London

8 - 9 September 2013

Mercedes Collection

Lot 162

1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing

To be auctioned on Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sold for £739,200

  • Chassis no. 198.040.6500296
  • Engine no. 190.980.6500296
History is important to us, and all lots offered are fully researched. All corresponding information and accessories, from certificates to tool kits, stays with the lots we sell. All of this is held at our library on site, under the Access the Knowledge banner, so please visit us there or contact us before the auction if you require further information.


215 hp (DIN), 240 hp (SAE), 2,992 cc SOHC six-cylinder engine with Bosch mechanical fuel injection, four-speed manual transmission, coil-spring independent front suspension, coil-spring and swing-axle rear suspension, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 2,400 mm

  • One of the most famous Mercedes-Benzes; a modern legend
  • Formerly owned by 300 SL legend Don Ricardo and Dick Smothers
  • Rudge-style wheels and fitted luggage


Whilst Mercedes-Benz initially had no plans for series production of its racing 300 SL, its U.S. importer, Max Hoffman, had other ideas. Hoffman, a master marketer and a man of great insight, convinced Daimler-Benz to offer a production model by ordering 1,000 of them for sale in the United States. Fuel injection replaced the race car’s carburettors; the Bosch mechanical unit would be the first for a production car. After a handful of early production models were made in alloy, as the competition cars were, the new Karl Wilfert-designed body was largely steel, retaining aluminium doors, hood, and boot lids, and included the bumpers (with over-riders for U.S.-spec cars) and numerous creature comforts, including a tilt-wheel for ease of entry and featuring a sumptuous interior that is requisite for road use.

Of particular note, the 300 SL was the first Mercedes to be introduced in the United States before it was shown in Germany, and when it was unveiled in New York on 6 February 1954, it took the automotive world by storm. The “SL” (translated to English as Sport Light) moniker reflected the pioneering use of welded tubular-steel frame construction. It also featured a fully independent suspension in addition to its fuel-injected, 3.0-litre (2,996 cubic centimetre) OHC straight six with dry-sump lubrication; the motor was inclined to the side in order to reduce the height of the front end. The power, rated at 240 brake horsepower at 6,100 rpm (SAE) and 215 brake horsepower at 5,800 rpm (DIN) with the factory-optional or dealer-installed “sport” camshaft, was delivered through a four-speed manual gearbox. A 161 mph top speed and 0–60 acceleration of approximately eight seconds, depending upon the rear-end ratio selected from five options, made the 300 SL the fastest production automobile of its time.

The remarkable, upward-opening “gullwing” doors of the racing version of the car continued to production and contributed largely to the unique visual signature of the 300 SL. When production ended after the 1957 model year, Hoffman’s original request for 1,000 cars was exceeded, as production of the semi-hand-built car reached just 1,400 units. Demand has always been strong, and today, the 300 SL continues to be one of the most recognised and coveted of all sporting cars. It is almost indisputably considered the “core” model for any serious collection.

The 300 SL Gullwing offered here was delivered new on 4 December 1956 to Southern California. It was originally painted Black DB40 with a Rot mit MB-Tex cream, or red and cream plaid, interior, and it was once part of the noted collection of Don Ricardo, the NBC Orchestra bandleader who, prior to his passing in 2001, was the premiere Mercedes-Benz collector on the West Coast of the United States. Ricardo’s astounding collection included an all-original 500 K, which he drove regularly in Los Angeles, and a 1913 Benz, as well as many gullwings, one of which he had raced at Bonneville. Ricardo’s ownership is the highest mark that one can stamp on a 300 SL Gullwing.

After leaving the Ricardo fleet, this car was acquired by Dick Smothers, who, with his brother, Tom, formed the popular musical comedy team of the Smothers Brothers. The Smothers brothers had diverse interests, investing their screen income into a winery and a carefully chosen collection of wonderful cars, amongst which was this 300 SL. It eventually left the Smothers stable and made its way through several collections in Switzerland and England before it reached its latest home with the present owner.

Restored in Silver Metallic with red leather upholstery, the car is equipped with chromed Rudge wheels and fitted luggage, with the latter being a must for anyone wanting to enjoy a Gullwing as the factory intended. This car is well-presented, with its finish and interior showing only minor wear from road use, and it would require only light freshening for local shows. The chrome throughout has been re-plated and is largely fresh and in excellent condition, with it still retaining some good original pieces.

The 300 SL is a car that attracted celebrity owners when new, and it has continued to attract them ever since. This particular car benefitted from the care of noted celebrities who were also knowledgeable and respected connoisseurs, and it is ready to pass into the care of a new owner with similar good taste.

Alain Squindo


Detroit, Michigan

Alain Squindo joined RM Auctions in 2007, after graduating from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., with a degree in History. R... read more

Alex Classick

aclassick@rmauctions.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Alex Classick joined RM Europe in 2011 as a car specialist, after graduating from Nottingham University with a degree in Business Mana... read more

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmauctions.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, USA

Alexander Weaver joined RM Auctions in 2011 as a car specialist, after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born into ... read more

Annette Abaci

aabaci@rmauctions.com

+49 (0) 40 441 95 737
Germany

With post-secondary degrees in Economic Science and Mechanical Engineering, Annette Abaci initially worked part-time at Mercedes-Benz ... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmauctions.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a senior car specialist, after more than a decade in the collector car hobby... read more

Dan Warrener

dwarrener@rmauctions.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Possessing a degree in Economics from Brandon University, Dan Warrener spent the initial stages of his career working around the globe... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmauctions.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don Rose joined RM Auctions in 2006, after many years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputatio... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmauctions.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, USA

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmauctions.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord joined RM Auctions in 1998, initially responsible for the transportation and logistics of the company’s auction and restora... read more

Ian Kelleher

ikelleher@rmauctions.com

+1 310 559 4575
New York, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College, with a B.A. in Politica... read more

Jack Boxstrom

jboxstrom@rmauctions.com

+1 818 703 2816
Ontario, Canada

Jack Boxstrom joined RM Auctions in late-1996 to assist with the recently acquired, and subsequently record-breaking, auction in Monte... read more

Max Girardo

mgirardo@rmauctions.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Max Girardo started his career in the vintage automobile industry in 1998, joining Brooks Auctioneers (now Bonhams) as a car specialis... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmauctions.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Auctions, Mike Fairbairn has a longstanding interest in the classic car industry. Graduati... read more

Peter Wallman

pwallman@rmauctions.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007, following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, read more

Peter Giddings

pgiddings@rmauctions.com

+1 925 831 2048
California, United States

A life-long car enthusiast, Peter joined RM’s California office with over half a century of experience in the automotive and rac... read more

Peter Blond

pblond@rmauctions.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Blond joined the RM Europe team in 2013 after being immersed in the collector car industry for more than 60 years. An... read more

Rob Myers

rmyers@rmauctions.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As chairman and founder of the RM Group of Companies, Rob Myers’s entire career has been devoted to the classic car industry. Ro... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmauctions.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, USA

Shelby Myers literally grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to w... read more

Vinnie Mandzak

vmandzak@rmauctions.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, USA

Vinnie Mandzak joined RM Auctions’ California office in 2012 as a car specialist, following more than 30 years’ experience... read more

Jeff Whiteside

jwhiteside@rmauctions.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Jeff Whiteside joined RM Auctions as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer following almost three decades in a diverse r... read more