1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing
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One of the finest Gullwings in existence
Retains numbers-matching engine per build record
Formerly owned by Can-Am champion Mark Donohue
Dramatic black-over-black color combination
Factory rudge-wheel example per copy of build sheet
Part of the noted 300SL collection of C. Jewett Henry for approximately 50 years
Includes owner’s manuals, tool roll, jack, knock-off hammer, spare, and side-windows
The 1950s saw the rise of a population intensely interested in automobiles, focusing on the speed, performance, and beauty of modern cars. Mercedes-Benz would become known as making one of the most iconic 50’s cars in the world: the 300SL Gullwing. Timelessly styled with two lifting doors, beautiful body lines and staggering performance for the time, the 300SL became known as what might have been the first “supercar”.
This special 300SL Gullwing was completed at the Mercedes-Benz factory in mid-March of 1955 and shipped to the authorized Mercedes dealer in Caracas, Venezuela. Originally finished in Fire Engine Red (DB 534) over a gray leather interior, the Gullwing was optioned with the highly sought-after Rudge knock-off wheels. The car was then reportedly imported to the U.S. in the early 1960s where the car was purchased by the rising American racing driver, Mark Donohue.
Around 1963, Donohue purchased the 300SL and set it on a path of performance. Just beginning his racing career, he went on to win the 1972 Indianapolis 500 and 1973 Can-Am Championship with the 1,200+ horsepower Porsche 917/30 among other things. Quickly after he acquired his car he refinished the car to his specifications, including black paintwork with a red leather interior which included the headliner. He also changed the 300SL’s differential ratio to better suit his performance requirements.
Around 1965, Donohue sold the Gullwing to noted 300SL enthusiast C. Jewett Henry of Huntington, Pennsylvania, where it joined two exceptional 300SL roadsters, a 190SL, as well as another Gullwing. Upon Mr. Henry’s passing in 1979, the cars were kept in by his family in a state of static storage. While the cars did receive some basic servicing by the technicians at Paul Russell and Company, the group of 300SLs remained in isolation in their garage for over 20 years. It was not until the early 2000s that the Henry family decided that it was time to sell their father’s collection, and the cars were slowly sold to individual buyers over several years. Around 2004, East Coast collector Peter LeSaffre purchased the Gullwing and in 2005 began a major restoration with noted restorers Rare Drive Inc. of east Kingston, New Hampshire. The Gullwing was refinished in black paint with a matching black interior.
As Mr. LeSaffre’s interests shifted to more modern competition cars, the freshly restored 300SL was purchased by Canepa in 2008. Shortly afterwards, the Gullwing spent over a decade in a significant Southern California collection where it saw occasional use and outstanding care.
A complete service was performed, including new axle boots, fluids, and a new clutch. It was then fully road-tested and sorted in order to address any mechanical issues. This 300SL in particular rides with a slightly lower stance over its Michelin XWX tires, evoking its competition roots far more distinctly than other examples.
Now with the return of this exclusive 300SL, it still stands out when compared to other Gullwings. With its aggressive stance, world-class condition, owned by noted racecar driver Mark Donohue, part of the C. Jewett collection for almost 50 years, this is a high pedestal car. For many, this represents the complete package of what a Mercedes-Benz 300SL is all about: performance, style, and the utmost class for an automobile.
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