Three-Pointed Unicorn: This Is The One-Of-One Mercedes-Benz C124-Based ‘Boschert B300 Gullwing’
Photography by Robb Pritchard
As kids most of us had a poster of our dream car on our bedroom wall. A Ferrari F40, a Lamborghini Countach, cars that belong to the enthusiast realm as well as amongst common denominator pop culture. Although at one time it might have been a life ambition, few of us actually ever managed to own the car on that proverbial poster. But Tino Zovko owns not just the same make and model of car, but the actual one that hung above his childhood bed. This feat is even more impressive seeing as this Boschert B300 Gullwing was the only one of its kind ever made.
The story begins at a magazine stand when Tino was nine years old. On the cover of the September 1989 issue of Auto Motor und Sport was a car that looked like little else he’d seen. Tino was instantly besotted. But the magazine cost 5DM, much more than the 1.50DM his father usually paid for the lesser Auto Bild, so Tino had to earn an A on a maths test to be able to get it. Inside, he poured over how Hartmut Boschert was going to make 200 of these amazing looking cars that came with twin turbos and self-adjusting suspension and wondered how soon it would be until he saw one for himself…
A decade later, Tino had not forgotten the B300, even though he’d never seen or heard of one since. With the advent of the internet one of his earliest searches was for the unusual car, but surprisingly, and a little disappointingly, he found out that only ten coupes had been made, but none of what he’d seen had the special doors of the cover car that had enthralled him as a child.
Another few years passed, and in 2005 another internet search brought up an advert for his dream car on a then-nascent eBay. The auction had already ended, but while cursing his luck for missing it, Tino realized the reserve price hadn’t been met, so the B300 was unsold. It was one of the original Gullwing versions as well. Knowing it was an opportunity of a lifetime, he drove across Germany to meet the seller, but as a broke student he only just had enough money to pay for the fuel to get home in his much less radical Mercedes W124 400E.
Upon meeting the seller, Tion learned that in fact only one Gullwing version of the B300 had ever been made—but the poster had stayed on Tino’s wall for years, it was ingrained so to speak, and he knew it should be silver with a black interior. This one was Bornit Metallic and its upholstery was a two-tone purple scheme that people back then must have thought would be popular in today’s passenger spaceships… But with the hood open he saw the engine bay was silver… so it really was the poster car after all.
It’s not like the B300 was close to a stock C124, so Tiny wasn’t dissuaded by the color change. Of course he wanted to buy it. The only issue was that he needed the only 20 euros he had to his name for the fuel to get back home.
The seller was the nephew of Mr. Bertrandt, who’d bankrolled the project years earlier, and seeing as the car wouldn’t start, had a few dings from being in storage for so many years, and one of its special doors wouldn’t open, Tino managed to strike a bargain. They made a contract allowing him three months to find the money. To help fund his studies Tino broke apart and sold off parts from accident-damaged Mercedes, and sold everything he already had, as well as his own 400E. He also borrowed some money from the guy who would become his brother-in-law, managed to get a bank loan to cover the rest, and then finally, fifteen years after shelling out for the copy of Auto Motor und Sport, and on the very last day of the three month contract period, his father helped him to buy the real car! And he didn’t have to pass a maths test this time. In debt as he was, he now owned the car he’d had on his bedroom wall for years. It’s hard to put an interest rate on that.
To a discerning Mercedes enthusiast, the B300 looks familiar, but has proportions strange enough to raise some eyebrows. The base car is a 1988 C124 300CE, but with an R129 SL front end grafted on, with the bonnet and wings consequently reshaped to taper to the R129 front from the C124 bulkhead. The main work to make the car look so different is that a 25cm section was cut out of the rear overhang and another 25cm out of the roof. It’s a good job… as you should expect from a company such as Zagato.
The original Gullwing needed the innovative avian-looking doors because it was based on a tubular chassis. The B300 doors have a purely aesthetic purpose, but the sills still had to be strengthened to compensate for the rigidity lost by cutting out the B-pillar. The doors open with an electronically operated hydraulic pump, which is part of the same system that raises and lowers the suspension ride height by a couple of centimeters.
Under the hood there are some serious modifications as well, even as impressive as the bodywork. The 3.0L inline-six M103 12-valve engine was fitted with a pair of Garrett turbos, but in the late 1980s manufacturers hadn’t yet managed to totally eliminate the performance car bane of turbo lag, so one turbo was operated on high torque, the other on low to create a more linear and usable power band. For this, a complicated dual exhaust system was needed to feed both turbines. The resulting 283bhp is not supercar numbers even for back then, but it was a significant increase over the factory 180bhp spec. The following ten B300s (the non-Gullwing cars) had the more powerful 24v engines as their basis, and were capable of 320bhp and a top speed of over 165mph once turbocharged.
Unfortunately, though the price tag was equally as surprising as the car’s somehow subtle and wild modifications. The astronomical cost to have a coachbuilder like Zagato produce the cars put the price tag up to just under $200k in today’s money, and over double that of a then-new top of the range V12 S-Class. To bring the costs down, what were supposed to be the first ten cars were made with normal doors. But even though the gull-winged prototype was displayed at all of the big car shows of the day, such as in Frankfurt, Geneva, and Paris, not enough interest was generated, not enough checks were written, and those ten cars ended up being the only B300s made, making this Gullwing a true one of one.
Once Tino had his extra rare B300 back home, he took it to a friend to get the door open and the engine running. With not a penny to his name, he paid for the work with a W124 500E engine and a W124 400E body shell that he thankfully did have. When he started work as an engineer upon completing school, Tino didn’t have too much time to enjoy his dream car, but he did take it to the Mercedes Exoten Forum meeting where he won the first place for the most exotic Mercedes conversion, as if that were surprising! The car has needed a bit of maintenance over the years, but paart from some basic service items everything else on the car is the same as the day he bought it.
Wherever Tino goes out in the B300 he gets plenty of attention, especially during moments of ingress and egress; when people see the passenger door open by itself they probably have the same reaction as those seeing it on a rotating display stand three decades ago.
The looks and attention are nice, but for Tino one of the best aspects about owning this car is the friendships he has made that started out as simple conversations about his not so simple car. One of the most cherished of these was with the designer and company namesake himself, Hartmut Boschert. Tino wanted to know as much about the car as he could, so went to visit and straight away was impressed with him. A designer and engineer to the core, he recalls that everything in Boschert’s home had been designed by him, from the metal curtains in the kitchen, to the furniture, and of course there were plenty of technical drawings of cars framed on the walls. Boschert was so touched that Tino loved his car so much that he put together together all the drawings and plans of the Boschert B300 that he could find, including homologation papers, and gave it to the lifelong fan as a gift.
Tino has owned his dream car for coming up to twenty years now, but no matter what it might be worth these days, it’s clear he has no intention of selling it.