During the early 1950’s Mercedes Benz was happy racing and winning events with their brand new 300SL all over Europe, the car had a very different future ahead of itself. The 300SL (W194 for the Benz purists) was born in 1952 and was the first all-new racing car that Mercedes-Benz had designed after the Second World War. “SL” was short for Sport Leicht or Sport Light, something which brought Mercedes Benz huge popularity in the European racing scene. The 300SL took second place in the Milli Miglia, 1-2-3 in the Sports Car race in Berne, Switzerland, 1st and 2nd at Le Mans and a incredible 1-2-3-4 at the Nurburgring where just a few of the SL’s achievements. Till now the Mercedes Benz 300SL was purely a sporty racing car with no production version that would be bought by customers for road use, until Max Hoffman came by.
Max was a motoring fanatic and a importer of European cars in America. He imported everything from Mercedes-Benz to Volkswagens and from Fiats to Alfa Romeos. He was the sort of man who understood what an affluent American wanted from an imported European car – power, style and a certain panache, for which many would not mind paying through their noses across the Atlantic. With this idea in mind, Max got in touch with Mercedes-Benz suggesting the German car builder to make a production version based on the racing 300SL. Mercedes understood the appeal and immediately set on create a fast, powerful and lustworthy road-going version of the 300SL. The end result was this iconic Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing coupe of 1954 which was not only the fastest car of its time, but also such an object of desire that it wasn’t long before Mercedes-Benz sold 1,400 of them while also producing another 1,858 300SL Roadsters.
Since 1954, 62-years have gone by and many of these 1,400 300SL’s have either been destroyed or passed on to newer owners to enjoy. And that is how it is with most car ownerships is it not? Once we are done with your share of experiencing a car, we want to let it go, making room for something newer, shinier and more exciting. While so, this hasn’t been the case for the Augusta family who have kept ownership of one such Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing since 1955 when the car was bought new. Yes, that means that this particular car is a “single-owner” car, which is a very tough find in the classic car world. In case you were wondering, yet the Agusta family are the same people behind the Augusta Helicopter as well as the the motorcycle brand that coincidentally is now partly with Mercedes’ AMG division.
This particular Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing bearing chassis number 5500799 was delivered to the Agusta family on October 11, 1955 by the famous Milano dealer Saporiti. Originally finished in Metallic Silver with a Dark Blue interior, the Italian family has kept the car in supreme mechanical and physical condition, according to RM Sotheby’s. While everyone loves the theatre of driving around in a swave old-fashioned classic Mercedes, no one is very fond of its old-school niggles. To get around, the Agusta’s have slightly modified the car so slightly to keep it relevant to modern day road usage by adding front disc brakes and a CD/MP3 player for playing those lovely tunes to go with the impeccable driving experience. The 1955 Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing will go on sale at the Monaco auction that takes place on May 14, 2016.
All images © Tom Wood for RM Sotheby’s