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Alloy-Bodied Gullwing: 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL

How do you make an exceptionally rare and valuable car even more so? You order it with lightweight body panels and plexiglass windows, and produce a mere 29 examples in that configuration. The alloy-bodied Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing was marketed to private owners with a panache for racing, and as such, it was produced in limited quantities. Let’s face it: this car was already reserved for an exclusive audience, and the option to step up to one of the highest performance cars of the era made a pretty price tag. The 300Sl shown here on the Sotheby’s website is one of those special 29 examples and will go up for auction on March 13.

Thanks to Barn Finds reader PRA4SNW for the find. What’s incredible about these high-performance models is just how loaded up they were with performance-minded improvements. After all, Mercedes was known for its racing exploits going back much farther than the 1960s, and if any company had the sort of R&D necessary to produce a compelling factory race car for privateer owners, it was the three-pointed star. This particular lightweight 300SL was sold new to an owner in Casablanca and was the only alloy-bodied 300SL sent to Africa – what a story this car must have.

The 300SL was special in numerous ways beyond its body panels. The lightweight models also received a revised sports suspension, center-mount Rudge wheels, a special high-performance NSL engine, and full plexiglass windows, barring the windshield. It also received vented drum brakes up front. As you can see, this example is either incredibly well preserved or more likely, recently subject to a six-figure restoration. The interior remains highly detailed with gorgeous plaid upholstery and the classic white-rimmed steering wheel. I do not know if the lightweight cars received thinner door panels or less sound deadening, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

The “Nockenwelle Sport Leicht”, or NSL engine, was available as a standalone option when the 300SL was new, as was the sport suspension. As such, some cars were ordered with these special options from the factory. The lightweight alloy-bodied cars received them as standard equipment, with the 300SL shown here generating more power than the standard model to the tune of 230 b.h.p. thanks to the presence of a lightweight sport camshaft. Overall, outside of a factory race car, it doesn’t get much more exclusive than this model in Gullwing circles, and whatever price is paid this month will still be a deal in light of its future value.

Comments

  1. Avatar photo mike

    Oh my….Rare and very expensive

    Like 13
  2. Avatar photo Fahrvergnugen Member

    Def NOT a barn find…but what a great 7 figure car.

    Like 16
    • Avatar photo Timothy

      I was going to say “Who puts a car like this, in a Barn”?

      Like 7
  3. Avatar photo 8banger Member

    OMG, these beautys are worth more than anyone of us will ever see….

    Like 6
  4. Avatar photo Todd J. Member

    I’m having to take a math test to log onto this site these days, it’s a bit of a challenge to my aging brain! As far as the featured car goes, I will not be bidding on the Gullwing. I hope it provides relief to others here to know that I have taken myself out of the running! It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make out of generosity. You’re welcome.

    Like 3
  5. Avatar photo Tracy

    Hoovie you need to bid on this one! What a beautiful car!

    Like 0
  6. Avatar photo stillrunners Member

    Dang…..

    Like 0
  7. Avatar photo Steve J

    I had the opportunity to buy an alloy body version, unrestored, during the early 1970’s for $35,000. That may sound cheap, but I would have had to refinance my mortgage in order to do that. In comparison, in 1978, I bought a new Buick Regal for $8,000. So the Mercedes was valued at 4 times the value of a new car at that time. I should have made the sacrifice and bought the Mercedes!

    Like 16
  8. Avatar photo Danno

    LS swap.

    Like 4
    • Avatar photo geomechs Member

      The same thought went through my mind. No doubt the MB police might want to visit you…

      Like 4
    • Avatar photo TerryC

      Ecoboost 🤔

      Like 0
    • Avatar photo jwaltb

      I hope you’re kidding. Otherwise get some help.

      Like 0
  9. Avatar photo Chris Cornetto

    7 figures and table cloth seats. All kidding aside. To be wealthy and buy this is nothing short of fantastic.

    Like 7
  10. Avatar photo Keith

    wow maybe a 50 million dollar car.Will see

    Like 1
  11. Avatar photo Karl

    You guys might remember a few years ago there was an original tool roll for this car that was up for bids it sold for 25k! Just the tool roll.
    This car could sell for a lifetime income for many people!

    Like 2
  12. Avatar photo Peter

    Yeah, pulling a car from a major auction house site and listing it as a Barn Find is quite a stretch…certainly not a ‘Find’.

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo BimmerDude Member

      If this is a “Barn Find,” then the Barn must be pretty impressive too, perhaps similar to Jay Leno’s car barn.
      I do enjoy the occasional auction items that stretch that concept though, often great photos and something unsual, along with our writer’s comments, and it gets them out of a narrow focus of those dusty, neglected vehicles with 14 years of dust.
      In about 1970 we ventured into Boston, drove the Land Rover down from Northern NH for my ex-roommate’s wedding at Anthony’s Pier 9. The nearby gas station had a 300SL for sale in a beige-yellow color, asking $2500 if I remember, but…no drivetrain. Oh well, maybe next time.

      Like 4
  13. Avatar photo Geoff C

    What a car! Ahead of its time!

    Like 1
  14. Avatar photo Jack Quantrill

    Coworker had a ‘56 300 SL. Complained that a distributor cap cost $60! This was 1963.

    Like 4
  15. Avatar photo z1rider

    I’m just back from this years’ Retromobile and there were several 300 SL’s, one of which was an alloy bodied version like this, though that example was completely stripped of paint. Not polished like so many Airstreams but scuffed, maybe in preparation for paint or what else I can’t be sure.

    Like 2
  16. Avatar photo Keith Edwards

    In 1968 at Auto shop in high school the teacher had this car. We took it apart and put it back together so many tines over the next 5 years, the teacher ended up scrapping it. I can’t believe the price of these now. OMG

    Like 0
  17. Avatar photo Ray

    I worked for an oil company and my boss and his real estate agent wife in Chicago both owned new Benz’s yearly. His sales rep called him to buy one similar to flip….they shared $50k profit at just over a 6 figure sale in the early 80’s. Hope he kept all his Rolex’s at least.

    Like 0
  18. Avatar photo chrlsful

    that’s hard to believe (on 2 counts).

    Here, along w/the 507 and ’56/‘60C1are some of the finest in automotive history. This, being a lill more sporting & rare would B so great to see/visit.

    Thank you for the next best thing Mr Lavery !

    Like 0
  19. Avatar photo Paul Alexander

    When I was a silly kid, about 11 or 12 years old, I thought it would be neat if my parents bought 3 of these for our family of 6. My older brother was just learning to drive, so we’d have 3 drivers and could caravan to our destinations. For reasons I’ll never understand, they were not on board with this plan. Their initial investment would have paid off far more than the conventional investments they made…go figure…

    Like 4
  20. Avatar photo John Jasper

    My favorite car ever. I saved a picture of it because that’s as close as I’ll ever get to affording one.

    Like 1
  21. Avatar photo Frank Barrett Member

    No need for an LS swap. I personally drove this very car beyond 150 mph. The previous owner, an old friend, let me drive it. I told him, “If we roll this thing up into a little ball, neither of us will care because we’ll both be dead!” Last time it was auctioned, maybe 10 years ago, it went for about $6 million.

    Like 4
  22. Avatar photo Greenhorn

    Being a student of WWII, what I find most fascinating about this car is where it came from. Germany had lost an absolutely devastating war 10 years earlier, and they produce this? It boggles the mind. I think it will go down as one of the most beautiful cars ever.

    Like 1
  23. Avatar photo Edward

    Is there a pre-sale estimate on this car?

    Like 0
  24. Avatar photo Scott Marquis

    Finded in the Sotheby’s Barn ?

    Like 0
  25. Avatar photo Greg

    Finally a car I can afford to bid on. I won my bid on the 67 Corvette 427 and it was a better deal it was 1:24 scale compared to the 1:18 scale Mercedes smile 😊

    Like 0
  26. Avatar photo Greg

    Watching a young up start name Hugh Hefner burning rubber in down town Chicago says it all. This car epitomizes the luxury sports car with matching luggage then and even more now.
    What a car!!!

    Like 0

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