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Fully restored by Scott Grundfor Co., completed in 2004
Matching numbers engine, chassis, and body per Gullwing Group Registry
Restored in its original combination of Silver Gray Metallic over Light Blue Vinyl/Blue Plaid Fabric
Previously owned by Tom Horan, Chairman of the Colorado Grand
Fastest production car in the world in 1954
4-speed manual transmission, 3.0-liter inline-six engine
Includes owner’s manuals, fitted luggage, tools, jack, and spare
Very few cars exude the same level of class, desirability, and recognizability of the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, a constant contender in timeless design. With its long swooping hood, perfect curves, iconic upward-opening doors, and a body design that is considered to be this day the epitome of style, the 300SL Gullwing has aged remarkably well. The 300SL has become a staple of many collectors “must have” items in automotive collections, despite the Gullwing starting from humble beginnings from an educated bet of a single person: Max Hoffman.
Max Hoffman was Mercedes-Benz’s authorized United States importer in the early 1950s. He also was/would become the importer for BMW, Alfa Romeo, Porsche, Volkswagen, and Jaguar. He correctly guessed that the American public (specifically those with the wherewithal) were looking for a luxury car that also had lots of performance. Max’s bet proved to be correct, with Mercedes-Benz making 1,400 examples of the Gullwing, selling nearly 80% of them to American buyers. Considered a resounding success, when the 300SL was released it was considered the best sports car of its era.
The 300SL Gullwing succeeded because it was able to do two things well, not just one. A full-blown luxury car along with a record-breaking high-performance sports car, the Gullwing provided huge performance in a luxurious package. With its dry-sump 3.0-liter engine producing 240hp via mechanical fuel injection and its low-drag bodywork made it capable of reaching 163 miles per hour. In today’s speeds this doesn’t seem high, but this was 65 years ago where many cars barely went past 100 miles an hour! A 4-speed manual transmission kept the driver engaged, and the cabin inside was appointed like what you expected from a halo model from Mercedes-Benz. They were luxurious, designed well, and were swathed in the best materials to remind you that you were driving something special. For all of this luxury and performance the price didn’t come cheap, with the 300SL Gullwing ringing in at $6,820 in 1954, although would be considered a bargain in 2020 money at $65,359!
One of the most unique features of the 300SL was the use of a tubular frame like many of the race cars of the era. Designed specifically for strength while reducing the amount of weight, it ensured that each car had an immense amount of stability upon high-performance maneuvers. The added plus of being able to design an entire chassis in this way was ensuring that the center of gravity was lower and towards the middle of the car, improving handling.
This 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing’s story begins with Scott Grundfor Company (Scott Restorations at the time), a noted 300SL restorer in Southern California. In the early 1980s Scott had begun the disassembly of this 300SL Gullwing at their facility when a friend of Scott Grundfor heard about this project. Tom Horan, who would eventually become the chairman of the Colorado Grand rally, was a car-loving 20-something who wanted to own a 300SL. Around this time, Scott’s client who had him disassemble the car decided that they no longer wanted to invest in the car and sold the project to Tom. Tom was very clear with Scott that he had a yearly budget and would finish the car as long as that was okay. Scott agreed, and so began the 20+ year restoration of this 300SL Gullwing.
Over the course of the restoration every bit of the car was scrutinized and restored, yielding one of the finest restorations that Scott Grundfor Company had ever completed. The matching-numbers engine was completely rebuilt, the matching numbers chassis and body were completely restored to perfection. The interior was refinished in its factory specification blue vinyl over blue plaid cloth. Armed with their extensive knowledge of the 300SL platform, Scott Grundfor Company completed the car and cited that it was one of the best-driving Gullwings that they had experienced. After 20 years, Tom now would finally be able to drive his car…or would he?
Once the car was completed, Scott was alerted to a one-owner 300SL Roadster which had always been a favorite of Toms. Scott had a buyer for the 300SL Gullwing and Tom sold his freshly-restored 300SL in order to fund his purchase of the Roadster. While it might have seemed that Tom might not ever drive the 300SL Gullwing, its new owner Elliot Dolan decided to bring the car to the Colorado Grand after purchasing it. Tom, being the chairman of the Colorado Grand, was reunited with his old flame on the rally and was even given the keys from Elliot to drive it during the rally! After 20 years of restoration, Tom was finally able to drive the car.
Elliot kept the car from 2004 until around 2012, participating in multiple Colorado Grand rallies and having it setup and maintained by Scott in California. In 2012 Scott Grundfor Company offered the 300SL for sale, going to its next owner based in Los Angeles, California. This owner kept the car in his collection amongst his other prized collector cars, taking it out for weekend trips and for the occasional cars and coffee shows. Keeping it in his possession until just recently, the car arrived at Canepa with high expectations. With only 855 examples produced in 1955, spotting a 300SL Gullwing is a rare feat within itself, even more so finding one in as fine condition as this example.
Each and every collector car that comes to Canepa is put through an extensive and diligent process called the “Canepa Difference.” This includes a major and comprehensive mechanical inspection where all systems are checked and serviced as necessary. They also receive an award-winning concours-level detailing, a thorough cleaning of each and every surface that ensures that every car is a sight to behold. Finishing off with a foam-pad-only polish to enhance the paint finish, each and every car is a perfect example and a personification of Bruce Canepa’s impeccable attention to detail.
Sparking a number of emotions from a wide array of drivers, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing is a special automobile. A car whose style has withstood the test of time and arguably improved as the years have progressed, there is no better combination of luxury and performance from the 1950s. From its gullwing doors to long sloping hood, tube-frame chassis to its powerful 3.0-liter inline six engine, the 300SL Gullwing is and will remain timeless for years to come and continually transport its owner and driver back to a time of elegance, luxury, and performance.