Unquestionably the most iconic sports car of its era, Mercedes-Benz’s 300 SL Gullwing was a car far ahead of its time. Tracing its origins to the W194 race car which saw success at events including the Mille Miglia and 24 Hours of Le Mans, U.S. distributor Max Hoffman convinced a road-legal version of the W194 could be lucrative.
Built on a spaceframe chassis constructed of welded tubular steel, the construction of the chassis itself necessitated its characteristic roof-hinged doors, which became a staple of the car’s design. At its heart was a 3.0-litre OHC straight-six engine making 240 bhp at 6,100 rpm fitted with fuel injection, making this the first fuel-injected road-legal automobile. Boasting a 161 mph top speed, it was the fastest production automobile of its time.
Thanks to the car’s incredible performance and styling, Hoffman’s intuitions proved to be right and the 300 SL Gullwing was an instant hit. For the ‘in’ crowd, it was the ‘in’ car and 300 SLs found homes not only with celebrities and barons of industry, but also a handful of racing drivers, once again proving the 300 SLs performance credentials. Owners included the Shah of Iran, Sophia Loren, Briggs Cunningham, and John von Neumann and many more.
According to its factory build sheet, the Gullwing offered here was completed by Mercedes-Benz in the last week of September 1955. Finished just as you see it today in Feuerwehrrot (Fire Engine Red) over a black leather interior, it was originally fitted with the highly desirable Rudge wheels, special upholstery, high gloss paint finish, and instruments in MPH for the U.K. market.
Rather than being shipped straight to its first owner in the U.K., the Gullwing was retained by Mercedes-Benz and shown on their stand at the London Motor Show at Earl’s Court on October 19, 1955, which is also noted on its build sheet as delivery to “Internationalen Auto-mobil-Salon London, Standwagen”. It would have undoubtably attracted lots of attention at the show, and would have been the first Gullwing that many of the attendees had the opportunity to see in the flesh.
The Gullwing would remain in London with its first private owner, Roger Hans Everett, the owner of Paulton Sloane Stanley Estate, one of the oldest and most prestigious land owning estates in Chelsea. Registered RXW 24, Everette repainted the car blue early on in its life, with copies of a previous buff logbook noting that it was blue by at least 1959.
Passing into the ownership of the Essex Refrigeration Co. Ltd thereafter, the company kept the Gullwing registered as RXW 24 until it was purchased by John William Andrew Jopp in June of 1961. Also a resident of London, he registered the car as GS 101 and owned it for roughly thirteen months. Jopp sold the Gullwing to Maurice George Sowman, another London resident, registering the car as 156 CXD.
In February of 1963, the Gullwing was purchased by George Milligen of Norfolk, a very well regarded enthusiast and collector. In his custodianship, the Gullwing shared garage space with a variety of fascinating cars, including a Touring-bodied Pegaso, Facel Vega, and a 300 SL Roadster. A photograph of the car in his collection remains in this history file, where it can be seen wearing the registration no. 444 BPW and still sporting Rudge wheels, both of which it retains to this day.
Milligen retained ownership of this Gullwing for the following twenty-four years prior to being purchased by Mr. Norman Blythe, based in Leicestershire, in 1988. In this ownership, the car was restored to its original colours through a full restoration over a number of years, which presents well to this day. Some refreshing of the restoration work was carried out from 2013-2016, which included a full retrim and new tyres. More recently, the car was serviced by Bob Houghton in October of 2019 and February of 2021. The accompanying history file contains a number of invoices for this service and restoration work, as well as some prior work from Milligen’s ownership, and a copy of its original build sheet (which confirms its original colours, original engine, Rudge wheels, and Earl’s Court Motor Show participation). The Gullwing remained in Blythe’s family through 2017, passing to his son in 2012 following his passing, when it was purchased by the current owner. Importantly, the car is also accompanied by a set of belly pans.
Arguably one of the most iconic vehicles built in the 20th century, the 300 SL Gullwing is a legend of engineering, performance, and style that helped to define Mercedes-Benz’s legacy in the post-war era. Delivered to the U.K. where it has remained since new, this example would have stunned thousands while on Mercedes-Benz’s stand at Earl’s Court in 1955 and is presented today just as it was seen on the stand, including wearing its very desirable Rudge wheels.
Available to view at our showrooms outside London immediately, this would Gullwing be an exciting addition to any collection.