Paris

3 February 2016

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Lot 151

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing

  • Chassis no. 198.040.5500272
  • Engine no. 198.980.5500314

Sold for €1.176.000

Documents: Bill of Sale


215 hp (DIN), 240 hp (SAE), 2,992 cc SOHC six-cylinder engine with Bosch mechanical fuel injection, four-speed manual transmission, coil-spring independent front suspension, coil-spring and swing-axle rear suspension, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 2,400 mm

  • Formerly owned by renowned enthusiast Ernest Stern
  • Multiple Mille Miglia Storica participant
  • Original matching-numbers engine
  • Recent full engine service and detailing


THE LEGENDARY GULLWING

Mercedes-Benz’s 300 SL claimed 2nd in the Mille Miglia, 1-2-3 in the Sports Car Race in Berne, Switzerland, 1st and 2nd at Le Mans, 1-2-3-4 at the Nürburgring, and 1st and 2nd at La Carrera Panamericana. Yet more was to be desired. From his Frank Lloyd Wright–designed Park Avenue showroom, the company’s U.S. distributor, Max Hoffman, said that there was a market in America for a fast, sensual Mercedes-Benz coupé, and a production version of the racing 300 SL, complete with the fascinating and now legendary “gullwing” doors necessitated by the unusual, tall “birdcage” frame design, would be it.

The “SL” moniker (translated to English as Sport Light) reflected the pioneering use of a welded, tubular-steel, ultra-light frame construction that weighed only 182 pounds. The car also featured fully independent suspension in addition to its fuel-injected, 3.0-litre (2,996 cubic centimetre), OHC straight-six with dry-sump lubrication, and the motor was inclined to the side in order to reduce the height of the front end. The power was rated at 215 brake horsepower at 5,800 rpm (DIN) and delivered through a four-speed manual gearbox. A 161-mph top speed and 0–60 acceleration of approximately eight seconds, depending on the rear-end ratio selected from five options, made the 300 SL the fastest production automobile of its time.

The 300 SL was also raced and piloted by the top drivers of the day, such as John Fitch, Olivier Gendebien, Paul O’Shea, Prince Metternich, and of course Sir Stirling Moss, who holds the “forever” course record for his famous Mille Miglia finish in 1955. It all added to the romance of a car that seemed destined to become a legend the moment production began. It had all of the right ingredients: incredible exclusivity, incredible speed, and an incredible price.

CHASSIS NUMBER 198.040.5500272

The Gullwing offered here is recorded in the Gull Wing Group Registry as having been originally delivered through Max Hoffman’s famous New York dealership, finished in White (DB 50) over Red leather (1079) interior. The original owner was reportedly Henry A. Harrell of Long Beach, New York, with whom it is recorded in the Registry. Later, it was purchased from Mr Harrell by the well-known American collector and enthusiast Ernest Stern of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, whose stable it shared with many other outstanding automobiles, most prominently the ex–Shah of Iran Bugatti Type 57.

In the early 1990s, the car was sold out of the United States to an Italian collector who almost immediately passed the car to Mr Giordano Biragli. The car was then registered on Italian plates MI 8P6400. In early 1992, the car was acquired by the current seller who participated in the Mille Miglia Storica in 1993 and then again in 1999.

More recently, the car has undergone a complete engine service and general re-commissioning after a period of display in the previous owner’s collection, as well as an overhaul of the brake system and proper detailing. It is offered with a set of reproduction books for the model and received its FIVA Passport in September 2015.

No collection is complete without this most legendary of modern sports cars.





Moteur six-cylindres en ligne, 2 992 cm3, 1 ACT, 215 ch DIN, 240 ch SAE, injection mécanique Bosch, transmission manuelle quatre rapports, suspension avant indépendante avec ressorts hélicoïdaux, suspension arrière à demi-essieux oscillants et ressorts hélicoïdaux, freins hydrauliques à tambours sur les quatre roues. Empattement 2 400 mm.

• Ancienne voiture d'Ernest Stern, collectionneur réputé
• Plusieurs participations au Mille Miglia Storica
• Moteur d'origine, numéros concordants
• Révision complète du moteur et finition récentes

La légendaire 300 SL Papillon

La Mercedes 300 SL a signé une deuxième place aux Mille Miglia, un triplé à la course d'endurance de Berne, en Suisse, un doublé aux 24 Heures du Mans, les quatre premières places au Nürburgring et un doublé à la Carrera Panamericana. Mais ce n'est pas tout. Depuis son magasin d'exposition de Park Avenue dessiné par Frank Lloyd Wright, l'importateur aux États-Unis Max Hoffman affirmait alors qu'un marché existait dans son pays pour un coupé Mercedes performant et sportif. Le constructeur répondait avec une version de série de la 300 SL de compétition, comportant elle aussi les légendaires portes à ouverture "papillon" rendues nécessaires par le châssis tubulaire.

Les lettres "SL" (dont la traduction littérale française serait "sport légère") reflétaient l'utilisation d'un châssis tubulaire ultra-léger qui ne pesait que 82 kg. La voiture présentait aussi une suspension complètement indépendante et un six-cylindres 3 litres doté d'un arbre à cames en tête, alimenté par injection et lubrifié par un système à carter sec. Il était incliné pour permettre d'abaisser le capot avant. La puissance atteignait 215 ch DIN à 5 800 tr/mn et la transmission était confiée à une boîte quatre rapports. Avec une vitesse de pointe de 260 km/h et une accélération de 0 à 100 km/h en 8 secondes environ (en fonction du rapport de pont dont il existait cinq options), la 300 SL était la voiture de série la plus rapide de son temps.

La 300 SL a d'ailleurs été utilisée par les meilleurs pilotes de son époque, comme John Fitch, Olivier Gendebien, Paul O’Shea, le prince Metternich et bien sûr Sir Stirling Moss, qui détient le record absolu des célèbres Mille Miglia, signé en 1955 au volant d'une 300 SLR. Ce palmarès s'est ajouté au prestige d'une voiture qui semblait destinée à devenir une légende dès le jour où les premiers exemplaires sont sortis d'usine. Elle détenait tous les ingrédients adéquats : exclusivité, performances et prix, tous les trois à un niveau exceptionnel.

Châssis n° 198.040.5500272

La 300 SL Papillon qui est proposée ici est enregistrée dans le "Gull Wing Group Registry" comme ayant été livrée neuve par le biais du magasin célèbre de Max Hoffman à New York, de teinte blanche (DB 50) avec sellerie rouge (1079). Le premier propriétaire était un M. Henry A. Harrell, de Long Beach, à New York, tel qu'il apparaît dans le Registry. La voiture était ensuite achetée à M. Harrell par Ernest Stern, de Pittsburgh (Pennsylvanie), collectionneur américain bien connu qui possédait de nombreuses automobiles exceptionnelles, comme par exemple une Bugatti Type 57 ayant appartenu au Shah d'Iran.

Dans les années 1990, cette 300 SL fut exportée des États-Unis et vendu à un collectionneur italien, par la suite la voiture fut vendu à Sig. Giordano Biragli et immatriculé MI 8P6400 En 1992 la voiture fut acheté par la propriétaire actuelle qui a pris part au Mille Miglia Storica en 1993 et également en 1999.

Plus récemment, elle a bénéficié d'une révision mécanique complète et d'une vérification générale, après une période d'exposition dans la collection du propriétaire précédent. Elle a également fait l'objet d'une remise en état du système de freinage et de soins apportés à la finition. Elle est vendue avec un ensemble de manuels réédités concernant le modèle et sa carte FIVA

Aucune collection ne saurait être complète sans la plus mythique des voitures de sport modernes.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more