This 1955 Mercedes Benz 300 SL Gullwing was the subject of a full restoration by Rare Drive in East Kingston, New Hampshire. Although 300 SL’s are their specialty, they have also won awards on the lawns of Pebble Beach and Amelia Island for their restorations of Ferraris, Ford GT40s and Shelby Cobras too. Their website does not include any details of this specific vehicle, but since the car is such a classic we have included it here along with a bit of history on the model. Our interest has been piqued especially since featuring the 2nd SL ever produced in a previous story that can be seen here: http://www.carbuildindex.com/7856/1952-mercedes-benz-300-sl-restoration-by-factory-2nd-every-produced-2/.
By the time this road-going 300 SL was produced 3 years after the previously mentioned ’52, they had proved to be a force to be reckoned with at the track and on the showroom floors, and this particular example finally received a much needed restoration to bring it back to it’s former glory.
The original 300 SL was created for the 1952 race season by the Mercedes factory in order for them to stay relevant in the news until their Gran Prix car was completed in 1954. It ended up a huge success, with 2nd and 4th places at the Mille Miglia, 1st and 2nd at Le Mans and the Nürburgring, as well as the same at the Carrera Panamericana, and a 1-2-3 finish at Bern, Switzerland.
The U.S. Mercedes Benz importer at the time was Max Hoffman, who was know as a master marketer and a man of great insight. He wanted Gullwings made for production, although Daimler Benz initially had no intention of doing that. He convinced them by ordering 1,000 of the “Sport Light” models for the U.S market.
The cars were quite complex in design, but they shared parts with the 300 sedans, which made them easier to produce. Therefore, the decision was made to fulfill the order. In fact, they were the first Mercedes to be introduced in the United States before being shown in Germany, having been unveiled in New York on February 6th, 1954.
The SL’s Bosch mechanical unit was a first for a production car, replacing the race car’s carburetors. The competition model’s bodies were made out of aluminum, which carried over to a handful of early production models, but the new Karl Wilfert-designed bodies were mainly steel, with aluminum doors, hood, bumpers and trunk lids.
A tilt steering wheel made egress and ingress a bit more graceful for it’s new owners. The new boulevard racers featured fully independent suspensions, welded tubular-steel frame construction and a four-speed manual gearboxes, while the engine were dry sump lubricated 3.0-liter OHC straight sixes rated at 240 brake horsepower (with the factory-optional or dealer-installed “sport” camshaft).
A 161-mph top speed and 0–60 acceleration of approximately eight seconds, depending upon the rear-end ratio selected from five options, made the 300 SL the fastest production automobile of its time.
Production reached 1,400 units when production ended after the 1957 model year, exceeding Hoffman’s original request for 1,000 cars.
This particular 1955 Gullwing was brought back to it’s former glory by Rare Drive, and proudly wears it’s ultra rare, optional Rudge knock off rims proudly, as it should.