Original Article – February 23, 2015 (The New Zealand Herald)
Iconic Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing finally been restored to its former glory
Restorations on a rare aluminium bodied 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing (W198) have finally been completed, following several years of outstanding and innovative restoration work.
This stunning Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing is number 27 of just 29 aluminium bodied vehicles in existence, and was first publically displayed, since its restoration, at the recent Ellerslie Intermarque Concours d’Elegance in which it won the Master Class Event for the best vehicle in show.
“The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing is an iconic Mercedes-Benz model and one of the brand’s finest ever production vehicles” said, Mercedes-Benz Cars New Zealand General Manager, Ben Giffin.
The vehicle’s owner has shown superb dedictation and attention to detail throughout the restoration process of this extremely rare aluminium bodied 300 SL Gullwing, considering that it was first purchased in an abandoned and distressed state.
After years of extensive reconditioning, the car has been restored to a condition befitting this iconic model and is a credit to the owner and our loyal Mercedes-Benz customer base in New Zealand.
The timing of this restoration also coincides with the 60th anniversary of Sir Stirling Moss and co-driver Denis Jenkinson’s famous victory at the 1955 Mille Miglia in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR (W 196 S). The pairing set the best ever time achieved in the Italian 1000-mile race: 10:07:48 hours, equivalent to an average speed of 157.65 km/h. It is truly a special year for our brand and the beautiful 300 SL”, Giffin concluded.
Following inspection and the resulting due diligence from members of both the Mercedes-Benz Classic Centre and Archive, the restored 300 SL Gullwing has been presented with a certificate of authenticity or ‘expertise’, verifying its identity.
The vehicle bears its original paint and upholstery combination of Elfenbein (Elephant Ivory) with a tartan plaid interior consisting predominantly of red and green, following recommendation from the Mercedes-Benz Classic Centre, and is the only one of the 29 alloy bodied 300 SL Gullwings to display these colours.
Original files indicate that the vehicle was first delivered on the 31st January, 1956 with the destination being Mercedes-Benz London, England.
Fitted with a 3.0 litre, 6 cylinder engine, the 300 SL Gullwing and the W198 model series were the first Mercedes-Benz production vehicles to be fitted with a mechanically controlled direct-injection engine, which delivered 158 kW and a top speed of up to 250 km/h.
Denoted model series ‘198.043’ – for the 29 aluminium bodied 300 SL Gullwings – all of the body panels including the welded body shell were aluminum, and with the exception of the windscreen, lightweight plastic materials were used in the windows. Taken together, the aluminium bodied 300 SL Gullwings were 130 kilograms lighter than the standard steel models, and targeted customers with aspirations for elegance, exclusivity, prestige and motorsport performance.
Signs of the 300 SL coupé’s allegiance to its motor racing heritage are also clearly displayed externally, from the ultra-light weight tubular lattice frame, to the distinctive body contours and iconic ‘gullwing’ doors. The vehicle’s design and sheer rigidity transferred directly across from the 300 SL race car (W 194), inheriting much of this model’s DNA. Due to structural requirements for motorsport of the day, conventionally front-hinged doors were not practical.
Freidrich Geiger, head of the styling department as it was known at the time, engineered an aesthetic, functional and aerodynamic solution to this issue, instead hinging the doors on the roof.
The timeless elegance and engineering expertise of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing has since fascinated experts and the public alike, and been honoured in 1999 when it was voted “Sports Car of the Century” by an international jury.
1,400 steel and aluminium 300 SL Gullwing coupés were built between 1954 and 1957, and remain among the most highly sought after historic vehicles in the world.