1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing
4,149 Original Miles. This exceptional example is one of only 146 that were built in 1954. This car was originally purchased by the late Willet H. Brown/Hillcrest Motors Collection, at Hollywood Mercedes. With only 4,149 original miles this Gullwing is one of the lowest mileage Gullwing's in existence. It comes with original tools, manual, service book and registration card from 1962-1965. Having been repainted once, in its original color, everything else on the car is all original.
“They’re only original once,” as the saying goes, so when you confront one of the world’s most desirable collector cars in remarkably preserved condition, such as a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing coupe, its essence takes on the character of a rare antique or valuable artwork. The 1954 Gullwing being offered at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction is such a car, a true time-warp piece that has been sheltered and cared for over nearly six decades, and driven just a bit over 4,000 miles.
Other than a repaint to bring it back to its original silver color, the Mercedes is as it was when it left the factory, said collector car veteran and Blackhawk Collection owner Don Williams, who was just starting out when he fell in love with this very same Gullwing. That was in the mid-1960s when the car was part of Willet H. Brown’s vast Hillcrest Motors Collection in Hollywood. Williams was working right next door at his first job for a couple of millionaire toy collectors, and he would drop into Brown’s private collection to check out the automobiles, especially that Mercedes.
“It’s a great car,” Williams said. “It’s the one that I stared at and drooled over from the time I was about 21 or 22.”
The fact that the powerful 300SL was rarely driven for all those years was typical of Brown, who bought it new, Williams said. “He had Porsches with a few thousand miles on them; he had cars with under 500 miles. They were all perfectly clean and they all had to run. He was a real preservationist. That was his therapy. He would get done working and then go look at his cars.”
The Mercedes stood essentially unchanged over the years, although Brown had it repainted in a cream color because his wife said she didn’t like silver cars. Expert technician Jimmy Duffy worked as caretaker of the museum, Williams added, and it was his job to keep the cars and all the other collector items, such as vintage TVs and washing machines, in tip-top condition. Everything had to work.
Williams finally had an opportunity to buy the 300SL about 20 years ago in a Sotheby’s auction, which was selling off Brown’s collection. He immediately had it stripped and repainted back to its original silver, and it has been part of his Blackhawk Collection in Danville, Calif., ever since.
Among collector cars, the 300SL Gullwing coupe is a solid citizen that has climbed in value, always desirable, often defying the peaks and valleys of the marketplace. The Gullwing’s pedigree is impeccable as a race car turned production car, beautifully designed and crafted, and a solid long-distance touring car for rallies and events.
The iconic “gullwing” doors were an innovative solution to an engineering problem; the lightweight tubular chassis came up very high on the sides to maximize stiffness, making conventional doors essentially impossible. With that, Mercedes-Benz designers created a signature feature that would forever define the sports coupe and would be copied countless times in limited-production efforts. Today, Mercedes continues the tradition with its SLS AMG Supercar, whose gullwing doors are still a head-turning design feature.
Williams has endeavored to keep the Gullwing in perfect condition just as Brown had done, always clean, always in running condition. He’s put only 100 miles more on the car during a trip to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Now it’s time to sell it, Williams said, as he thins out part of his collection.
“The carpets and interior are all original. Perfect original,” Williams said. “The engine compartment’s nice. It’s just original except for the paint. I have the original wheels and tires that came with it; it’s on new wheels and tires now. Basically, the tires have never come off the original wheels.”
Williams estimates that the car should be one of the top sales at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2012 auction since restored Gullwings without this car’s unique history are consistent additions to serious automobile collections.
While a perfect, professionally restored 300SL might have more pop, there is no way that it can replicate this preserved original, he said, which looks, feels and drives as it did when it first came out of the Mercedes-Benz factory.
“Nobody can restore a car as good as an original car,” Williams said. “It’s just original once. That’s the key to this car.”