Gullwings Found In Venezuela!

Mercedes 300SL

I’ve heard stories of the incredible cars hiding in Venezuela, but up until recently I didn’t believe them. I received an email from Alvin A with a photo of one of his 300SLs. If you know your mid-50s Venezuelan history, then you already know about General Marcos Perez Jimenez. He was a military leader and the “President” of the country from ’52 to ’58. During his 6 year reign he actually brought considerable prosperity to the country. He also imported an impressive number of sports cars! Upon the fall of his regime, Jimenez’s cars were dispersed – some ended up in the hands of collectors, others were shipped out of the country, and some disappeared and were lost forever. Alvin and his father have spent years trying to track down some of these cars. Alvin specializes in Mercedes and Ferraris, but he has been able to collect a wide variety of cars. He has also been kind enough to share more photos and info about some of them. Today we will look at his Gullwings! And stay tuned for more Venezuelan finds in the near future!

Venezuelan 300sl

We often think of military dictators in a purely negative light, but Jimenez actually did a lot of good for his country. He saw the potential for Venezuela’s vast oil supply and he knew other countries would pay good money for it. So he increased production and prices, which lead to a serious economic boom. To spur further growth, a number of public works were undertaken. The General knew money alone wouldn’t bring happiness to the people, so he also put on a number of public events, including several races and Grand Prix. During one of the Grand Prix of Caracus, Jimenez spotted the Gullwing above during the race and fell in love with it. After the race finished, he approached the driver and bought it. Being the dictator, he got plenty of preferential treatment and access to the track, so he also received a private driving lesson from Juan Manuel Fangio in this very car! For 20 years Alvin knew about this car, but was never able to make a deal. The previous owner finally decided to part ways with it and Alvin was able to bring it home. Since he specializes in Mercedes, it didn’t take him long to get it restored and back on the road. He decided to pay homage to its racing heritage with period correct logos and paint work.

Silver Mercedes 300sl

A surprising number of 300SLs made their way to the country, presumably because of Jimenez. A number of rare and significant Ferraris also made their way to Venezuela, but that’s a story for another day. The silver example shown above was another one of Jimenez’s personal Gullwings and Alvin’s father was able to track it down and purchase it too. Alvin and his father have spent their lives tracking down these special cars, fixing them, and finding them new homes. He has promised to share some of their other finds in the near future, including the story of a Ferrari 275 and a 330! A special thanks goes to Alvin for sharing his cars with us and I for one look forward to seeing his other discoveries!

Sebring 1955

Alvin also sent me this photo of the Venezuelan Gullwings at the 1955 Sebring to share with you guys! All images courtesy of Coleccion Alvin.

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Comments

  1. sir mike

    beautifully done….great story…keep up the search for more classics…thanks

  2. L.M.K. Member

    Very cool story…..

  3. Ian Chorne

    Amazing! I had no idea that these cars were there! keep us posted!

  4. geomechs geomechs Member

    The 300SL is such an icon. It seems that no matter where you are in the world, someone knows something about it. I would love to own (and enjoy) one but unfortunately my money tree died many years ago and all I can afford are the pictures I took down at Barrett Jackson. Maybe one day…

    • D. King

      Geo–you know those stories about the car that got away? We were offered a Mercedes back in the day, probably about ’71 or ’72; cost was either $6,000 or $8,000, depending on whose memory you want to believe. One of our friends was selling it in St. Louis. We already had 3 cars, and didn’t want another, so we passed. The car? Why, a Gullwing, of course…

      • geomechs geomechs Member

        Hi D. King. Have you got toe prints in your backside, from kicking yourself? Why is it that we get those opportunities but at the time they seem more like an inconvenience than an opportunity and we pass on them. I have a lot of self-inflicted toe prints in my six.

      • D. King

        Yes, Geo, BUT we did one other thing right. Around the same time my father wanted my husband to buy a new car. He had some ads for VW Bugs and…um…Gremlins that you could buy for just under $2,000, and he seriously pushed spouse to get one. Hubby was polite but declined to take his advice. At the time we had a ’69 BMW 2002, a ’69 Saab Sonett, and a ’64 Porsche 356 Sunroof Coupe. Don’t know where the Bimmer and Sonett are, but the P-car is tucked away in our garage. We have had it 48 years, restored it about 12 years ago, and it looks and drives great! I think my father still thinks we made a mistake not to get the Gremlin–he was always a Rambler kind of guy.

  5. Dolphin Member

    Here are some links to videos and information about this and other 300SLs:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-C2wTSBHrN0

    Here is a translation of the text that goes with this video:

    “The 300 SL was bought by Hans Kleissl more than a year ago in Venezuela , but could not be made ready for export due to bureaucratic problems . Therefore Hans Kleissl flew to Venezuela to bring the vehicle to a different location where other people to work with greater chances of success in exporting.”

    Another web page with a photo of the same car:
    http://www.pasionalavelocidad.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=28&t=2113

    Below is a video of a 300SL being driven in a rally through the Alps. Gives you an idea what it’s like to ride in one. Driver seems to be fast, but he’s real hard on the drivetrain at times. I’ll bet his mechanic likes his driving style.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VT2o9Ku-DEQ

  6. jim s

    great story. sound like a lot of work and some fun trying to locate and buy the cars. thanks for sharing.

  7. TBall

    Beautiful cars, thanks for sharing. Never forget my first sighting – I was I kid visiting a relative in the hospital (St Joe Mercy in Ann Arbor, MI), in the staff parking was a silver/grey gullwing much like the next to last photo. I fell in love. Never had the account for one, will stick with my USA vintage iron.

  8. SGV

    I loved the story, especial since it originated from my homeland of Venezuela and involves one of my favorite brands of automobiles. However, I am sad that you chose to interject politics. Marcos Pérez Jimenez was a ruthless dictator and assassin and the only reason that he looks good today is because Chávez and now the current government were and are much worse.

    Mercedes-Benz had a huge following in Venezuela, we had a W112 and a W108 at home in the late 60s when I was born which lasted with us a very long time. Lovely cars.

    Like 1
    • Horse Radish

      @ SGV
      My brother and I are collectors of W112 cars and other Mercedes and own a website about these specific cars.
      I would love to hear of your 112 car and the story behind it. We were once offered a w112 Coupé here in Los Angeles (Pasadena area), which we were told came from Venezuela.
      Unfortunately we did not buy that car.

      300sec@gmail.com

  9. AbarthBill

    I found a Gullwing in a barn in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin with 36K Miles. Needing a full restoration, which it got to Concours quality.

  10. Eduardo Muñoz

    The pictures of the two 300Sl in 1955 Sebring from the Flickr site of Louis Galanos, more photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/smuckatelli/5385779101/#comment72157625825204675

  11. Eigil

    The big problem is that people actually have access to more money then would know what to do with, uf they started to use their head. Everyone’s estate name is a treasure.

  12. Car-Nut

    In the spring of ’78, when I was driving to Cal Poly at about 630am in the morning, down the 101 south, there was a stretch of highway near Camp Roberts, where the sun was just a glint, and you could see both sides of the 4 lane freeway. A long stretch of highway, and the sun just catching it, revealed this beautiful silver 300SLGullwing, driving north in the opposite direction. It was a long straight section of road, so I got a good, long, look at it. At first I could not believe my eyes. There were no other cars at all. Just me in my beat up 69 Alpha Sypder, and a perfect silver Gullwing. It is still as fresh in my mind as when it happened; never forget that moment. Nothing compares.

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