A few weeks ago, photographer Piotr Degler Jablonski gave the Internet ‘barn find’ fever when he showcased a particular photo from his 2015 calendar, entitled “Carros de Cuba.” The print captured a dilapidated Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing in stunning detail, resting quietly underneath a banana tree in Cuba.
But apparently Degler wasn’t the only outsider to discover the Gullwing sleeping near Havana. Photographer and writer Miguel Llorente made the pilgrimage in search of the storied Mercedes in 2012, and he found it! You can learn more about his amazing story at This European Life.
Llorente had heard of the legend after reading about it on Caristas and in Michael E Ware’s book, Automobiles Lost & Found. Upon first arriving on the island, he inadvertently chased down tips for a red Fiat Spider convertible, an “all-aluminum” Mercedes (which turned out to be a 220S), and a few other potential 300SL leads, all to no avail. Then a tip paid off. Lo and behold, there it was – the rumored Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing.
If coming across one 300SL in Cuba was rare enough, Llorente found a second SL … smack dab behind the first. The second car was a 300SL Roadster, which was apparently featured on Jeremy Clarkson’s Motorworld, circa 1996.
The man in possession of the cars, referred to by Llorente as ‘Marcos’, also had a few other classics, including a Fiat-Abarth 750 Zagato, Hispano-Suiza racecar, and a rare Chrysler Special Coupe by Ghia.
As Llorente’s photos show, the Gullwing looks just too far-gone to be saved. The body is full of rust, and actually bows upwards at each end due to the unique way it has been stored.
As far as the Roadster … there just might be some saving yet. Llorente says that the car was driven throughout the 1980s and was parked sometime in the ’90s. The original engine has been knicked out, in favor of a Corvette V8, and the floorboards have endured some surgery as well.
All in all, Llorente described the find as “one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life,” and it’s fairly easy to understand why. You don’t exactly run across two unrestored 300SLs every day.