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Stunning Replica: 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing

Replicas of classic cars usually miss their mark at some point. Often, the fit and finish of panels aren’t ideal, or there are problems with finer details. However, occasionally a replica appears that rewrites the rule books. That is the case with this 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing. You would have been forgiven for mistaking it for the real deal, such is the quality of the workmanship. It is one of approximately fifty built by its creator and needs a new home. You will find it listed here at Hemmings in West Hollywood, California. The seller has set their price at $359,000 OBO, and while that sounds like a lot of money, it could almost be considered a bargain when you realize what a genuine Gullwing costs. I must thank Barn Finder PRA4SNW for spotting this extraordinary vehicle.

Creating a replica of any classic car is brave, but selecting a candidate like a 1957 Gullwing Mercedes takes that bravery to a higher level. It is a recipe for disaster if the creator doesn’t focus on the finer details. Part of the challenge revolves around the Gullwing’s relative rarity, with Mercedes producing a mere 1,400 vehicles between 1954 and 1957. The survival rate is surprisingly high, with 1,200 still known to exist. The second issue is the iconic nature of the Gullwing. It is instantly recognized across the globe, and combining those two factors, anything short of perfection would be an injustice. Therefore, when Anton ‘Tony’ Ostermeier set out to create these cars, he took no shortcuts. His company, Gullwing Car Company of Gardena, California, took molds from a genuine example as its first step. Utilizing the molds and other technical documentation, they created complete sets of panels in aluminum, reinforced with fiberglass epoxy, composites, and steel. Once the bodyshell was assembled, the company attached it to a freshly powdercoated modern Mercedes 300E chassis and running gear. It seems appropriate that Ostermeier applied Silver Metallic paint to the panels, as this shade is the most readily identifiable with the Gullwing. Mercedes offered other colors, but Silver is the most prevalent. The panel fit is all you might expect from a handbuilt classic. The gaps are tight and consistent and may prove better than the genuine article! The paint shines richly, with no evidence of flaws or defects. The trim and glass are spotless, and there’s no doubt this classic would draw crowds wherever it goes.

When you examine this classic’s interior, you receive visual hints that all is not as it might first appear. The leather upholstery looks right, as does most of the dash. The dash-top ashtray is missing from the replica, but you need to look below the dash for the most obvious clue. This classic features a CD player mounted in a pod under the vents for air conditioning. Mercedes didn’t offer A/C on the Gullwing, while a CD player would have been from the realms of science fiction. The carpet looks faded on the transmission tunnel, although that could be a trick of the light. Beyond that, there is no wear or physical damage. When you consider the fit and finish across every aspect of this vehicle, it is easy to believe that its creator made his living producing replica parts for owners of genuine Gullwings.

If the interior provides some clues about this car’s story, lifting the hood seals the deal. In a genuine article, we should find a 2,996cc six-cylinder engine producing 240hp. That power was fed to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transmission, allowing the Merc to cover the ¼ mile in 15.4 seconds before winding its way to 146mph. The story is very different with the replica. Its engine bay houses a 2,962cc six-cylinder engine that started life in a 300E of approximately 1989 vintage. This relatively modern powerplant should produce a more modest 177hp that finds its way to the road via a four-speed automatic transmission. Performance figures prove surprisingly close considering the different design philosophies between the original Gullwing and the 300E donor. The journey down the ¼ mile should take approximately 16.4 seconds, while the Gullwing will run out of breath with the needle nudging 137mph. The seller provides no information on how this beauty runs or drives, but given its relatively bulletproof drivetrain, their statement that it was created for daily driving suggests it is in sound mechanical health.

At $359,000, this 1957 Mercedes-Benz Gullwing is one of the most expensive replicas in the current market. That raises the question of whether the price is justified. By any normal measure, I would answer that question with a resounding no. However, this car rewrites the rulebook for replicas. The level of fit and finish is extraordinary, and the attention to detail is far superior to what you might expect in a vehicle of this type. Add the desirability of a genuine Gullwing to the equation, and you can see why this car’s creator had little trouble selling fifty of these vehicles across the globe. Regardless of the category, a reproduction will never receive the respect or value of a genuine article. The final point to consider is the potential value of a genuine Gullwing. In this condition, it would command a price beyond $1,700,000, with $2,000,000 possible. I’m not sure if that makes this replica a bargain, but it is significantly more affordable.

Comments

  1. Euromoto Member

    I think the city is Gardena, California. There is no “Gardenia”. Also, this company is definitely not to be confused with “Gullwing Motors”.

    Like 7
    • Adam Clarke Staff

      Thank you so much for your feedback, Euromoto. The place name was a typographical error on my part, proving that no matter how long you spend looking at something, sometimes the obvious issues don’t show.

      Like 10
      • Cobra Steve

        Hi Adam, I’m going to chime in here. Back in the day (Purdue grad BA Communications/Journalism), one of my professors said the best way to proofread was to read the document backwards. This forces our eyes to read each word individually which has helped me throughout the years. Still applicable today as SpellCheck is by no means 100%. You do a great job…I’m not being critical, just sharing a tip!

        Like 8
  2. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    I am surprised MB did not have something to say on this.

    Like 9
    • Oldog4tz Oldog4tz Member

      MB has a history of going after replicas with more than one build. They will confiscate and destroy per their trademarks.

      Like 7
      • Gerard Frederick

        Mercedes´s business practices are brutal. They will grind a supplier down to the bare bones minimum profit, to the point that many simply refuse to do business with them. My brother´s little travel agency had for years arranged all travel, hotel and Visa requirements for them until they chewed him down to the point that he was not making groceries on their business. They actually spent a long distance phone call to him over a 5 DM difference on one order totalling several thousand DM.

        Like 1
      • joenywf64

        If you acquired a genuine MB gullwing that had no motor or trans, & you put in a ’53 corvette blue flame ohV stovebolt strait 6 & a powerglide, took it to a flagship MB dealer, & asked them to change the oil, i wonder if the dealer would go berserk. & how would MB corporate react when THEY were told about the car?
        lol

      • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

        joenywf64,

        I have a feeling the MB service guys would see the non-original engine a couple of blocks away because it would be sticking thru a hole in the hood a good foot above, as the Chevy engine really wouldn’t like it once it was laid down like a Mopar slant 6.

        Then they might say “Sorry, can’t work on that engine because no one here has a set of SAE wrenches or sockets!”

        Then after the dealer’s management contacts the MB Classic Center, the Center might offer you a trade for a late model MB sports car, then take the gullwing and restore it back to original before selling it off [at a nice profit] to one of their wealthy clients.

    • Bullethead

      Tony Ostermeier built around 250 replicas, both roadster and gullwing before Mercedes reasserted their control of the design. He worked for Mercedes in Germany, and his replica parts were so accurate even Mercedes was a customer. If you look around on the web you’ll find other currently for sale and recent auction results from Mecum, Bonham’s, even Gullwing in NY sold one not long ago. Barrett Jackson had one at Palm Beach in 2004, don’t remember what it sold for then but it was pretty impressive in the flesh.

      Ron Susser has one in Tampa built on a Corvette chassis with SBC and manual, priced at $369K.

      https://www.ronsusser.com/inventory/listing/1955-mercedes-benz-gullwing-recreation-by-tony-ostermeier/

      Like 3
  3. JCA Member

    I wonder if the builder offered it in a manual too. That would make this a lot better. I don’t think the original had an auto trans option

    Like 2
  4. CCFisher

    This is an amazing replica! I, too, am surprised Mercedes allows it to exist, especially if it’s one of fifty built. I’m a little torn about the price. It does seem like a bargain compared to the real thing, but I suspect most people with $359,000 to spend on a toy can likely afford the genuine article, also.

    Like 4
  5. Mark

    It would be tiresome to have people call your car out as a fake after spending so much money but if you actually used it as a daily driver you would at least get to enjoy your car rather than have a real one locked away.

    Like 7
  6. DRV

    It seems like a good deal to me for being totally hand made and being so accurate to look at. Air is a must but so is a manual for this unfortunately.
    What the heck, offer 300k and see what happens.

  7. Kenneth Carney

    Maybe Mr Ostermeire struck a deal with MB to obtain the correct licenses
    with the understanding that only 50
    examples could be built. A few years
    ago, I drew up some sketches of a
    replica gullwing in 2013. Mine would’ve been powered by a turbo
    charged GM V-6 from a Buick Grand
    National and some of the GNs running gear. That way, you have a
    great looking exotic car built with
    American parts. To me, most foreign
    cars, except for the beetle, are finicky
    and hard to service. That’s why we find so many in barns.

  8. CJinSD

    The engine is an M110. They were DOHC engines used from 1972-1986. The most powerful version used in the US made 140 horsepower, drank gas like a muscle car and was known for various infirmities. It would not have been my choice for a high dollar car build.

    Like 3
  9. Grant

    I remember back in the 80s reading about a kit for something like this that fit a Chrysler slant six in the engine bay. . The original Mercedes six I believe was a slant too. Does anyone here remember reading about those kits?

    Like 2
    • Jakespeed

      10-4. Saw one on E-bay about 15 years ago. I was shocked to see a slant under that hood.

    • Karl

      Saw one of the slant six cars at the Kruse Auburn Auction, about thirty years ago. Was really well done.

  10. Solosolo Solosolo Member

    Kingdigit Designs built one of these to such perfection that it was shown at the SEMA show. Being so well advertised on TV and SEMA surely MB know about it and if concerned would have had it scrapped? Back in 1987 I was offered one for the price of the just completed respray as the owner was very dissapointed with the quality of the finish. The asking price then was 25,000 South African Rand, or about $15,000. In todays money that would be £1250 or about $950 ! I didn’t buy it because not only did I not have the cash I figured that I didn’t need an old Merc as I had two growing children to cart around. If only foresight was as good as hindsight.

    Like 6
  11. Cobra Steve

    If I recall correctly, the originals had the engine slanted to reduce the height of the hood (bonnet). As it was canted significantly, DB found it necessary to fit a dry sump oil system. I’m still kicking myself in the posterior for passing on a slightly damaged 1962 300SL Roadster complete with the factory hardtop for $5K back in the late 1970’s, but since I was in college, I did not have the excess funds. Hindsight is ALWAYS 20/20.

    Like 4
  12. matthew grant

    approaching $400M for a replica anything is rather silly. depreciation is sure and wearing a fake rolex is still a fake rolex. I’d buy something real before I would blow that amount on a look-alike. would sell in a moment in Miami or Fort Lauderdale, where looks are more important than reality.

    Like 1
  13. chrlsful

    rec fed law (2 yrs?) encourages replica car development.

    https://carbuzz.com/news/the-sale-of-replica-cars-is-now-legal-in-the-us

    I think it was (may B not the 1 above? its 7 yrs ol) to make way for EV development/sales?

  14. Bob Hill

    The engine appears to be a 280SE from the late 70’s with Bosch CIS injection. CIS had it issues,but nothing like the carburetor car’s. Nice to see fine craftsmanship, replica or not. We had one on the floor at Blenheim Motors in Upper Darby,Pa when I worked there in the late 70’s. I worked on it under the direction of Walter our senior German. Removing the full underside belly pan was a pain in the butt. I’m surprised Daimler-Benz didn’t question the production numbers also.

  15. butchb

    One of the most prized autobody tools in my box(s) is a hand made target pick from the old school metal bumper John Miller of Black Canyon City, AZ . A tool that resembles a large spring loaded lobster claw with a slightly blunted steel pick on one side, and a oblong shaped steel “target” with a hole in the center on the other. I’ve shown that tool to plenty a body man who did not know what it is. John spent hours “bumping” out the dents and dings on a 1954 Gullwing body shell resting on a cart in his shop. Plenty of lead would you find in John’s shop but not one can of bondo. I’ll always be grateful to that old time Master for taking the time to teach me a little of his craft and allow me to work on that ultra iconic Mercedes. Rest In Peace John Miller.

    Like 4
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      butchb,

      We had a gifted Meister-classe German body restorer who worked only in metal, I could spend hours simply marveling at how he could remove any size dent in a body panel [often without damaging the paint further], as long as he had access to the back of the piece.

      A client had a fully restored Bentley S-3 [we did most of the work] that a small pencil-point dent mysteriously appeared right in the middle of the right front door. My guy removed the door panel and, using a set of target bumper tools like you described [he had several sizes with different tip shapes], he made that dent disappear! No paintwork was needed, and that was a relief because it was one of the most difficult paints to match; maroon metallic.

      Champ [USA made] still makes a set of 3 for heavy shop use, the set is available on Amazon the last time I checked. Eastwood also has a similar set, but I don’t think it’s as heavy duty.

      Like 1
  16. tompdx Member

    I think I’d rather daily a Ferarri 458 Italia, and keep the extra $100k in my savings account.

  17. Neil G.

    Anyone ever use a body buck to recreate their dream car? This company sells the plans for a Mercedes Benz Gullwing plus other exotics.

    http://carbodybucks.co.za/index.php/car-body-bucks-gallery/mercedes/mercedes-gullwing

    Like 1

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