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Monday, April 18, 2016

One Family Has Owned this Mercedes-Benz Gullwing Since 1955


Copyright © 2016 Bold Ride LLC.

We’ve all heard stories about prized classic cars that never leave the stewardship of one family. Perhaps you even know of a few—a one-family Porsche 911 perchance, or maybe a one-owner vintage Mustang. Either way, the cars are out there, and some of them are quite rare indeed. 
This would be one of those “holy grail” one-family cars, and a stunning 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing at that. Since 1955, it has been in the watchful custody of the Agusta family, the same Italian family that started the Agusta helicopter and the MV Agusta motorcycle companies.

Now however, for the first time in six decades it’s leaving its cozy roost. The RM Sotheby’s auction house has announced this one-family Gullwing will cross the block at its Monaco event on May 14th. It goes without saying, bidding should be fierce.


It seems odd to think that the idea of the 300SL road car wasn’t originally born in Germany, but instead it came from New York. In the early 1950s, U.S. importer Max Hoffman observed Mercedes’ incredible streak of wins with its advanced W194 race car, and suggested to the automaker that there was considerable demand in America for a fast, racing-derived Mercedes-Benz coupe.

Mercedes went with the idea, and in 1954 at the New York Auto Show, it unveiled its now-iconic 300SL Gullwing to the public. It proved an immediate hit, and Mercedes went on to produce 1,400 of these svelte coupes, which at the time were the fastest road cars in the world, along with 1,858 of the 300SL roadsters.

Hoffman’s automotive tact famously didn’t end there either. Apart from importing everything from Mercedes-Benz cars to Alfa Romeos, Volkswagens, and more, he’s also the man credited with convincing Porsche to build the iconic 356 Speedster and BMW to build the sultry 507 roadster. Quite the résumé.


As this car’s story goes, one of the elder ladies of the Agusta family purchased the car new in 1955, and since then it has been passed down from generation to generation, now belonging to her great grandson.

After its sixty years on the trot, the Agusta family’s Mercedes-Benz Gullwing is said to be in remarkable shape, and was at one point returned to its original Metallic Silver exterior and Dark Blue interior color combination.

Though purists may object, the family has ensured this SL is very much still a driver’s car. As such, the original front drum brakes were upgraded to disc brakes, a CD-MP3 player was added, as well as a trip meter for historic rallying.

 Everything else is just as it would have been in 1955, from the spare wheel to the operator’s manual, and most importantly the car’s wonderful (and numbers-matching) 3.0-liter straight six engine.

Talk about a time capsule.

Photo Credit: Tom Wood, RM Sotheby’s