Journal: The Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Nears the Ceiling

The Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Nears the Ceiling

Petrolicious Productions By Petrolicious Productions
October 30, 2013
5 comments

Imagination is the foundation of change, when the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing raised its doors in 1952 it captured the hearts of the world. Derived from a Carrera Panamericana and 24 Hours of Le Mans winning race chassis, the Gullwing soon found its way into driveways for a hefty price, which hasn’t quite hit a ceiling just yet. But will it?

The road car that followed its racing brother retained the tubular frame with high sills—facilitating the need for the gull-wing doors—and featured fully-independent suspension and a fuel-injected version of Mercedes-Benz’s 2,995cc, straight-six, single-overhead camshaft engine. The motor was rated at 215 HP and would rocket the car to speeds upwards of 160 MPH, making it one of the fastest production car in the world in its time.

The only transmission available was a four-speed manual and powerful drum brakes were fitted at each corner. Significant options included leather interior, a more highly-tuned engine, Rudge knock-off wheels and, fitted luggage. The most coveted of all the production Gullwings are the 29 aluminum coupes.

Most will see a 300SL Gullwing and marvel at its beauty, but a select few will have the privilege of personally enjoying one. Today’s major auction houses typically have one or even two examples of a gullwing crossing the block these days. From celebrity owned to private collections and even ground up restorations, there is bound to be a Gullwing to your liking. Their prices have nearly doubled in the past few years, earning it a “blue-chip” (a similar rating to that of blue-chip stock on the NYSE) rating from Hagerty.

With the modern reintroduction of the SLS Gullwing Coupe, many believed that the car would take a hit in value (see hagerty valuation chart August 2009). Fortunately for collectors, it did just the opposite. The car hit European showrooms mid 2010 and the car began to slowly work its way up (see August 2010).

Recently there have been several cars exchanging hands amongst private collectors. Some make the news and other do not. With the rising popularity of modern cult classics, including the Lamborghini Countach and McLaren F1 commanding record prices every year, we have to ask ourselves if the luster of the 300SL will wear off amongst the next generation? Will we see a slight dip in the next five to ten years? Its hard to predict the future but we can certainly bet on select supercars to cut in on the Gullwing’s profits. Two years ago, a near perfect, and rare, aluminum coupe sold for $4.6 million, while a just this past August a Mclaren F1 (chassis number 66) sold for $8.47 million. You be the judge.

Seeing as our friend Bob Sirna, from our latest video, Salt Fever, pushed the limits of his car even further than the factory thought possible, we’d estimate his as priceless.

Graph Source: hagerty.com

Photo Sources: (top left) photography by Darin Schnable ©2013 All photos courtesy of RM Auctions, (top right) photography by Jonny Shears for Petrolicious, (bottom left and right) autominded.net

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Bertram Wooster
Bertram Wooster

It’s far simpler than you’re making it:

I’ll leave it to others to do an overlay of the two graphs, but there’s your explanation.

JB21
JB21

Pretty accurate!:) SL was never “affordable” to begin with, but what’s baffling me is the price of everything else. Not that long ago, and I mean, seriously not that long ago, things like old air cooled VWs, 80s 911s, even 2002s and stuff were pretty cheap, because not many people seriously wanted them. At one point, my daily driver was a split window VW Bus that I bought for $2k. Just about 15 years ago, someone offered me a 1970 Fiat 500 for $800. When I got my first job, I seriously considered buying 911SC because I couldn’t afford VW… Read more »

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson

I can’t see that anyone in the market for a svelte F1, with all that gold plated wondrousness, would give a second look to a ponderous old 300SL would they? In my mind it’s like putting an Eames chair up against Chippendale, or Lichtenstein painting vs. Caravaggio. They are very different things. Gullwings were produced in quite high numbers but personally I can’t see any sign of the price dipping for such an iconic car. Quite a few cars that are in same price bracket were produced in the same sort of numbers (DB4, 275 GTB/4 , F40, and even… Read more »

Stephen Fitzgerald
Stephen Fitzgerald

As other cars like the F1 and Countach become more popular does it indeed cut into the value of other cars? I’m a novice but I’d never considered that. I guess it makes sense but intuitively it doesn’t seem like it would. I guess with finite money then one car would be bought at the expense of the other, but it also seems that more and more people are collecting.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

I find the 300SL a bit of an enigma value wise. While it is a massively desirable car, they are not that rare. From memory there’s around 1400 Gullwings and a similar number of the later Roadster version. Compared with other cars in the $1m range those are big production numbers. Unless the attrition has been unusually high surely supply will equal or exceed demand at some point and the prices will drop?