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Storage Container Gullwing


A while back we featured a 1955 Mercedes 300SL that Jay Leno found. It was a good story, but the photos were lacking. Well, in November we received an email from a reader and all it said was, “I have pictures of the car while it was in the storage container… long before “Jay” found it…” We followed up asking for more details about these two small photos, but never heard back. So, we have decided to go ahead and publish them. Hopefully the photographer will see the post and be able to fill us in more on the past of Leno’s beater Gullwing!


  1. scot

    ~ intriguing, i hope the rest of the details are forthcoming!

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  2. Jim-Bob

    For some reason, I think Jay Leno’s definition of a beater and my definition of a beater might be somewhat different…

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  3. Dolphin Member

    It’s hard to believe that someone would store this in a container and leave it there for 35 years, but years ago this was just an old, expensive-to-fix/maintain German sportscar with an engine that was out of the car and in pieces. It might have brought a few thousand dollars back then—if you could find someone who was willing to tackle the work needed to put it back together properly and also fix the body. You could get good running 300SLs for about $3500 or a bit more, but you could also get a top musclecar for the same or less, so guess which one most car guys picked. And the muscle could be fixed by almost any decent corner garage, but a 300SL needed to be brought somewhere that specialized in high-end German stuff, or a M-B dealer….and better hold your breath when they presented you with the bill.

    Now they are a piece of art that’s worthy of the best collections on the planet. There’s a world-famous resto shop near me that charges the better part of a $million to do a 300SL properly, and they won’t do it any other way than properly. Since Jay Leno mostly likes to drive his cars rather than have them shipped in an enclosed transport truck to Pebble Beach then back home again, I can understand why he chose to redo the mechanicals and then just drive it. Plus the numbers on the door are really cool.

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  4. Moxman

    I still can’t figure out why a gull-wing Mercedes is worth so much money? It’s performance is average and the styling is unique; granted, but millions of dollars for an old Benz? I’d rather spend less money on a car that is a lot more fun to drive. Like a ’55 Corvette with a 265 and dual quads. Same era; lots more fun to drive!

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    • Chris

      I’m with Moxman. I too can’t see what the fuss is over. I don’t like the styling- the
      side fairings always looked tacked on, the corner radius on the windows is clumsy, and the convex body colour hubcaps are ugly beyond words.

      What was wrong with some wires?

      Others will disagree, and they’re entitled to their opinion.

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    • scot

      ~ i agree with you guys. the 190SL looks far more lithe than the 300.
      . too damn bad the 507 BMW is so far out of reach.

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    • Jim-Bob

      It’s worth that much because rich people are willing to pay that much. That’s really all there is to it. As far as a 1955 Corvette is concerned, compared to a 300SL it is a very crude machine. The chassis is essentially a shortened early 50’s Chevy sedan chassis while the Benz had a bespoke tube chassis designed with rigidity and racing in mind. The reason for the gullwing doors was not fashion. It was because they were needed in order to clear the chassis. It also had a mechanical fuel injection system 3 years before Chevrolet and Pontiac decided to offer them and four wheel independent suspension (from a Mercedes sedan…) and knockoff wheels 9 years before they were ever offered on a Corvette. I would also say that the 1955 265 isn’t a brilliant engine. It lacked a oil filter as standard (it was a bolt on option that went on the intake, if memory serves) and those Carter WCFB carbs weighed something like 25 lbs each.

      In the end though, it is worth that much because the market will bear it. Frankly, if I was looking for a fun performance bargain, I would not buy either the Corvette or the Benz. No, for a fun to drive exotic bargain I would get a R32 Nissan GTR imported from Japan and enjoy an AWD twin turbo inline six supercar with world beating performance a good engine build away. Oh, and it seats 4. In the end though, NONE of these cars make sense. They are not about practical choices. If all we were concerned about were practical choices we’d all drive a Honda Fit and be done with it. This is about passion and people will part with irrational amounts of money for passion.

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  5. CBryant

    If the 55 Corvette had dual quads put on it,I don’t think they would have stopped by leaving a 265in it.

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    • Jim-Bob

      Not if it was a factory option. I am uncertain if Chevrolet offered it in the 1955 models, but am certain that it was available starting in 1956. The 283 would not become available until the 1957 model year, so for ’56 this was the top dog engine option. You can tell you are looking at one because of it’s unique trichoid (or triangular…can’t remember which) air cleaner assembly with two canisters hanging off the rear two apexes which housed the actual filters. The factory carbs would have been Carter WCFBs (Will Carter Four Barrel), which were made of cast iron, if memory serves. They were later replaced with the Carter Aluminum Four Barrel…or AFB for short.

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      • Alan Brase

        Well, sort of right. WCFB stands for White Cast Four Barrel. White Cast being Zinc, I think. The triangular air cleaners were used on 1957 passenger cars, Cadillacs, I think 1957 J-2 Olds (but with 3-2 bbls), perhaps Pontiac.
        the Corvettes with dual quads used 2 thin aluminum air cleaners with foam media. In about 1957 or 1958 the 2-4bbl setup went to a single low profile air cleaner with foam element.
        I think no 1955 Chevy V-8’s used 2-4bbl’s. In 1956, they came in 2 versions 225 hp and 245hp. with there being cylinder head and camshaft differences. the 245’s were pretty rare and used only on Corvettes. A 1957 Corvette with the 270 or 283 hp engine and 4 speed is a pretty nice car, especially considering it was perhaps 1/4 the price of a 300SL.
        But the 300 SL was an incredibly developed car , compared to its contemporaries about like a 918 Porsche does today. In addition to the mentioned space frame, it had a mechanically direct fuel injected engine and full independent suspension. All in a commercially viable package that could be driven reliably.
        I once met a guy that had a gull wing which he bought new. And kept it that way!

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