Gullwing Barn Find: 1954 Mercedes 300SL

This is an update of sorts, as Tom Cotter originally helped shed light on this desirable 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing that had been slumbering in a Florida garage for decades. The car has since been removed, and none other than the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in California purchased it. Described as highly original, it was stripped for paint and never restored. Find the details here on Ponte Vedra Recorder website.

This 300SL was the 43rd car made, placing it in the early part of the limited production run. Despite its rough appearances, in-person viewing confirms the body is sound despite being stored in a dark Florida garage. Even the tires still held air. The car was stripped down for a repaint that never happened and has sat parked since 1956 with just over 35,000 original miles.

The interior will obviously need complete restoration, but most enthusiasts would be happier to see a complete cabin than spend too much time worried about a cleaning. Well, it may take more than a cleaning, but seeing the original shift knob, steering wheels, and unaltered dash face is a treat. Charmingly, a vintage AAA roadside assistance sticker remains in the window.

This old-school 400th Anniversary Florida license plate reinforces how long this 300SL has been laid up. Now, with its future in the hands of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center, it’s almost a certainty this long-lost Gullwing will be fully restored. While that breaks my heart slightly, the next stage will at least finish the vision the previous owner has for a refresh.

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Comments

  1. poseur Member

    daaaaaamn!
    holy grail of barn finds.
    look forward to how gorgeous it will be when completed

    37
  2. David Harmon

    Holy Cow! Unsunken treasure…….how many could possibly be left like this?

    10
    • Alfonso DeMagistris

      Single digits

      4
  3. A.J.

    OK, I’m a little nuts with this one. I would get the engine running, get the suspension to work enough to drive it and take it up PCH for a ride. Who cares what it looks like? It would be a once in a lifetime experience.

    21
    • Andy

      Please say you’d put new tires on it.

      21
      • rodney

        Or go sailing off a cliff on a turn on the PCH wishing he had. ;)
        When I have had old dry-rotted tires on something, if they hold air it seems that they’ll go about 20 to 50 miles until they warm up and shred themselves to pieces. Just time enough to get the car up to 60 mph before ahhh, “circumstances occur” as the bumper stickers say.

        7
      • A.J.

        Oh OK new tires are a pretty good idea. Those cliffs can be pretty high.

        10
    • Sunshine

      1993 I was leaving Calistoga, CA headed for SF, when a Gullwing pulled out in from tof me in traffic. I worked the convertible rental car hard to keep up on the two lane roads, but the Gullwing eventually got away by exceeding the speed limit. So, yes AJ, you want new tires, seatbelts, etc.

      1
      • Jack Quantrill

        A 300 SL roadster did sail off a cliff in Palos Verdes,CA. Salvagers fished it out of the ocean, and restored it. Back in the late 60’s.

        2
  4. marcel levesque

    C’est à vendre ou quoi! si oui laisser vos coordonnées merci!marcel

    4
    • Alfonso DeMagistris

      What?

      4
  5. pebblebeachjudge

    Hard to believe they are still out there ! Certainly it had to pull down 800-900K as it sits. Very rare early car .

    8
  6. Robert Thomas

    Wow! A holy grail of garage finds!

    5
  7. George

    Parked since 1965 based on the license plate.

    17
    • Will Fox

      I agree. I think he was momentarily dislexic in sayin ‘1956’. Besides; who in their right mind strips a 2 yr old 300 gullwing of its paint?

      19
      • Scott

        Or puts 35,000 miles on it in 2 years.
        Wait a minute – I’d do that.

        16
  8. warner fletcher

    As a 17 year old I could have purchased one of these in 1976 for $5500 but could not see why I would ever want one (Cragars wouldn’t fit on it) and of course $5500 then was like $65K to me now as an adult. I couldn’t afford it even if I had been smart enough to realize it’s significance. Ha ha ha. We all could have bought Microsoft stock when it came out too. Or Amazon or Netflix. Ha ha ha.

    15
  9. Paul Weinstein

    Sat since 1956 but has 1965 plates on it? Stripped of its paint just after 2 years and 33,000 miles? This seems weird. Is there a misprint here somewhere? Sat since 1965 possibly? That would make more sense.

    7
    • Michael Jabczynski

      Good eye, I was ready to make same comment til I seen yours.

  10. mlm

    Talking about a HIGHLY desirable barn find,this is it!!!

    4
  11. Kevin Pulver

    I don’t know much about these. But remember talk about an old Dr. in Hastings Nebraska area having one.
    When I was in high school back in Kenesaw in the 80s, a local farmer did foreign car mechanicing and sales on the side. For a long time, laying out in his yard, he had a big, long nose Mercedes with running boards and it seems like flex exhausts coming out the sides of the hood. As best I can remember it looked like the thing the Nazis were driving at the end of The Sound of Music movie. It didn’t belong to the guy in question he was just working on it or storing it or something.
    Last I heard it got sold and shipped back to Germany or Austria. It had to be worth a pile.

    5
    • Mountainwoodie

      Sounds like one of those Replicars like a Stutz Blackhawk from the seventies to the eighties that had flex pipes running from the hood….and looks like aThirties Cherman staff car…..sort of

      3
    • ACZ

      A 540K or 540SSK ?

      2
  12. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    I read somewhere that the windows do not go up or down in these. After looking at a ton of photos, it looks like the wing windows might open. Any of you heavy hitters know? Thanks, Mike.

    3
    • Ralph

      They don’t roll down as far as I know, I think some had removable windows.

      2
    • Horse Radish

      Correct, air circulation was a major problem in those, but in the temperate climate of central Europe it did not present as much of a problem as let’s say the Arizona desert

      5
    • Alfonso DeMagistris

      Vent windows open and close as any other car, but the door windows are removable, they either in or out.

      2
      • treg forsyth

        I work at a plating shop and we have done multiple 300SL gullwing cars over the years for a local world class restorer, the vent windows tip inward at the front and the side windows tip out at the rear, not nearly as handy as roll down windows.

        1
    • treg forsyth

      Correction, I must be suckin too much polishing dust, yes vent windows open, and side windows are just removable, and rear 1/4 windows are fixed non opening. In case anyone is wondering what it costs to do concours quality chrome plating of all the parts on these cars inside and out, depending on damage etc. aprox. 30-40 thousand CAD $

      1
  13. Ike Onick

    The owner of a company we do business with worked at the Mercedes planr before moving to Canada in the 1950’s. He told us about the Gullwings lined up in front of the plant with the matching luggage stacked behind the cars waiting for the newest group of owners.

    11
  14. DRV

    No, the windows didn’t go down. For me the later Roadster hardtop is more desirable. In racing the gullwing they were a death trap, especially with the early swing axle specs. The improvements for the 9 year run were many, but the disc brakes starting in ’61 and less swing in the axle were the best improvements. Imagine a 4 inch wide brake pad for the drums! The shorter gear shift lever started on Number 51 for an early improvement.
    I rode in an all original black over red ’56 10 years ago that looked and felt like a 3 year old one. I felt trapped with those doors though.

    8
    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Thanks for clearing that up DRV. A least you got a ride in one, I have never seen one in person, lovely car!

      2
  15. Pebblebeachjudge

    The gullwing is iconic , the roadster is not.
    If you know how to drive one, you will ever have a rear end tuck issue. If you have no hair to blow in the wind, a gullwing keeps you warm. I’ve owned mine for 43 years. All the women are exchanged out. I kept the 300sl. I had a roadster, there is never been one day that thought of an exchange. My dream is to have both side by side. A great realible car, and the First Supercar. Surely this was the Bill Warner find from decades ago!

    11
  16. Joel

    This car was featured in Hagerty’s Barn Find Hunters channel on youtube last year, ep 32. Amazing car. I hope the restoration is sympathetic, and it doesn’t end up just looking like all the other shiny Gullwings on the concours lawn. It needs to retain some of that characterful patina.

    1
  17. Ken Nelson

    You’re right leiniedude – that incredibly expensive car’s door windows do not move anywhere. I was cruising alone up Woodward Ave. in Birmingham Mi. a few yrs ago in my ex-Chrysler “China Car” ’59 Panhard Dyna Z16 – bright yellow, and brought into the Chrysler program by Bob Lutz, and enjoying the Aug. sunshine when a tan Gullwing pulled up alongside me and the driver’s door flipped up! I hadn’t known the glass was fixed. The owner smiled and waved at me as he hollered “two cylinders?” I gave him a thumbs-up and said “yes”. He smiled again, waved “bye”, pulled down the door and slowly sped up to 50 while I stayed at 45. I thought “that guy knows his cars”, and that felt good – his being interested enough in my ride, to open his extremely expensive door while driving, to ask me about mine. His door alone was worth maybe 10 times my whole car! Pic attached = same yr/color as mine.

    35
    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Great story Ken! Thanks! Cool car. Take care, Mike.

      4
  18. Mark

    Why, strip paint off an undamaged 2 year old car and put away in 1956, it says but it comes out with 1965 plates. What is it?

    2
    • Scott

      As someone mentioned earlier, pretty sure the author transposed the digits. It had to be in 65 that it was parked.

      2
  19. David D Manos

    WOW! A fellow I worked with at Lockheed in the 60s tried to talk me into buying his 300SL Gullwing for $6oo, so many times, “If I only knew”?

    11
    • Horse Radish

      Wow, there is 2 guys with lasting regret,
      One for selling his Gullwing (I am sure he eventually did) and
      one for NOT buying it.

      $600 , wow.

      4
  20. Bob S

    I am still kicking myself, because in 1968, I had the opportunity to buy a 300 SL in primer for my 190 SL and $2000, and I turned it down because the 190 SL was my only transportation and I had no place to store or work on the 300 SL. Even back then, I knew I would regret not buying it.
    Bob

    7
    • A.J.

      I feel ya Bob, I had the chance to buy a Ferrari 330gt for $4000 but the credit union wouldn’t give me a loan because I had less than a year in my enlistment.

      1
      • Bill McCoskey

        A.J.,
        In 1975 I was living in Germany for Uncle Sam. Found a 1962 Ferarri 250 GTB 2+2 sitting on an Alfa Romeo dealer’s lot. It was evident the car had not been moved in months. Ended up buying it for $1,200. When I went back to the USA 6 months later, I found it needed a SAE A-1 Windshield to import the car, and it was going to cost over $2,000. So I sold the car to a fellow Army guy for $1,800.

        Back then those cars simply were not worth much. Very few people wanted a 4 passenger Ferrari.

        3
  21. Oilyhands

    All Together Now,

    “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
    My friends all drive Porsche’s , I must make amends
    Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends
    So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz”

    Thanks Ms Joplin

    In the pantheon of great stories, I was driving back from Boise and in front of me was a convertible and a gullwing…. they pulled off before I could get a picture of a pair of unicorns in the wild….. really I’m telling the truth!!!!

    9
    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Janis and Jimmy Hendricks? Great story, count your blessings! Take care, Mike.

      • Frank Sumatra

        Yep.

        5
      • leiniedude leiniedude Member

        Outstanding photo Frank! I wonder if his Stingray was painted in Purple haze?

        3
  22. Bob S

    Mercedes sold a fire truck to the town I lived in back in 1958, and as part of the presentation, Mercedes Benz put on a display of their products in an attempt to break into the market. I was only 15, but I was allowed to actually sit in the driver’s seat, and marvel at the design of the car.
    What an impressive car, with that beautiful styling, and the spectacular silver finish, made it look more like a work of art than just a car. I was blown away by the gull wing doors, the wide sill, that steering wheel you flipped up to enter the car, were all amazing to me. I also had the opportunity to sit in the dirver’s seat of the 55 Tbird when it was introduced, and there was no comparison. That 300SL was a real car. I would gladly have put up with windows that didn’t open.
    In the early 60s, I got to see one race at a track in the Vancouver area called Westwood, and it sounded like a banshee on the back stretch. BTW, it was way out front.
    Bob

    6
  23. Eugene m Meyer III

    Tom Cotter on Barn Finds showed this car in March i believe.
    It was a matter of time before it was pulled out after that viewing.
    Big money traded hands here!

  24. Alfonso DeMagistris

    Awsome story, not to often we get a treasure unearthed like this. That’s why I’m building my own! C-3 chassis, utilities original Gullwing 300 SL trim, and interior. Only way to tell is by looking under hood and seeing a small block, well and the zf-6 speed shifter, lol!

    15
    • Bob S

      How did you get the pattern to mold the panels, or were you able to buy them?
      Bob

      1
  25. Bruce

    I have worked on the bodies of these and an unsuited one is truly amazing. I guess I am one of the few that have sat in one. It is very different on the inside. Much smaller and closed in then you might expect. I have seen a few people drive with them at very slow speed with the door up. Super strange sight and I am certain it is not that safe but per other comments these things can become ovens very quickly if you are not moving.

    I agree that they are iconic but also for what they are they are also some of the most complex cars you can buy from a mechanical standpoint. I am glad that Mercedes Co. has purchased it back as these are mobil works of art now days and they will have both the time and funds to do a proper job.

    If you work for Mercedes I would hope that the company would produce a series of video blogs of the restoration be done for all the rest of us that can not afford, do not have the skills or do not have the time to restore such a car. I think it would help reenforce the Mercedes image of value. Again they could do it right.

    3
  26. Sunshine

    The 1965 Florida tag indicates Alachua County, home ot the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. During the 60’s and 70’s the College Professors at UF seemed to mostly have interesting cars as I would walk or bike through campus, especially for a smaller town. Lots of Citroens DS & DLs. I can see a Professor owning this Gullwing, embracing what was groundbreaking for the era.

    3
  27. Paul Member

    My automotive shop teacher had one of these back in 1974-1975. He died a few years later and I have no idea where it went. I often wonder???

    1
  28. conrad alexander

    prime for a ls swap

    3
    • John

      So wrong in so many ways.

      1
  29. Cargirl

    Soon to become yet another overly restored car (yawn).

    3
    • Pebblebeachjudge

      Maybe in Arizona !

    • Alfonso DeMagistris

      This car can never get boring!

      1
  30. John

    I baby sat for someone who owned one of these when I was a young teen. After the baby was asleep I went down to the garage and sat in it pretending to drive. More than once. What a thrill!

    7
  31. Peter Porsche

    Too many comments on the Gullwing windows to ignore: open they do not, BUT if you stop long enough in a ‘race’ that you will now lose, you can remove those windows and store them properly in a bag provided by Mercedes. They need to be removed via the outside surface, thus it cannot be done as you are traveling at speed. You now come in second, third or last, depending on how long it took to ‘bag those windows’.

    4
  32. John B

    Always wanted to know what its like to drive these. Are the fast 0-60? Do they ride smooth? How do they handle? Top speed? Comfortable?
    Thanks in advance. John

  33. Gray Wolf

    Nothing says a Gullwing like a blown big block sticking out of the hood!! Oh yeah, CNC Mercedes on the valve covers! LOL!

    2
  34. arizman2

    In 1979, in Ft Worth Texas, I saw a newspaper ad for a Gullwing in Dallas, price was $5,000. I called immediately and it had already sold.

    2
  35. triumph1954

    Nice! I’am sure it was owned by a spoiled drug dealers son or somebody spending there unearned inheritance or a flipper.

    1
  36. Ken Smith

    When growing up in a small Northern Ohio town in the 1950s, a gentleman who owned a local meat packing company had one of these. A classmate’s uncle had a small repair garage, and did routine maintainence on it. Have often wondered what happened to it.

    2
  37. MRP

    I remember reading the for sale ads in the back of Road&Track magazine in the early 70’s wondering if there was any way I could come up with the scratch. Alas, no.

    1
  38. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Kind of got the blues about this rig. Never be able to drive one. So I spun this, from the Reverend. That little ol band from Texas. Much better now. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxOOC2Wf1rQ

    1
  39. Mike Monti

    While stationed in Bangkok, Thailand in the late 60’s I used a garage that worked on the 300 SL that once belonged to the King who received it in the 50’s as a gift from the Prime Minister. The King never used it because he thought it was an insult to the poor of his nation. So moving on to the 60’s and the young Prince finds it in the Royal Garage and says “I want it”! All the rubber throughout the car and the injectors had to be replaced but it got restored to like new condition. Ok….where do you drive this puppy? Well, on several occasions the road from Don Muang RTAB/International Air Port going into Bangkok was closed off so the Prince could test drive it!! Don”t know what happened to the car but the Prince is now the King!!

    1
  40. chad f Member

    much rather C it w/a private party (many of us right here) that drove right away, restored as they go. Its a great way to have a DD’n sell 4 proffit later.
    AND
    this is onea da few to do that with.

  41. Novaman

    Back in the early 80’s my great uncle died. My dad and I went over to his house to help his daughter sell 2 really dirty old cars that were sitting in this garage .both Mercedes, a sedan and a gullwing.being around 12 years old I was amazed to see this cool cars with the doors that went up. We talk about it now and we can’t believe she practically gave away a gullwing. Makes me want to cry

    1
    • LMK Member

      Just amazing how they became so expensive as they grew older…Great story Novaman…

      Any idea what model the sedan was…?

  42. Krash

    Back in the mid 70’s I used to see a gullwing in my hometown. It was apparently used as a daily driver. It was a beautiful deep gray color….. I grew up in a factory town, so it was an anomaly…the young female owner drove it even when it was snowing. The driver’s identity was a mystery…..like Richard Dreyfus’ T Bird driving mystery blonde in American Graffiti……

    Then it disappeared…😢

    2

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