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1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Alloy Gullwing


Sotheby’s Sealed is thrilled to present this spectacular Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Alloy Gullwing.
Amongst the very finest 300 SL Alloys in existence, it is one of only a handful to retain its original 3.0-litre NSL engine and original Alloy bodywork. Delivered new to Casablanca as the only 300 SL Alloy delivered to Africa, it spent the majority of its life in the United States, including thirty-two years of ownership by Hyatt Cheek, the national president of the Gullwing Group and Mercedes-Benz Club of America. Unrivaled in quality and provenance, it would be a spectacular addition to any collection worldwide.

What makes a classic car desirable? To many, beauty and desirability are simply in the eye of the beholder, but in today’s market, a number of important factors can make one spectacular car stand out from its peers, even in the very best of company. Four distinct factors come to mind, and each is evident in the case of this spectacular 300 SL Alloy Gullwing.

A car which needs no introduction, the 300 SL Gullwing is unquestionably Mercedes-Benz’s most iconic vehicle. Groundbreaking in terms of style and performance when new, it was the benchmark all other sports cars were measured against, and it remains a bona-fide blue-chip collectible to this day.

However, not all Gullwings were created equal. Within the regular production run, twenty-nine cars were fitted with aluminum bodywork, as opposed to the standard steel bodywork utilized on the remaining 1,371 production Gullwings.

In addition to the bodywork, all cabin windows (except for the windshield) utilized Plexiglas, which helped to reduce 209 pounds of weight over its steel-bodied cousin. For those that have been privileged enough to drive both steel- and aluminum-bodied Gullwings, the difference is as plain as day from weight savings alone.

However, the changes to the Alloy Gullwings were more than skin deep. Further modifications to improve their performance included the fitment of the NSL-spec engine, utilizing a competition camshaft, higher compression, unique butterfly throttle valve, and recalibrated fuel distributor to deliver in excess of 215 horsepower. Rudge wheels, optional on steel-bodied 300 SL Gullwings, were fitted as standard, alongside special ventilated front brake drums. Modifications were also done to the suspension with new springs and shocks to provide better high-speed handling. On top of an already steep list price, these modifications cost the buyer an additional 5,000 DM.

In the eyes of their current custodians and automotive historians, each Alloy 300 SL would not only be defined by how it left the factory, but by how they lived their lives thereafter. A key part of what separates this car from its peers is its history and provenance, and the history of this particular example stands apart as unique from all the others from the very beginning.

Chassis number 198.043.5500332 was completed in May of 1955 as one of only two Alloy Gullwings completed that month. Fascinatingly, this car would not be delivered to the usual markets of Europe or the United States, but was ordered by Joesph F. Weckerlé of Casablanca, Morocco, the official Mercedes-Benz agent in Casablanca, making it the only Alloy Gullwing delivered new to Africa. Finished in attractive Silver Gray Metallic (DB 180) over a blue vinyl/blue gabardine fabric interior (L1), it was handsomely outfitted from the factory with the high-speed 3.42 rear axle, an uprated metric 270 km/h speedometer, lightweight plexiglass windows, and Becker Radio.

By 1962, 5500332 had immigrated to the United States and was in the ownership of Mercer D. Helms of Montgomery, Alabama. In 1975, Helms sold the Gullwing to Jack F. Bryan Jr. of Dallas, Texas. At a time before Gullwings had achieved true “classic” status, Bryan clearly saw the importance and significance of the car, and decided to have it fully restored. The company he chose was the Gullwing Service Company of Topsfield, Massachusetts, which would later become Paul Russell and Company. A restoration shop considered one of the very best in the business today, Russell’s specialty, both today and in the days of the Gullwing Service Company, was, of course, Mercedes-Benzes, and 300 SLs especially. An accompanying photo album illustrates the progress of Russell’s masterful team upon the body and mechanical components. This restoration work was completed in late 1979; handwritten work orders on file show a then-astronomical $45,000 ($191,000 in 2024 dollars) spent in returning this special Gullwing to roadgoing perfection. With the 300 SL refinished in its factory original color combination, Bryan collected the car in Massachusetts personally, and rather than transport it home, drove it straight back to Dallas himself!

An active member of the Gullwing Group, Bryan took his 300 SL Alloy to the Gullwing Group’s 1980 National Meeting, and as it was in such immaculate condition following its restoration, it was no surprise that received a tremendous amount of attention once it was seen by fellow Gullwing enthusiasts. Speaking to its quality, the car caught the eye of Hyatt Cheek, who was, at that time, president of the Gullwing Group. Both Cheek and Bryan were already well acquainted, both hailing from Dallas and clients of Paul Russell from the Gullwing Service Company.

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  • 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL
    1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • Amongst the very finest 300 SL Alloy Gullwings in existence
    Amongst the very finest 300 SL Alloy Gullwings in existence
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus
  • Engine
    Sotheby’s Auktionshaus