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Mystery History: 1954 Mercedes 300SL Gullwing

From the seller of Grandma’s 190SL comes this 1954 Mercedes 300SL. We overlooked the listing because it looked so much like its little brother in the first auction photo. This is a real deal Gullwing though and it’s a rare one. Claimed to be a pre-production prototype and owned by the same person for the last 30 years, this could be the one to get if you are in the market. It isn’t going to go cheap with bidding starting at $850k on eBay.

Collectors search the world over for these beauties. They may get stuffy inside while driving on a hot day, but there are few cars with this much style and quality engineering. Sadly, the high demand and limited supply have driven the prices up into ranges not within reach of the average enthusiast. That also means that few get regular use and most spend their time sitting in the garage just like this one has done for the last 20 years.

This poor Gullwing has gone through a few color changes. Originally clad in white with a black leather interior, it was resprayed red and then black. As much as we love these in silver, the original white would look very classy. At this price, we would assume that the body is solid, but those Florida plates do make us a little nervous…

We are not so sure about the seller’s claim that this is a prototype car. It was built early in production, but the VIN doesn’t put it in prototype territory. It was from the first batch of 50 cars shipped and perhaps that makes it more attractive to collectors. The concave star grill and gooseneck shifter do make it unique, and the seller also mentions that RM auctions told them they could get a million for it, so maybe they know something we dont. When we read that, we wondered if it was an aluminum bodied car, but the numbers prove otherwise.

There are a few surprises here. The chrome exhaust manifolds, polished intake, and NSL stamped block may have caused RM to value this one where they did. The high performance NSL engine was standard in the 29 alloy cars, but was a rare option in a steel Gullwing. It offered more horsepower for competition purposes. Could this be the 1955 Detroit Auto Show car? Or was it a race car? Its history is unknown before going into retirement in 1962, so it could have lived a very eventful life indeed…

Source: eBay


  1. alex

    florida plate should make you more happy, not that much chance for rust…

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  2. Law Fisk

    It looks spectacularly sinister in black; amazing how the design has stood up so well over the decades. A gullwing would be on my short list of 5 cars from the 50’s and I can’t imagine rational argument for exclusion.

    This car looks to push the right buttons for a purchaser, long term stewardship, unique options, reasonable climate and not restored.

    Someone will be quite happy bringing this home.

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  3. knickerbocker

    For a million bucks, I would at least expect the dash to match the body.

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  4. paul

    The car looks great, but with 3 paint jobs who knows & Alex, Fla. is a high humidity climate so the car could have rust but this car was probably ac stored.

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  5. Faygo

    Hey, Santa – Christmas is coming! (hint, hint)

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  6. Horse Radish

    Isn’t this the same car you featured a couple months ago out of Canada ??

    Just a different locale and other photos.
    There should NOT be too many of these “Prototype” 300 gullwings floating around with “Rudge” knock off wheels.
    The whole story is Identical !!

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  7. Barn Finds

    Horse Radish – Nope this is a different car. The one in Canada was a silver 1956 example and it is very different than this one.

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  8. Jim Rosenthal

    This car would have the gooseneck shifter and also the early brake booster which can get you in trouble. Unless the early number is significant in some way, if I were going to spend this kind of money I’d want a later car with the other booster etc. Not that I have this kind of money to spend….

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  9. Jack

    The only one I’ve ever seen on the road was black and it was a sight to see. The front end is so much longer than you think just from seeing pictures. The whole car is just a sight to behold at speed. What a car. The SLS is a wonderful modern interpretation with it’s also very long front end.

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  10. Dolphin Member

    If this car is as good as it appears to be in the photos it is probably underpriced. These are pretty much million dollar cars today, if they are good, but maybe the seller is trying to test the market or generate attention and interest for a later sale through one of the high end auction houses like RM.

    You used to be able to buy these for 8 or 10 thousand dollars when they bottomed out in the seventies, or less if they were badly neglected. They tended to be seen as just old, used sportscars that required a lot of work to bring back to top condition. They were viewed as cars for true gearheads with lots of disposible cash who demanded the best that Europe could provide, and that was a rare combination of traits back then……the disposible income available for toys like this wasn’t like it is now. The result was that most men would rather spend a bit more and get a new, more modern car with more interior space, and used 300SLs were difficult to sell.

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  11. J. Pickett

    Pretty car, a LOT of money. Can you say trailer queen-trophy wife. Let’s leave these to the guys with the big wallets, small equipment and blondes on their arm at the big auctions. They can sweat elegantly as they drive it around Palm Beach. I always preferred the roadster myself.

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  12. Chris Junker

    Although as mentioned the prices were low in the ’70s, a 300SL Roadster with the optional hard top was $3,500 negotiable, Rochester NY, with a slightly crunched front left corner. I remember thinking it looked like a shopping center hit, not a driving accident. IIRC Gullwings in good shape never depreciated below their original price. Sure a better investment than the market. But the gullwing I really want is the 300SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe.

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  13. mikey

    It is much easier to let someone else own something this expensive. That way, I look at it, admire the timeless lines and keep my money in the interest bearing account, for what that’s worth :(

    I suspect someday we will look back and view this as a good to great buy. But, in the end, it just a car.

    alex, I get the joke…………………..

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  14. john

    The reason this car is on ebay is because of the color changes, etc. No big catalog auction house would ever value this at a million dollars even if it is a sportcam car. If RM valued it at a million, why isn’t it at Monterey instead of on Ebay at a substantially lower price? White is the least desirable color in the eyes of the majority of collectors. I would have to check but I thought the sportcam was a ’55 only option. I think if this car were restored back to original livery at a concours level, it is still ‘only’ a 750K car. With the wear and use it shows now, I think 600K is a push. A factory black ’54 with the correct transmission (as this appears to have) I feel would indeed be a 1 mm car or more. Oh, last point, it is NOT a pre-production prototype. It is an early car which is cool but that is all.

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