Original Article – The Wall Street Journal
A driver sings the praises of a classic 300 SL Gullwing that he bought sight-unseen over 50 years ago
Cooper Weeks, 75, a retired TWA airline captain from Kansas City, Mo., on his 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing.
When I was growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, nobody had ever heard of a Gullwing. In 1965, I saw an ad in a Road & Track magazine for one for sale on consignment. It was in Switzerland. I didn’t know what it was, but it struck me. When I bought it for $6,000 (shipping was included), my father told me, “You can’t buy that car!” It was a used car, and I could buy a new Cadillac for that price. We had no idea the Gullwing would become an icon. A lot of people think of it today as the most beautiful car ever built.
In its day, the Gullwing was the fastest production car in existence—about 160 mph. It had cutting-edge technology like fuel injection, and the styling was radical, most notably the doors, which open like the wings of a bird. Movie stars owned these cars, such as Clark Gable and Paul Newman. It was only made from 1954 to 1957, and that’s one of the reasons it is such a notable collector’s car today.
The story of the Mercedes name comes from Emil Jellinek, an early business partner in the company, who had a daughter named Mercedes. I told my first wife back in the 1960s that, if we ever had a daughter, we should name her Mercedes. She thought that was great, so that’s what we did. My daughter was born in 1975. People call her Merc, or sometimes Benz.
I researched all the history of this car, and learned that the first owner drove it a lot through the mountains of Switzerland, so we have done the same, in Colorado. The car has been on four Colorado Grands, which are thousand-mile drives through the Rockies. And where I live in Kansas City, we have a car club called Car Guys, so we are always taking the Gullwing to events and drives.
Sometimes I just go down to my garage, grab a chair, and look at this car. It still strikes me the way it did when I first saw the For Sale ad in the early 1960s. It’s more than a car. It’s a rolling piece of artwork.