Long-Term Owner: 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing

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You know you’re talking about a special car when the description includes the chassis number – as in, “Targa Florio class-winner, chassis 3413…”, or here on eBay, where we are entertaining “Mercedes-Benz …  chassis 5500733…” This car is a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, and it’s for sale out of long- term ownership by Mr Harvey Wilson, who purchased it in 1978. The car is currently located in Austin, Texas, and the asking price is $1,675,000. The 300SL’s parent was a race car, internally christened the W194. A defining characteristic of the W194 was its interlocking-triangle aluminum frame, which absorbed quite a lot of what we think of the sill area. That’s important real estate when you’re thinking about doors. The only logical solution was to hinge the doors into the roof – thus, the Gullwing.

The race tempo did not abate much when the W194 coupes were revised (thank you, Max Hoffman) for “production”, which began in 1954. I’m a Mustang fan, so when I think of production, I think thousands … nay! hundreds of thousands. In fact, only 1400 Mercedes 300SL Gullwing coupes were made. Its 2996 cc overhead cam, fuel-injected, dry sump, six-cylinder was a wonder: sold with a “touring” cam, its compression ratio came in at 8.5:1 for 220 hp, but a competition engine was available that brought compression to 9.5:1 and output to 240. The engine has bags of torque, making every one of its four synchro-meshed gears useful. Mr Wilson requisitioned an engine rebuild in 2007, when the brakes, gearbox, and injection pump were also given attention. The running condition is reportedly excellent.

The interior is classically appointed with plaid upholstery, ivory steering wheel and gearshift knob, and its original Blaupunkt radio. A slight separation of the leather from around the radio attests to the car’s overall patina, but the VDO gauge faces are bright and clean. The complicated headliner is as tidy as can be. Would-be occupants will navigate a wide sill upon entry, and a very close cabin with scant ventilation. But who cares when you’re piloting this fabulous beast to its 160 mph top speed?

This example was repainted from white several years ago. The finish shows small imperfections throughout, but with the car having been garaged nearly exclusively in California and Arizona, the seller indicates there is no rust evident. The “no rust” claim is aided by these cars’ high aluminum content, including the door skins, rockers, boot lid, bonnet, and dash. About 29 Gullwings were made entirely of aluminum – but they’re in another class entirely. Back here with the commoners – where we have to put up with a steel body shell – prices range from $1.6 million to just over $1.7 million. This comparable car – but in original colors – sold for $1.765 million in January, but this one failed to meet the low end of the estimate at $1.5 million. I’ll venture that the color change will bring a demerit, but the asking price is nonetheless close to market.

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Comments

  1. bobhess bobhessMember

    These cars have one thing going for them that most other cars don’t: they are flatly one of the most beautiful cars ever built.

    Like 52
    • Driveinstile DriveinstileMember

      I would like to second what Bob said. I fell in love with those lines when I was a teenager in the 80s. Even then I knew I’d never be able to afford one. But wow, there just isn’t one bad angle on these Mercedes. No matter if you look from the front, three quarter view, side or rear, the lines are just beautifully proportioned. I always thought the interiors, the ivory colored steering wheel, the dashboard are just simply a work of art.

      Like 25
  2. Kelly g

    My grandfather was a Mercedes dealer and could have purchased one of these new for around 12k, but didn’t do it! Of course, 12k was large coin at that time. Love ya, Gramps!

    Like 35
    • RayMcFroggy

      I’ll take 2 at that price 🤪

      Like 5
    • Solosolo UK Solosolo UKMember

      Same here. I could have bought one for 25k which was the price of the respray that the current owner couldn’t raise so he was selling it in order to pay off the debt. As you say, that kind of cash was still out of most peoples league

      Like 14
      • Solosolo UK Solosolo UKMember

        I forgot to mention that at the time I owned an Auto Detail company and the new buyer brought it to me to valet and when done I had to deliver it to his business about 3 miles out of town. That was the most exhilerating drive of my life and I’ve had Mustangs, Corvettes, Cobras, E Types etc. when I was a classic car dealer but this one was the cherry on the top.

        Like 19
    • johns57

      Those yrs. 50’s and 60’s is when Mercedes built great cars; they mic’d every measurement and checked everything 2 and 3 times before it was put together by hand. The cars of today are disgusting and built by robots. Such a drag!!!! 👁️👁️👀😎😞😔👎

      Like 10
  3. Tom Rottmayer

    I remember seeing one of these in a car lot in San Antonio in the spring of ’64, while on a break from USAF basic training. It was $5,000 – a lot of money back then. But what an investment it would have been!

    Like 19
    • Marc Linquist

      My dad was a blue collar sheet metal worker who had experienced the Great Depression firsthand so he was always hustling for money. He scrapped metal, repaired boats and opened a marina for a time. One guy he came to know through these endeavors had one of these cars. When he passed his wife offered it to my dad for 5,000 bucks because he had liked my dad so much. But that was a fortune to my dad in those days. So he passed on it and always talked about it as a what if moment.

      Like 7
    • Jon in Chico

      Like the Ferrari GTO I saw for sale for $5000 in Chicago in 1971 … making $1.65/hr I might as well have been in a wagon rut looking the stars …

      Like 11
  4. Russ Ashley

    I’d like to have two million dollars so I could buy this car and then have it painted back to it’s original color. It’s beautiful now, but that red interior would go better on a white car, IMO. Good thing it doesn’t cost anything to daydream. I got to sit in one of these when I was a teenager and have loved them ever since.

    Like 15
  5. robert stockamp

    I was at The Riverside 500 in 1968 and there was a Silver Gullwing parked on the infield of turn 6 just sitting there all covered in dust along with all the other spectators pedestrian cars.

    Like 13
  6. Stefano Sioli

    We are Italians living in Milano. In 1957 my father, engineer at Montecatini , went for business several times in Germany , working for Siemens. There he bought a silver Gullwing , with blue/silver tartan interior. We still have the original half moon rear luggage. When I was born in 1959, he needed a larger car, so he gave away the Merc and bought a 6 cyl Fiat 2300 coupe’ S . He hated the Ceat thin whitewalls that the car came equipped with, and he was very proud of having fitted the first Michelin radials available at that ti

    Like 27
  7. John Grant

    In 1962 I was 20 years old. Walt Hansgen, who lived down the street from
    Me was selling his for $7500. It wasn’t
    Perfect. He had loned it to Mark Donahue and Mark had returned it. I drove it and loved it. Walt didn’t want to take my Tr3 as a partial trade.
    I still have the Tr3.
    If only!

    Like 18
    • BK

      How much do you want for the tr3? Lol

      Like 4
  8. pixelpusher

    In the early 80’s i had to replace the 216 in my chevy panel truck. A local friend had a shop at his home in the country nearby where he and his dad worked on local’s cars. They taught me so much. In one of their outbuildings was a Gull Wing 300 they kept for a local well-healed family. The daddy had brought it out there so junior wouldn’t sneak it out at night. Covered in dust inside a chicken coop. Blew my mind when I first saw it. A true barn find for me I thought.

    Like 15
  9. Vetman

    Sorry to all of you, I see nothing beautiful about this car. It looks like a turtle/frog on wheels. for that kind of $ I could get a couple of Ferrari’s, a Lambo and a C8 Corvette. Yes, I know, I’m dreaming…but what a dream, please don’t wake me up.

    Like 6
    • Solosolo UK Solosolo UKMember

      You are definitely on the wrong website if you are into Ferrari’s, Lambo’s and Corvette’s. Bring a Trailer is more your market, if you have the money!

      Like 7
  10. HoA HoAMember

    I think we can all agree, this car was what dreams were made of. Oh sure, we built plastic models, hoping someday,,,that never came. Every country, it seems, has one car that is drool material. Brits, the XKE, Italians, any Ferrari, America, the Corvette, France, the Delahaye,,Japan,,,um,,,this, I feel, was Germanys entry.
    Now, is a car of ANY kind worth the military budget of a small country, or the yearly salary of a movie star? I say no, and all this shows is how far greed and selfishness can go. We won’t solve the homeless or immigrant problem in this country with individuals spending this kind of money on a mere automobile, but who cares, eh?

    Like 17
    • TC

      A MERE AUTOMOBILE?Yeah,who cares.

      Like 8
      • Enzio Di Lapi

        Greed TC Who cares.

        Like 0
    • Pat P.

      A country with a military budget of 1.6 million? Is this country Legoland? An actor making 1.6 mil a year? What year is this?

      Like 5
      • 370zpp 370zppMember

        It is 2024, you are on Barn finds, and commenting about a classic Mercedes. I think.

        Like 3
    • Fred

      How very true, oh to dream.

      Like 3
    • Slimm

      .Greed and selfishness of who? The guy who gives away 2 million to own this car or the person he gives it to who buried the cash in the backyard? How did you think was an acceptable way for him to spend his money so that it would solve the immigrant problem? How do you do that with your spare money?

      Like 4
  11. Johan

    Scarry car in the corners.
    Almost lost one coming off a freeway ramp once on 101 in CA..
    Yes, there was one upside down in the middle of the Ice-plans on hiway 17 where it goes from Hiway 1 onto 17 years ago.

    Like 3
  12. Rixx56Member

    It was near 1964, as a kid I tried talking dad into buying this. The Milwaukee Journal classifieds had one at $5600! I’ll never forget. Impractical for 5; not to mention its cost. We were an AMC family (his employer). Clearly opposite ends of the automotive spectrum…

    Like 9
    • Richard B Kirschenbaum

      In 1974 I was restoring a 1929 Pontiac (fool’s errand) and one of my onlookers parked his 1960 MB 300 SL roadster across the alley from my open garage. door, while he went to the nearby Jewish Community Center, It was no show car and had much evidence of trips to the Bondologist. He told me he’d been offered five thousand for it I advised him to take it, know it all that I was.

      Like 2
  13. Michael

    When I graduated high school in 1963, I used to read the used car ads in the New York Times. One of these cars was about $3500 to $4500. Aw, gee whiz!

    Like 8
  14. Richard B Kirschenbaum

    Amazing how many cars (everything from Deoreans to Bradleys) copied the gullwing doors simply as a gimmick as opposed to a real solution to a real problem as is here,

    Like 7
  15. John Muller

    If you have seen the ads for BASF you will be aware that their claims are to take existing products and improve on them. At my previous employer I was doing business with one of the BASF plants in Michigan and this plant had two locations that they utilized to highlight their paint related products. Outside the front doors was a cement turn table that they would mount cars on. One was a red white and blue Viper. They also had an internal area in the lobby that would be roped off. Inside the ropes was a Gullwing that had been redone by Chip Foose in regards to the paint scheme. This vehicle was never placed outside! It included the leather suitcases. Great memories for me!

    Like 8
  16. Allen

    In 1957, I Was living in Portland Oregon and had just gotten out of the Air Force. On Burnside St. there was this store front that had a Gull Wing displayed inside. It had the fitted luggage in the back. It was essentially a new car. It was for sale for $12,500. An astonishing price, as my folks who had just moved to Portland and bought a small older house for $7,000. The next year, I bought a new Triumph TR-3 for $2,800. How times have changed!

    Like 8
  17. Jim Hardy

    I’m sorry, but I just do not understand why cars of this caliber are advertised on eBay – could someone please enlighten me…?

    Like 6
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNWMember

      The seller does not want to pay the premiums charged by the elite auction houses – the only ones that would feature this type of automobile.

      If this does not work, then the seller can consider one of these auction houses.

      Like 1
  18. Enzio Di Lapi

    Sorry guys, but I have no idea what the fuss is all about this ugly car that looks like a turtle/frog. For the price of this ugly car, I could get two Ferrari’s a Lambo and a C8 Corvette. All of which I would enjoy driving sooooo much more than this old relic.

    Like 0
    • TimS

      Then head to Autotrader or something. That’s not what we do here.

      Like 17
    • jwaltb

      We’re happy for you.

      Like 10
  19. V12MECH

    Back in1962 that $7500 is now what, about the same as $75K today? Car collector Greed /Lust for a valuable classic didn’t cause the dollar to turn into toilet paper. That $1.6mil is going to look cheap sooner than later.

    Like 4
  20. Daniel

    ebay?!

    Like 1
  21. CP

    I agree. As a sculptor, I also understand when a person wishes to buy your work, they are actually buying much more. Trust me, when a buyer pays large for Works, they research and understand in depth, a great deal of the maker.
    It’s the same here. You’re buying a real case of history. These cars were bred from a history that is probably epic although I am not familiar with it.
    If I could afford it, I’d buy it and drive it home to Va.. Note to seller, I am open to trades

    Like 3
  22. Sfm5

    This is quite a “barnfind”!

    Like 3
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNWMember

      “Barnfinds” like this are why we love this place!

      Like 2
  23. chrlsful

    There’s only a coupla #1s for me: this, the ’58/60 C1, and the 507. They compete w/some ‘50s Italian for looks but far surpass for lux/mechanicals. I think I had the 1st 2 as slot cars (?1:32?) pre-adolescence.

    Like 2
  24. Fred

    Just remember about 20yrs ago barret Jackson 1970s Cuda 426 hemi matching numbers conv going up to a million? Now what are they worth? Alot less!

    Like 5
  25. Fliphall

    Driving on business trip in 1975 a gas station/garage in a small town in Montana had one parked behind the shop. I asked the owner if it was for sale. No, that is my retirement he replied. Solid retirement plan.

    Like 3
  26. carbuzzardMember

    I got to drive one when I was 35, a relatively novice auto writer, and got paid for it. Ah, the life of an auto scribe. The car had been bought in 1968 by a just graduated from fight school Navy fighter pilot who bought it off a used car lot because it had cool doors, much cooler than all of his classmates’ American muscle cars that had cost new about the same as the 300SL.

    I wrote it up for AutoWeek and I’ve republished it, but man, has it been really 40 years since I wropte the article? The car was only 30 years old then…

    Like 4
    • Gavin Elster

      Along with costing between 10 and 12 grand, when you buy a nice house for less. A fully-loaded Cadillac convertible was about $5,000. The 300 SL cars were actually quite difficult to drive. Even new, service and parts were spotty. Maintenance was costly. Old pictures of Hollywood Mercedes Benz, Auto Stiegler, the distributor?, (Clark Gable bought his at the Encino store, and I think the family still owns it?) circa 1958, show at least one new Gullwing on the sales floor, just sitting.I remember a new 1971 white, 3.5 cabriolet, around 1980 just sitting. I think Merv Griffin eventually bought it? CAL license plate MEG 1.

      Like 1
  27. Paul R

    A cursory glance suggests you could buy 335 Chevettes for the price of this.
    But why would you.

    Like 6
    • Solosolo UK Solosolo UKMember

      I would rather look at ONE Mercedes Gull Wing than the 335 ’57 Chev’s for that matter!

      Like 2
      • Russ Ashley

        Solo, look again. He said Chevettes, not 57 Chevy’s. But since I don’t have room for 335 of any kind of car I’d probably just settle for the MB Gullwing and be satisfied.

        Like 2
  28. CarbuzzardMember

    Actually, why would you make that glance? 😉

    Like 3
  29. therichguy

    This car’s iconic status and steep purchase price ensures that its chain of custodians (not true owners but possessors) will continue into the indefinite future outliving many of those who get to have it even for many years at a time.

    Like 4
  30. Frank Barrett

    Have had the pleasure of driving several of these for thousands of miles on Rocky Mountain backroads. Unlike many sports cars, they are fast, dependable, and comfortable. Like an earl911, they do have some lift-throttle oversteer, but that’s easy to avoid: just keep a little throttle on through the corners to keep the back of the car weighted. One day a friend loaned me his aluminum-bodied version (1 of 29),and we topped it out at 150 mph. A year later it sold for $6 million.

    Like 6
  31. Dan

    Not much for me to add here, other than this would be “my lottery dream car” if I won the lottery because even with the non-original color these continue to appreciate in value. If I were in the position to buy this, I would haggle the price down a little (to maybe $1.3M?) because it’s not the original color. And while I would normally prefer leather over cloth upholstery, many people in the know about Gullwings say that the plaid seats are actually more desirable.

    Like 4
  32. Kenneth W Kayser

    In 1964 Bill Miller was a salesman in Amherst NY when Ryan Homes (PA) expanded to NY and he drove Gullwing when my parents purchased a home. It was very cool and I have always wondered where he and the 300SL went.

    Like 0
  33. Solosolo UK Solosolo UKMember

    @Russ Ashley. I did see the write-up reffered to Chevelles but I mentiond ’57 Chevs due to their popularity, whereas I have even less feelings for Chevelles than Tri Fives.

    Like 0
  34. Matthias1

    My brother used to have a small computer service company here in Germany. He was good at business, had good customers and was also a car freak. One of them was an authorized FORD dealer here in Westphalia. Once they drove to his private house together. The dealer said to my brother, “I’m going to show you something. But not a word to anyone! I don’t want my customers to know about this!” He opened his garage and there was a silver gullwing! He had bought it shortly before. In unrestored condition. He had paid €140,000 for it. That was around the year 2000, and even for the time, the price was a goddamn bargain!!

    Like 1
  35. Mark Z

    In 1962 my dad was GM for a VW/ Porsche dealership in Shreveport and took one in trade exactly like this one for a 356. I was 12 and he took me to a sports car race in it. He got it up to 120 mph in 3rd gear! Don’t think mom heard about that part.

    Like 3

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