Once-Odd Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Now a Concours Contender After 100-Point Restoration

An unorthodox repair job gave this Gullwing a weird look. Now, it's ready for the lawn at Pebble Beach.

Before their average market value started circling around the $1.2 million mark, Mercedes-Benz 300SL "Gullwings" were just ordinary classic sports cars. They were used, maintained to a certain standard and sometimes crashed, only to then get fixed again using whatever parts the owner or a trusted mechanic could source. It's safe to say that isn't the case now, and this beautiful Horizon Blue example is proof of that having gone through an astonishing 100-point restoration.

When it comes to this particular 1957 300SL coupé finished in the standard silver grey, the files reveal an early history in France, followed by a boat ride across the water to the United Kingdom in 1981. What the paperwork fails to mention is who put the sealed-beam headlights and taillights from a 300SL Roadster on this previously crash-damaged Mercedes.

Now owned by a collector who's also a Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance judge, this fuel-injected, tubular frame design icon went through a rigorous restoration courtesy of vintage car specialist Thornley Kelham, makers of the limited edition Lancia Aurelia B20GT "Outlaws." The Pebble judge wanted his 300SL to be "perfect, period-correct, and finished in anything but silver." Thornley Kelham adds that while sourcing a large number of original parts that cost more than six figures on their own, the client also wished to do without the bumpers.

Thornley Kelham

With the 300SL coupé being not only a car destined for America but also a rather impractical racing prototype turned into a road car, sales started to decline after 1955. Looking at the demands of California, Mercedes came up with a Roadster version for the 1957 Geneva Motor Show. This new model was 276 pounds heavier than the hardtop, yet also more powerful given its 240-hp rating. The engineers also changed the chassis to grant more luggage space, as well as a lower sill for easier entry.

Two years ago, the fifth 1957 300SL Roadster sold for $1,512,500 at Bonham's Scottsdale event, partly due to also being the first Roadster exported to the United States. While that car left Germany with a Fire Engine Red exterior, today, it wears a few layers of Anthracite Glasurit instead.

The coupé's last year was 1957, during which only 70 were sold. This means that this now-restored 300 SL is one of the rarest steel-bodied examples and a car that used to be an oddball with its Roadster headlights, all the way until it became a de-bumpered Concours d’Elegance contender showing the equally period-correct shade of Horizon Blue over a blue plaid non-leather interior. 

Apparently, finding the interior lights for these on the second-hand market is a real pain in the butt.

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