Mercedes Benz 300SL 'Gullwing'
Mercedes Benz 300SL 'Gullwing'
Every so often something truly amazing comes along in the automotive world. In 1954 it was the Mercedes-Benz 300SL, a sports car so strikingly advanced that it became the symbol of Mercedes' post-war renaissance.
With a top speed of 155 mph, the 300SL was one of the fastest vehicles of the 1950's. One of the world’s first super-cars, its performance, design, reputation and futuristic Gullwing door's were all responsible for the success of the vehicle. The 'SL' represented 'Sport Leicht' or 'Sport Light'
The Mercedes 300SL was created as a race car. It was built using a tubular space-frame chassis and conceived by DBAG's chief developing engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut. In an effort to keep the vehicle as light as possible and to retain the necessary strength, the now iconic Gullwing doors were used.
The world first supercar, also a great example of art on wheels.
This particular 300 SL was ordered new from the factory by the Alan O’Neil, whose well know car fanatic family were the NSW Mercedes truck distributors. One of their workers was living in Germany at the time and they had him pick the car up from the factory and drove it for a week, then returned it to the factory, where it sat for the next 10 months.
It was then shipped to Australia and arrived in Perth in late 1956. All this was done to escape the heavy taxes for new luxury cars; the car had to be owned by someone for more than a year overseas before it could be brought in on a lower tax rate. It was the first Gullwing to come to Australia and the local press eagerly reported its arrival. The car was sold to Mercedes Benz in South Australia before being owned by a number of prominent families till it ended up with the dedicated collector and chairman of the AGP board, Mr Ian Cox.
Women are poor car drivers...I will leave that one alone! David's magazine from 1956.
In 1956 a 12 year old car fanatic, David Bowden, purchased a magazine which heralded the O’Neil 300SL and its arrival into Australia. He kept it and lusted for one over the following 40 years. With this dream car still in his mind the still ever fanatical car purveyor was informed in 1998 that a 300SL owned by the Cox family in South Australia could be acquired.
Both David and son Dan flew to Adelaide and fell in love with the car. A deal was struck with the Cox family and the new owners flew home talking wildly about the new car. On this trip home David said he would still have that magazine (We are hoarders and do not throw anything motoring away!) So once getting home that night he found the magazine, hidden away with his early hot rodding magazines. It was then looking close at the magazine he had bought 42 years earlier, that he realised from the unique lights fitted to it, that the car in the magazine was the same he now owned.
Dreams sometimes do come true….
Same magazine, heralding the first 300SL to arrive in Australia.
In 1985 the Gullwing’s exterior was beautifully restored while the high patina original interior was left intact . A later chassis and engine freshen up was performed by Mercedes specialist, Sleeping Beauties, in Brisbane around 1998. The cars current finish is a great advertisement for our both the original panel shop and our car care range, still looking as good as it did when it left the shop in 1985.
Ian Cox in the Adelaide Grand Prix 1985.
Ian Cox and Reg Kenny winning their class in the Inaugural Targa Tasmania.
Kevin Bartlett chauffeuring David Bowden at the Classic Adelaide rally.
As beautiful as it is, the 300SL racing heritage is not forgotten and it has been exercised in different high speed rallies including Targa Tasmania, Classic Adelaide, Sunshine Coast Classic and Speed on Tweed. Driven in the events by Australian racing legends Kevin Bartlett, Sir Jack Brabham and Frank Gardner.
David and his Benz, affectionately known in the family as "Gully".
It has been featured in the press numerous times, most notably in Mercedes Benz Classic magazine worldwide in 2009 and a a television advertisement for Mercedes Benz Asia. It’s life nowadays is to be regularly waxed and driven on the well suited hinterland roads of the Sunshine Coast. It is one of our family's most used and loved cars in the collection.