300SL Sportabteilung

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Race Car

Offered by RM Sotheby’s | New York, New York | December 10, 2015

Photo - RM Sotheby's

Photo – RM Sotheby’s

The Mercedes-Benz 300SL “Gullwing” is one of the “must-have” collector cars for serious collectors. And serious collectors need only apply, because in recent years, prices for 300SLs have skyrocketed from around the $500,000 mark to an easy million. Total production of 300SL coupes was about 1,400 examples. Alloy (or aluminium-bodied) cars are highly sought after and very rare. But this is a different animal.

You’re looking at one of only four factory-prepped steel-bodied 300SL Gullwing race cars. Many Gullwings saw competition, usually in the hands of privateer weekend racers, but this is the real deal. Mercedes-Benz sent this car to their sporting department (or “Sportabteilung”) to beef it up to see what the stresses of racing did to their road car.

The engine is a 3.0-liter straight-six making an estimated 240 horsepower – more than a standard road cars. Other upgrades included a lower ride height, competition exhaust, better brakes, and more. Its factory race history is unknown, but it is believed that the car was used as a trainer by Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, John Fitch, and others.

Mercedes sold the car to a guy in Paris who entered it in the 1956 Tour de France, in which the car finished second at the hands of Stirling Moss. The father of the current owner acquired the car in 1966. It sat for 40 years and was only recently “refurbished” to road-worthy condition. It has never been fully restored. It is the first of the four Sportabteilung Gullwings and one of only two known to still exist. It will likely become the most expensive 300SL to ever publicly trade hands. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Not sold.

Russo & Steele/Mecum January Highlights

I’m combining two auction highlights into one post: Russo & Steele’s Scottsdale sale as well as Mecum’s Kissimmee Sale. First up, Russo & Steele. Their top sale was a 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster. It sold for $727,100.

1958 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster

Our featured car from this sale, the Yenko Camaro, failed to sell. On the interesting sales front: this 2008 Mulsanne GT, a sports car based on the Factory Five GTM, sold for $57,750.

2008 Mulsanne GT Coupe

This 1937 Hudson Terraplane Pickup is a rare sight. It brought $41,800.

1937 Hudson Terraplane Pickup

Actually, my favorite car from this sale (and the one I would have rather featured) was this 1957 DKW 3=6 (which is not the most intelligent-looking name for a car I’ve ever seen) sold for a downright affordable $8,800. Russo & Steele had a lot of cool cars for really good prices. I’m keeping that in the back of my mind for their next sale. Check out full results here.

1957 DKW 3=6

On to Mecum’s Kissimmee sale. The top sale there was a white and blue 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster for $735,000.

1966 Shelby Cobra 427

The interesting sales were topped by this 1952 Dodge Model B-3 Power Wagon. Trucks really don’t come any meaner. It sold for $57,000.

1952 Dodge Model B-3 Power Wagon

From the pretty iconic and iconically pretty department: this 1951 Studebaker Commander Convertible sold for $37,500.

1951 Studebaker Commander Convertible

And finally, one of my favorite cars of all time – the Chrysler B-Body convertible. In this case, a wonderful 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Convertible with a 440 Six Pack underhood. It sold for $195,000. Our featured Fuel-Injected Corvette Big Brake Tanker sold for $242,000. Complete results can be found here.

1970 Plymouth Road Runner Convertible

Alloy 300SL Gullwing

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Alloy Gullwing

Offered by RM Auctions | London, England | October 31, 2012

I’m beginning to think I’ve missed the heyday of custom ordering automobiles. No longer can you go to your local dealer and tick boxes for absurd options that included special engines or go-fast bits from race cars – or, insanely, the type of metal your car is made out of.

Most of Mercedes-Benz’s legendary 300SLs were steel-bodied cars, save for the aluminium hood, doors and trunk lid. Only 29 of them were “Alloy” bodied cars, that is, aluminium all the way around. The cost for this special option was very high and the weight savings around 175 lbs.

These cars were intended for privateer racing teams and were available beginning in 1955, the same year Mercedes-Benz withdrew from competitive motorsport. Other sporting changes made to the Alloy cars included suspension upgrades and those awesome Rudge knock-off wheels. There was also a “special” engine available (to all Gullwings, according to Mercedes) that used a competition camshaft, adding 15 horsepower. This car has that as well, so it’s 3.0-liter straight six makes 215 horsepower.

This is car #21 of the 29 built and its ownership history is known from new. An Alloy 300SL is the most desirable version of an already must-have classic (not counting any of the earlier racing versions). This one has no stories and would be a joy to own – and maybe even flog a little on the backroads. I just hope that the new owner is into that sort of thing, and not into storing this in a bunker somewhere, waiting for prices to rise so they can turn around and cash in. Gooding & Company sold one of these earlier this year for over $4 million. This should do likewise. You can read more here and check out more from RM in London here.

Update: Not sold.

Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Highlights Pt. II

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – but especially Saturday – are the big days at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale, Arizona. The past few years have seen this event be strictly a No Reserve auction with every car that crosses the block selling, but this year there were some heavy-hitters in the auction’s new “5000 Series” of classics that did in fact have a reserve. And not all of them were met – like the 1955 Flajole Forerunner we featured a few weeks ago: it was a no-sale.

A few of the other cars we featured did sell – and for a boatload of money. The 1930 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A by Castagna sold for $1,100,000. The 1928 Daimler Double Six P.1.50 Limousine brought $1,155,000. The 1930 Duesenberg Model J Murphy Town Car was hammered sold for $1,045,000. Another “bargain” was the 1954 DeSoto Adventurer II which sold for $1,430,000. Keep in mind, all of this happened within about an hour’s time.

One car we didn’t feature was this 1947 Bentley Mark VI by Franay:

It came from the collection of collector Ron Pratte and sold for $2,750,000, which was just barely more than I was going to offer to pay for it. The other mega-sales included the 1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow. The live television broadcast of the auction showed an overhead shot of the Silver Arrow and the lines of that car are actually perfect. It is breathtaking. It sold for $2,200,000. And the top sale of the entire auction was the 1948 Tucker Torpedo (also from Ron Pratte’s collection) which was hammered away for an astounding $2,915,000 – about three times my estimate of $1 million.

The only other million dollar sale was this all-original 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing:

$2,200,000 brought this car home. It only had 4,149 original miles on it and was one of 146 Gullwings built that year. Other highlights from Saturday included a 2009 Devon GTX – one of just two produced. It’s a Dodge Viper-based supercar that went out of production as quickly as it entered it because the Viper was axed just after the GTX was announced.

A 650 horsepower American supercar that was originally supposed to cost $500,000 sold for $220,000.

Another car that has started to interest me a little more is this Chevrolet Corvette 2003 Commemorative Edition built by Advanced Automotive Technologies. It’s a standard 2002 Corvette with a custom built body. Coachbuilding isn’t quite as vogue as it used to be but I think over time these cars won’t depreciate wildly like some other “customs.” It sold for $66,000. Another one sold on Friday for $88,000.

And of course ultra-rare muscle cars are the order of the day at Barrett-Jackson. Among Saturdays highlights was this barn-find (yet mechanically “refreshed”) 1965 Shelby GT350. I hope whoever bought it doesn’t restore it – although they paid a pretty penny for it at $385,000. 

Another rare Ford was this 1969 Ford Talladega Prototype. This car was built by Ford for Ford. It’s the only red Ram Air Talladega built. Regular Talladegas aren’t something you see everyday, much less a factory prototype. $137,500 sale price. Oh, and do everyone a favor. If you’re going to sell your car at auction and you‘re responsible for the photography: get a quality camera.

Friday also had its share of highlights including the Nash Bridges Cuda we featured. Last time it sold it was right at about $150,000. This time it sold for $88,000. Other interesting Friday cars included this 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge Ram Air III Convertible ($158,400).

There were a pair of ultra-rare and very famous 1960s drag cars. First, this 1964 Ford Thunderbolt sold for $242,000.

And right after that crossed the block, this 1968 Plymouth Barracuda Super Stock rolled across. It’s an actual “Mr. Five & Fifty” drag car built by Hurst for Chrysler. It also sold for $242,000.

Something from the quirky side was this 1929 Ford Model A Snow Bird built by B.P. Arps Company of Wisconsin. This was something that was done back in 1929 and there are multiple of them out there. It could have been yours for $66,000.

In 1987, Buick took their not-your-daddy’s-Regal Grand National and souped it up to 276 horsepower and 360 lb-ft torque and called it the GNX. They built 547 of them and recently that have become the most collectible American car of the 1980s. This time capsule example with only 1,200 miles on it sold for $88,000. For a 1980s Buick.

The only thing truly odd to cross the block on Sunday was this 1971 Kelsen Sports Rider Electric. It was a street-legal microcar built in from 1963-1973 in California. There were a number of companies who built similar vehicles and I’m not sure I’d drive any of them on the street. A golf course, maybe. When new in 1971 it cost $1,295. It sold on Sunday for $1,540. It’s not really appreciation if you’ve had to sit on it for 40 years to make $250. I used to have a ’92 Century – maybe I should have held on to it and used it to start a retirement fund.

There were also hundreds of other interesting cars. Check out full results at Barrett-Jackson’s website.