1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing

Throughout the history of automobile production, exceptional models have periodically emerged, capturing the imagination of enthusiasts worldwide. Among these remarkable vehicles, few can rival the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing.

The Gullwing’s breathtaking aesthetics are matched only by its futuristic engineering, astonishing performance, and illustrious racing pedigree. Between 1952 and 1956, Mercedes-Benz’s Works-prepared variants of this incredible coupe secured convincing victories at renowned sportscar races across the globe. From the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Carrera Panamericana to the Liège-Rome-Liège rally, the 300 SL Gullwing triumphed, claiming multiple SCCA and European Rally championships. Undoubtedly, the 300 SL Gullwing stands as the sports car of the century—a post-war design icon that continues to captivate collectors to this day.

In the years preceding the 1954 debut of the production-ready 300 SL, known as the W198 and available in both Coupe and Roadster variants, Mercedes-Benz refined its predecessor, the W194, through competitive motorsport events worldwide. The W194, developed in time for the 1952 racing season, achieved remarkable victories at prestigious races such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Eifelrennen at the Nürburgring, and the Carrera Panamerica road race in Mexico. These triumphs were made possible by legendary team drivers like Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Hans Klenk, Karl Kling, and Hermann Lang.

Mercedes-Benz experienced success during a golden era of motorsport, which inspired the development of the W198. The company aimed to capitalize on their racing achievements by creating a version of the racecar that customers could enjoy on the road. Recognizing the importance of the United States as a critical market, the German marque unveiled the W198 at the 1954 International Motor Sports Show in New York, making it the first Mercedes-Benz model ever revealed overseas before its official presentation in Germany.

The influential Mercedes-Benz distributor in the United States, Max Hoffman, famously delivered over 1,000 of the 1,400 super-light examples produced between 1954 and 1957. As “Gullwing fever” swept through the upper echelons of North America’s business tycoons, gentleman racers, and Hollywood celebrities, the popularity of the car soared.

Source: RM Sotheby’s