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The Legendary Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Continues to Soar in Value 1954-'57 Mercedes-Benz 300SL

Updated: Jun 3, 2022

Shared by Vas Comblas.

Raise your hand if you’ve dreamed of owning a 300 SL gullwing coupe, that barely disguised race champion unleashed on the street at the urging of Mercedes-Benz American importer Max Hoffman. It was the ultimate exotic of its day, a status symbol of the glitterati and wealthy playboys as well as a production-class-racing sledgehammer. Nowadays, it’s recognized as one of automotivedom’s leading, perennial blue chips.

My hand, maybe like yours, is raised (we can probably put them down now) and the dreaming has persisted for a long time. At a show more than a decade ago, I struck up a conversation with the owner of a very original-looking 300 SL. He told me the car had been in his family most of its life but lately he had been considering selling it. I had to ask—thinking, I guess, that maybe I’d pick up a Powerball ticket or 50 on the way home—what he wanted for it. His answer (if memory serves) was around $750,000. Three-quarters of a million dollars (insert low whistling sound). An absolutely unobtainable amount for a beer-drinking, car-magazine schlub kicking tires at a car show, but not an unreasonable amount of money for a 300 SL at the time.

Well, hopefully he didn’t sell. The 2008 financial crisis briefly took the edge off of all collector car prices, even superstars like this iconic Mercedes, but the rebound and upswing came swiftly and powerfully. The 300 SL might not be at its loftiest, all-time-high value today, but a car worth $750,0000 back then is now worth more than $1 million. (Depending on where you look, $1.5 million.) A really stunning graphite grey 1956 300 SL crossed the block at Mecum’s Kissimmee, Florida, sale last year, for instance, and sold for $1,567,500 (including fees). A dark pewter gray metallic 1955 with Rudge knock-off wheels is on the docket for this year’s Kissimmee event, as of this writing, and should easily sail past the $1 million mark. A silver grey 1957 sold at RM Sotheby’s Monterey, California, sale in August for $1,352,500 (also including fees). OK, sure, you could’ve made a lot of money with $750,000 parked in a mutual fund over the last 10-15 years too, but has anybody ever asked you to raise your hand if you’ve dreamed of owning a really stable Mid-Cap Blend? Didn’t think so. And how many times have you looked at the selling price of an old vehicle on some auction site and thought, really? Some nut just paid that much for a Harvest Gold 1979 Whatsaflootz 6000T? Those things were just mass-produced, everyday cars that people like my neighbor drove—now they’re collector cars? It’s then you realize that the 300 SL deserves to be where it is. It’s breathtakingly elegant, yet under the thinnest veneer of civility lies the Le Mans and La Carrera Panamericana dominating W194 racer. It’s exclusive too, with 1,400 built (29 with aluminum bodies). Authenticity isn’t a problem either: It’s easier to fake an Impressionist painting than a 300 SL.

Where does the market go from here? Who knows, but most likely not back down to the $750,000 that would’ve bought a 300 SL more than a decade ago. If only I’d played the Powerball on my way home.

Reference: By Mike McNessor from February 2022 issue of Hemmings Motor News

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