Incredible Garage Find: 1955 Mercedes 300SL Gullwing

There are certain cars that practically never leave the sight of the greater collector car community. In other words, they are so significant, that even when not for sale, the marque’s enthusiasts can tell you where that car is located at that very moment. The classic Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing is a great example of such a model, as individuals and classic car dealers are seemingly equally aware of how special a Gullwing is, even if they know nothing about its lineage. Despite this, the seller claims this example listed here on Gullwing Motorcars website was hidden from the public’s eye to such a degree that even 300SL enthusiast groups were unaware of its existence. Its had one repaint from new but otherwise remains original, and has been with the same owner since 1962.

It’s hard to imagine a 300SL quietly sitting in a suburban garage, with its longtime owner just moving it out to get the lawn mower back inside. Now, of course, this could be one garage of many on a 10+ acre property, but it’s way more fun to imagine that this second owner bought it as a cheap used car and simply enjoyed driving it, with no thought as to whether it would someday be worth millions. In fact, the listing claims that the owner even used it for daily transport for an extended period of time, an image that just makes me warm inside: a slightly used Gullwing, trundling along the local expressway, just like any other Camry or Malibu sedan.

The 300SL remains in very nice condition, and highly original, too, with just one repaint in a non-original color. The Gullwing left the factory wearing Weissgrau (White-Gray) paint and was later repainted to the current shade of dark metallic silver, which is attractive enough in pictures, but I’m not certain as to whether it’s a factory color. It at least looks good with the black interior, which was refreshed many years ago and is said to now wear a pleasant patina from occasional use. The owner apparently also used the Gullwing in club events, though it’s not specified as to whether they were simply going on pleasure cruises or participating in autocross-style driving events.

Most importantly, the 300SL retains its original, numbers-matching engine, a huge driver of value on cars like these. The engine bay looks clean, if not overly detailed, and I’m sure with an owner like this, it has been maintained lovingly. The listing claims it runs and drives well, with the only major defect disclosed is the need for a respray, as the second paintjob is showing its age. The seller is not being hyperbolic when he states that it’s increasingly hard to find a Gullwing that’s been in the care of one owner for over 50 years. These days, it’s become such a collectible that they seemingly trade hands often among collectors hoping to make a few hundred thousand from one auction sale to the next. This one has been loved, and I can’t imagine what was going through the owner’s head as it was towed away.

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Comments

  1. GuernseyPagoda Member

    Great story Jeff! Wow, for me this is as good as it gets(even though there is a yellow C2 Vette beside it under cover). I recently saw a Motortrend episode of Chasing Classic Cars with Wayne, in which they uncovered a 300 with all of the documentation included, with something like 19,000 documented original miles. He also did that with Peter Kumar, as in this photo.

    What a rush to know that you can either hold onto one of the classic sports cars/roadsters of all time, or know that you have probably a couple hundred grand waiting for you, if/when you decide to sell. Ohh the possibilities.😜

    Side note: per my name, I currently own a 67 230SL, and I have spoken to Peter Kumar about potentially selling it. While he seems nice, the conversation is very quick if he doesn’t get your car at his price. Period. I guess he only makes his millions, by buying the cars correctly, right?

    Anywho, during lockdown, I would almost sell my wife to have one of these in the garage. Good luck with the sale.

    Like 15
  2. Rex Kahrs Member

    So I wonder how much Kumar paid the owner for the car, considering Kumar is asking $1,095,000. Or maybe it’s a consignment deal. Anybody know how he operates?

    Like 9
    • james malone Member

      One encounter with his operation left me questioning their honesty. They have a Nash-Healy that has a story which is untrue. I assumed that it was the story they were told when they bought it. I spoke to the son of the long time owner of the car, and know the true history, but when I filled them in, they showed no interest in clearing it up. The real story, while heartwarming, included the fact that the car was actually recovered from a wrecking yard, and wasn’t rebuilt by a prestigious L.A. auto shop, which would not fit their narrative.
      Just one man’s experience.

      Like 28
      • DualJetfire

        What’s the whole Nash Healey story?

        Like 2
      • Mike Burnett

        I’m interested in buying the V12 Lagonda saloon (sedan) which they are currently offering for sale at $79,500. They mention that the car is from a museum, but what they don’t tell you is that, apart from the body problems shown in the photos, the car had no maintenance for 16 years and the engine is seized. With Lagondas this is a very expensive engine to rebuild and many spare parts have to be individually made. There are people who can do this in England, but the Lagonda club estimate $30k to $50k plus a long wait.
        Your comments about Gulwing Motors’ honesty confirms my suspicion about them.

        Like 7
      • Mike_B_SVT

        Not wanting to know / share the correct story seems very typical of classic car dealers. Too much trouble to make corrections to a listing, I guess.

        Like 2
  3. Jerry Wilbeck

    Bill Lear had one!
    Anyone know where it is?

    Like 1
    • Rich Truesdell

      Yes, it’s currently in Southern California with its fifth owner.

      I shot the car for an upcoming story this November for the UK title, Classic Mercedes.

      If you would like a photo, email me at fmc2900r@gmail.com.

  4. Philip

    Here’s how Kumar makes his money. It’s as simple as fishing. He advertises a lot, in most auto publications, that he will pay you cash for your car. A small percentage of the many sellers who contact him will make the deal that he offers. If he looks at 30 cars in a week, he only needs to get a few at his price to stay profitable. Plus, these classic car dealers will sell to one another for just a few thousand $ profit, esp. before they have to transport back to their shop.

    Like 7
    • DETROIT LAND YACHT

      Sooo…let’s say this car is’nt a consignment.If Kumar actually bought it…what did he pay? Or maybe the question is: What’s most he paid in this instance with the possibility of feeling good about it?

      • Marshawn

        Peter paid $830K.

  5. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

    Remember guys, Gullwing is a dealer. They aren’t going to pay more than what a car is worth and they don’t want to hear from people who think they know better. You would do the same if it was your business. So let’s not make this discussion about that. This is an amazing find so let’s talk about the car!

    Like 27
    • Jonathan

      This reinforces the old maxim of “make your profit when you buy’.

      This longtime owner knew what he was buying all those years ago and had the will, determination and love to keep it so nice for so long. Though, he’s probably making a small fortune from the sale (easily mid 6 figures), I bet he could have made even more (in adjusted dollars) back in the height of the classic car market (late 80s-late 90s). But a small fortune now is likely just as good now as a slightly larger small fortune 20-30 years ago.

      Like 5
      • Cal

        Oh, I wouldn’t worry about the finances of an 80 year old man who has a gullwing sitting in his shed. I doubt he will be at a food bank anytime soon. What I want to know is where do people get the money to afford these originally? Okay, in 1962 it was just a used car, I know that, but still, it was going to be a lot more then your average new car from the big three at the time. What was this old guy in 1962, 20, maybe 25? Where does a young person get that kind of money? Everyone talks about regular guys buying this stuff up years ago when it was cheap, but I must be missing something here. I would have never been able to buy something like this at the age when many people are still living at home and just starting a first job. I don’t want to make this a financial discussion, but I am just curious. Am I a minority here? Is this a higher end crowd commenting , better off than I am?

        Like 6
    • KEVIN L HARPER

      Nope sorry
      These are the guys when I looked at an old Italian car and was told that it had Borrani Knockoff’s. When I looked at the car they were not Borrani’s, and their explanation was the were knockoffs, you know fake.
      If I can persuade anyone from doing business with them the better, and the quicker they go out of business the better so they will stop calling me and offering stupid low prices on cars.
      Don’t want this dealer trashed don’t feature them there are plenty of good dealers

      Like 18
      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

        Wait a second. Aren’t you a car dealer? Hmm…

        Like 6
      • KEVIN L HARPER

        No, I have a small shop that does repair and restoration. I may sell 2 to 3 cars a year going from one customer to another most often

        Like 7
  6. Danger Dan

    Good experience. Called me when I was scraping 2 nickels together, pleasant chat. Money in my account that morning. I’ve sold some cars, I don’t know every little thing about them. Mr. Kumar is ok with me.

    Like 3
  7. Mike Hawke

    Hope the old guy doesn’t have to regret leaving money on the table to fund Gullwing profits.

    Like 3
  8. Somer

    People kind of p*ss and moan about dealers going out and unearthing stuff and selling it to the public! At least guys like that are getting it back in the public eye and into the hands of folks of someone who might do something with it. What’s worse is when this stuff shows up at estate sales after being “loved” in a leaky garage.

    Like 18
  9. DualJetfire

    I never liked the styling of these cars. What is up with the fender eyebrows? These were on 49 Lincolns and looked goofy; Germanizing them didn’t change that. Take away the grill bar and the emblem, and you have a blacked out 51 or 52 Nash grill. The side intake is from an early vette and the greenhouse smacks of a Porsche. It’s like they cobbled together styling elements around the engine. Those fender eyebrows are just hideous.

    Werner von Braun, Clark Gable, and Glenn Ford had one of these. But so did the Shah Of Iran and Pablo Picasso. Pablo probably loved the fender eyebrows.

    I suppose the riff raff were satisfied having one of the 1400 gull wings made, but I think we can all agree that they should have bought the much rarer And eyebrowless 54 Nash Ambassador country Club Lemans!

    Like 5
    • Jeff

      My dogs a$$ is more attractive than a “54 Nash Ambassador Country Club Lemans”, Just Sayin.

      Like 8
    • Neil G.

      To me, the design inspiration of the 1954 Nash Ambassador Country Club Lemans came from one of Mickey Mouse’s shoe. Sorry, I would gladly drive a Gullwing over the brick-shaped Nash. BTW: Hemmings has a Nash Ambassador on their website for the outrageous price of $10,500; obo…

      Like 5
    • Gerard Frederick

      Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You are absolutely the very first and only person who thrashes the looks of the 300SL. Also, your reference to ¨the riff raff¨ shows you to be an arrogant, highly unpleasant individual. Incidentally the name was Wernher, not Werner. The Shah was given his as a present from Mercedes. He also had Maserati 5000 GT.

      Like 3
    • BR

      Hahahaha. How can you say Mercedes and Nash in the same sentence?

      Like 3
    • james malone Member

      If you had said Nash Healey it wouldn’t have been so nonsensical. A stretch maybe, but not ridiculous.

      Like 1
    • John

      Yes, you’re a real connoisseur, obviously.
      Most would not agree with you. I’ve sat in a Gullwing and they are beautiful cars, IMO.

    • John Gates

      Actually, IIRC, the “fender eyebrows” you dislike (everyone’s taste is as good as anyone else’s) actually have/add some aerodynamic efficiency to those wheel openings. Happy Motoring!

  10. ArchitectureOnWheels

    I’m happy to see this vintage iron resurface after many years, but not at the sacrifice of the sellers. Mr. Kumar’s business, Gullwing Motor Cars, is and has been historically predatory unfortunately. Offering an unfair wholesale price for a often disconnected seller from the market is dishonest. As a now retired Classic car dealer, should I stumble on a “too good to be true” priced classic, after personally reviewing it, I would always give the seller what the real market value is, and in most all cases, significantly more than what they were asking. Barn Finds should do a little more research on this business, to which they will find what is aforementioned herein true, thus not feature their product. As a very christian dealer and mentor I worked for a number of years ago stated, “Honesty has no memory” and “You are always going to be found out” Its time Gullwing Motor Cars has a reckoning.

    Like 10
  11. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    My uncle had a good story about his friends 300 SL that he rebuilt the motor for.

    The motor sat is his garage complete ready to go back in for a while and then his buddy went thru a divorce with the wife getting the car.

    The title had the motor #’s on it and one day the law came by – all he could do was give up the motor.

    Like 4
  12. Gtprend

    Well, which ever side your on, it shows SOLD on the Gullwing website.

    Like 3
  13. peter r

    Dealers are in business to make money and only buy wholesale. However we need to support those who are honest in their descriptions and business practices. Gullwing seems to frequently raise questions about theirs. But then satisfied customers rarely comment and disatisfied ones usually do.

    Like 4
    • james malone Member

      While my experience was disheartening, you do bring up a good point.

  14. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    I doubt that anyone who does business with Gullwing on cars like this would be blind to their reputation. Even it was stellar, shelling out these $$ means that the car is also going to be carefully scrutinized.

    Does anyone here believe half of what a seller says on EBay? Yet, stuff still gets sold.

    Kumar and his ilk have found a market and he manipulates it well. You as the buyer owe it to yourself to perform your due diligence.

    Like 3
  15. SAM dIBITONTO

    Inmy 90 plus years I have built. owned or raced everything from an MG two 300sLS , 5 mASERATIS AND the last surviving Mexican Carrera Ferrari and I enjoy the “finds” that emerge from time to time. I am always tempted to add to my collection of Jags JEEPS and MB but the storage is a problem..
    Don,t fault dealers too badly; if they weren’t on the hunt MANY neat machines would never be saved..

    Like 2
  16. regg

    Architecture On Wheels states an ethical position. One where you can go forward and build a solid reputation. You may loose a few with this approach but what is gained is the reputation of an ethical dealer.This does not obviate negotiation of the many variables of risk and speculation involved in arriving at a price. Also a dealer moves an item from one general market to a more specialized market they have created by virtue of their knowledge and experience.
    A philosophy professor long ago quoted this on ethics and ethical behavior. Citing an example of someone asking or willing to take a sum for an item way off of and unaware of current market value.
    “Stealing from a blind man is still stealing”

    Like 4
  17. Rex Kahrs Member

    For the sake of clarification, I meant no umbrage toward Mr. Kumar or his business practices in my first comment.

    I was simply inquiring if anyone knew if Kumar buys the cars outright or possibly consigns them. I guess what I was trying to glean (if possible) was how much money the seller made on the deal, and how much Kumar made. Hagerty has the car right in the range of Kumar’s asking price, so presumably Kumar paid something under that. Assuming the owner wasn’t a total rube, hopefully he got paid well, and Mr. Kumar made a cool 10% for minimal work. 10% return is better than any storck market will be paying for a while. But what do I know?

    Like 3
    • AutoArcheologist AutoArcheologist Member

      Generally, Peter Kumar will buy low and sell higher. However, that is what nearly EVERY dealer does so, it’s not out of line with what society holds as the norm and I don’t think it is unethical.
      I assist people in selling their cars and I get paid a fee for that service, which includes, full photo shoot, writing the description, posting to web sites, magazines, etc and then handling all the calls, emails, tests, etc. Some people feel what I do isn’t right and they feel the same about Peter… Unfortunately I think they simply may be jealous of the fact we’re doing what we love and making a little money at it, while they aren’t.
      I also have to agree that building a reputation on honesty and integrity is paramount. I’ll take 200+ photos of every car I sell, whether it’s a $1500 92 Mercedes 190E or a $110,000 Jaguar XK120 and show every bit of the good, bad and ugly… I’ve walked away from people who ask me not to list a certain undesirable aspect of a car.. or, you don’t have to take a picture of that rust do you?
      To summarize, I haven’t purchased from Peter and can’t say what his ethics are on selling, he has contacted me multiple times about cars I’m selling for people and his offer has never been even close to what the seller is looking for. However, if the seller is happy with the price he’s buying at, that’s all that matters.

      Like 7
      • james malone Member

        Selling for a profit is completely fair and ethical. Lying to increase the profit margin is not. Pretty simple. From what I can tell, I would buy a car you are representing, but not from Gullwing based on my experience.

        Like 2
  18. Mason

    Kumar is over at Astoria Queens – right over the old Triboro Br. in NYC

    He’s been there since the late 80’s or very early 90’s

    daily advertise in the NY Times paper back then also Hemmings.

    he’s got to be doing something right – all these years still in business. he trades & sells overseas also. there’s always a trailer picking or dropping once a week.

    Like 1
  19. robbert

    Doesn’t get any better than this find all politics aside.

    Like 2
  20. 27Stutz Member

    re: dealers and honesty – a 1939 Packard Twelve was offered at one of the Arizona Auctions last year (2019). I had owned the car 20 years before and through a lot of research determined the ownership history from new. I attended the auction and looked at the car’s file but none of the history was there. (it had been through a couple of owners since I had it) The car was bought by a major classic dealer in Missouri and advertised extensively at a markup of about 75%. I don’t have a problem with the profit margin, but they made up an early history for the car with a famous owner and a cute story about his chauffeur speeding him to work. Completely fabricated. I know it wasn’t true because of my research, and they knew it too, as no early history was provided by the auction company. The car got sold so its false history has gone with it. This very prominent company advertises many of its cars as having had famous original owners – I now assume it’s all a crock…

    Like 1
  21. Pete

    The seller may have served in Germany in the early 60’s , if he was an officer he probably had some extra money. The exchange rate back then was like 4 DM to one USD. So if he paid 10,000 DM that would have been $2500 for it if it was used. Perhaps he felt that was a good investment to ride around and trawl for dames. LOL

  22. Andrew

    For that much money I would have held my breath and washed my hands immediately afterwards.

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