the only antique that we completely erase all of the history to make them perfect. We would never do that to a true antique painting or a valuable antique piece of furniture because it would destroy the value of that antique, and if a restoration of a painting is ever undertaken, it is solely to clean or repair areas that have deteriorated beyond being safe and serviceable.
      For me, every nic, dent and scratch tells another chapter in the half century of survival, and to have all of that history lost to a restoration makes this example just like every other restored example with nothing to distinquish it.
      A well preserved original example is truly unique and becomes even rarer with every other example that is surrendered to restoration.
      Just my 2 cents worth. Your opinions and mileage may vary.
      Chas

      Like 4
  11. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    Patina on a car that is still original and in somewhat good shape is one thing, spraying clear coat over rust definitely another.

    One of the issues seen now is “over restoration”. Our club constantly talks about this. The most recent had one Judge saying, “this is the way XXXXX would have liked the cars to leave the factory”. That might be true, but most items built to a cost which has a standard somewhat less than the restoration.

    Cars are only original once.

    Like 4
  12. TimM

    I’ve only seen one of these in real life!! At a car show in Sarasota Florida in the 80’s!! It was a stunning car and very well kept!! I actually thought there were less then that made!!! Learn something everyday!!!

  13. bobhess bobhess Member

    These are on my “grab a chair and a beer and sit in the garage and look at it” list.

    Like 2
  14. Theodore C Kardos

    No Sir ~ On the Living Room floor ~ Mood lighting — Soft Ceiling fan above on a PVC False floor ~ Drinking a fine Cognac … Leave the Garage to the daily driver & a Place to put your Beer …

  15. RTE

    Nothing Earl Sheib couldn’t get looking spiffy in an afternoon.

    Like 1
    • Steven Ligac

      Haha RTE, good one!

  16. Jack

    All you patina haters out there: Why don’t we just make a Xerox of The Declaration of Independence? Or restore the Mona Lisa with a digital camera? Maybe cover Stonehenge with a carbon fiber coating so grubby hands wont mess it up. Just like it was 10,000 years ago…..

    • SaabVertGuy

      First off. NO ONE is allowed to physically handle the Declaration of Independence with bare hands, much less dirty hands and the same goes for the Mona Lisa. All are preserved in climate controlled environments. 2nd, they both have been preserved to the best of technological limits depending upon era, ever since they were produced. 3rd, Stonehenge is STONE. Not very likely to rust and suffer from a torn interior. Your points are moot and without merit on this issue. Rat rods, clear coated rust, ripped interior bits and every other aspect of “rusty originality preserved” still represents either a lack of funds, lack of skill, pure laziness or all of the above. But again, just my take. Your taste apparently runs very different and that’s ok. We all do what we do the way we want to do it.

      Like 1

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