Fresh off last weeks bit of random Mercedes-Benz facts about the 1990 300E that came in both a 2.8 and 3.2 liter, I’m back again with some information that might be useful every once in a blue moon. From 1990 to 1993, you could purchase a 300SL with a dogleg 5-speed manual gearbox. Yes, the same dogleg from the 190E 2.3-16v cars. You might think this is the best news ever, but not so fast. This gearbox in this car has often be described as sloppy at best and really isn’t an enjoyable experience. The throws are long and vague, with any hope of fast gear changes being wishful at best. Rumor has it that there were only 166 examples of these 5-speed cars bought to North America which make this a pretty rare car to say the least. But if no one wants it, does this make it valuable?
You see the photos. No introduction needed here. This 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL painted in Ivory hails from the Boston area where it has been in the same family since it has been purchased new in late 1955. It has been driven, used as a college car, modified, raced, modified some more and thoroughly enjoyed it’s entire life. As it goes, this once toy has now turned into a winning lottery ticket for the lucky family that has held on to this W198 all these years but like almost all the 300SLs out there, there is a story for every one.
Last week I checked out a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 190SL in Hellgrün which is a lovely, as well as much cheaper, alternative to the big brother 300SL. Well, today we have the big brother and believe it or not, it also is a 1957 in Hellgrün. Just to top it all off, it was owned by “The King of Hollywood” Clark Gable and has just 1,368 miles. But, as you might have guessed, this 300SL comes with a much higher price tag than the 190SL. Much, much higher.
The R107 arrived in 1971 and remained in production for an extraordinary 18 years, enough time to establish itself as a well-loved symbol of motoring decadence. Today, these roadsters remain usable and admired classics. The 300SL, available in Europe between 1985 and 1989, was never sold in the US. American buyers were therefore deprived of the six cylinder R107 experience, having to choose from a range of V8s instead. A shame, really. In many respects, the bulletproof 3.0 liter engine was a nice match for the chassis. The R107 was always more of a boulevard cruiser rather than a sports car anyway, so the 190 hp offered up by the creamy six cylinder unit is sufficient. With a little less weight up front, these tend to feel a little more agile than the V8-powered models. And aside from some well documented weaknesses (head gaskets, valve guides and stem seals) the M103 is a notoriously reliable motor.
I can’t say enough about the 300SL. I feel like like each individual W198 has its own look, its own aura. Coming up for auction soon, this particular 1955 Gullwing is no different. Sporting Dunkelblau paint with the matching Rudge-Whitworth center-lock wheels, it is a stunner. The interior is spotless, it has the matching luggage, the paint shines like new; in short, it’s almost a perfect 300SL.
Model: 300SL Gullwing
Engine: 3.0 liter inline-6
Transmission: 4-speed manual
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing
Chassis no. 198.040.4500116
Engine no. 198.980.4500136
I must admit I’m no W198 expert. These cars are so far out of my league that I can’t even afford to be near one. It’s a different world when you are taking about cars that even the worst condition sell for a million dollars and that’s just not a world I’m apart of. But that doesn’t stop me from admiring from afar and appreciating how unbelievable these cars really are.
From what I understand here, this one is a steel body (rather than the rare and expensive alloy) car which makes it one of 829 for 1955. It does have the luggage set but I can’t say if it’s original and it doesn’t look like it has a radio. Another thing of note is that the steering wheel is a Nardi and not the original W198 wheel that is highly desirable.
The auctioneer should just start this car at a million then go from there because I think this 300SL will be pulling some serious coin. This last W198 that came up for auction earlier this month sold for $1,457,500 and wasn’t even close to the same level as this one. It wouldn’t surprise me if it closed in on the $2,000,000 mark given its condition. There is no end in sight for the values of W198s and this car will probably be one of the best ones we’ll see in awhile.
Not much needs to be said when we feature a 300SL, whether it be Gullwing or Roadster. Both extremely stunning in their own right, these are cars that don’t require any explaining or justifying now that examples are regularly selling for over $1,000,000. But today’s car actually comes in just slightly under the seven-figure mark. This W198 isn’t a barn find or a basket case either. So let’s check out this beautiful 1957 roadster for sale in California and find out why it’s so “cheap”.
The R129 has always been my favorite iteration of the SL roadster. Softer and more modern than the classic R107 that it replaced, but still sufficiently angular that it doesn’t succumb to the awful jelly bean aesthetic of the late 80s and early 90s, the quintessentially Mercedes design remains attractive today; sporty and taut yet elegant and handsome. While most US buyers opted for the V8 500SL or the range topping and magnificent V12 in the 600SL, the car could also be had with an entry level 3.0 liter straight six, as found in this 300SL version. Already a relatively uncommon spec, this car features the especially rare manual gearbox, available only on six cylinder R129s.
Some cars come and go, but the Mercedes-Benz SL has had staying power. Ever since the mid 1950s, this name has been going strong in the lineup, transforming from the original Gullwing coupe to a smaller hardtop two-seater, to the boulevard cruiser of the 1970s and 1980s and into the present day as a refined but capable luxury roadster. One of my favorite SLs was the R129 from the 1990s. It was no easy task taking over from the iconic R107 SL which had an impressive 18 year production run. This car was literally the face of Mercedes throughout the oil crises, recessions and the boom times of the 1980s, yet stayed fashionable all along. However, the new for 1990 300SL brought back an option to US buyers, albeit for a short time, that was lacking throughout the R107 production run: the manual gearbox.
Yes, you could order your 300SL from a US showroom with a 5-speed manual, making the most of a 3.0 liter inline-6 engine that was tasked with moving around 4,000 lbs. of car around. If you’re used to a V8 in your SL, performance is a bit underwhelming in this model, but given that only a few hundred R129s were sold in the US with a manual gearbox, the novelty factor is certainly there. This 300SL-24 for sale in Arizona is one of the nicest 5-speed manual R129s I’ve come across in my time at GCFSB, tempting for someone who absolutely must row their own.
We often see vintage collector vehicles so perfectly restored that they seem unapproachable, not just in cost, but in terms of putting them to use. One little scratch and you might not score perfect in that next concours. I never really cared much for such bastions of perfection, though. Which is why a car like this 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300SL has caught my attention. This 300SL is in largely original condition, having passed through two owners with an interesting, global story to boot. What price patina, then?
Even after all these years which I’ve been involved with GCFSB, a car will come across sometimes which I had no idea existed. Such is the case with this 1986 300SL with an AMG tuned 3.2 liter inline-6. First off, the 300SL is rare on US shores, as we only got the 560SL in our market from 1986 through 1989. Secondly, someone went to the trouble of optioning an R107 with an AMG engine and not much more to denote its bump in horsepower. The ultimate sleeper, then? You decide…