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Monday, 20th May 2024

Mercedes-Benz 300SL, a custom masterpiece

There are classic cars and then there’s the Mercedes 300 SL, commonly referred to as the Gullwing because of the shape of its top-hinged alloy doors when they’re open. Together with the Jaguar E-type and Ferrari 250 GTO, it’s the most recognisable car ever.

It was iconic before it had even been built: as a racing car the 300 SL finished the 1952 24 Hours of Le Mans with a one-two victory. It was immortalised for ever more later that same year, when it was also first to cross the finishing line at the murderous Carrera Panamericana in Mexico. After that, everyone wanted it: from Pablo Picasso to Sophia Loren and Henri Nannen. They were all filled with enthusiasm by what was undoubtedly the most spectacular way of getting into a car – if not exactly the most comfortable.

Introduced in 1954 to thrilled crowds in New York, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL was essentially a supercar with a price tag well in excess of $7,000 and came true for 1400 lucky people,  A worthwhile investment – from a retrospective point of view, too: today the gullwing model’s value has increased many times over.

Despite the high price, the immediate and long-term success of the 300SL was due in large part to the growing American fascination with smaller, more nimble European sports cars.

The late ’30s Lincoln-Zephyr coupe is arguably one of the loveliest pre-war American closed cars. A timeless ’38 model starred in the movie “Speed To Spare” in 1948. New York’s Museum of Modern Art honored the Lincoln-Zephyr in the catalog for its seminal 1951 exhibition, “8 Automobiles,” calling it “the most successful streamlined car in America,” and featured in “Curves of Steel” at the Phoenix Art Museum in 2007.

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