The New Black: A Gray Gullwing Rarer than the Black Series

  • Photo by Gooding & Company/Pawel Litwinski
    This alloy-bodied Gullwing (which is not the “barn find”) sold for $4.62 million at a Gooding & Company auction in January. Photo by Gooding & Company/Pawel Litwinski
  • Paul Meyers

The discovery last year of a rare 1955 alloy-bodied Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing was not the ultimate barn find, as originally reported. In order to be found, it had to have been lost. But the former owner always knew exactly where the car was, and the current owner learned of its location some 20 years ago.

As the story goes, Mercedes-Benz built 29 special-edition, lightweight, alloy-bodied competition models of the Gullwing in 1955, and for years the whereabouts of automobile number 21 remained a mystery. That is, until last year, when Rudi Koniczek, owner of a British Columbia–based restoration shop, Rudi and Company, followed rumors and intuition to the Santa Monica, Calif., garage of Tom Welmers. There, he found the Gullwing.

It is a great story, but not an accurate one.

“It’s a bit of a sticky situation,” says Michael Kunz, manager of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, Calif. “A lot of people are talking about it as a ‘barn find,’ previously undiscovered, unknown, and all of that. That is not really true.” According to Kunz, Koniczek had known about the car and its location for more than two decades. But it took all those years to convince Welmers to part with the Gullwing.

Welmers received the car as a graduation gift from his parents and drove it until the transmission failed in the 1970s. He attempted to fix it himself but eventually gave up. The car then sat in a state of disrepair—collecting dust in his garage—for nearly four decades.

The Gullwing was never lost, but, as has happened with other collectible cars, the vehicle’s value eluded its owner. “There are guys who have had these cars for decades. At some point their 300SL became just a used car,” explains Kunz. “That doesn’t make it any less fantastic to finally get your hands on something like this. They are extremely rare within the 300SL community.”

Because these cars are so scarce, an alloy-bodied Gullwing can command $2 million or more—one sold at auction in January for $4.62 million. This particular example could have even greater value, because it is a rarity among rarities. “Most of those 29 cars were the typical Mercedes silver with a blue plaid interior, but this car was an anthracite car,” explains Kunz. “It was one of the very few cars not painted silver from the factory. I know that it looks almost blue in pictures, but it is actually graphite gray. There were only four cars that were not silver with a blue plaid interior, and this was one of them. Originality is very important.”

From Around the Web...
Robb Report's Car of the Year contest ended in a tie between the Lamborghini Huracán Spyder and the Porsche 911 Turbo S.
The results mark a first in the annual event’s history and bode well for the industry…
More than 150 Robb Report readers convened in Napa Valley to judge 13 extraordinary automobiles…
Watch video profiles of each of the Car of the Year 2017 contenders...
Robb Report Car of the Year 2017
During Robb Report’s annual competition to determine which sport or luxury car best deserves to be...
The Giulia Quadrifoglio, the high-performance variant of Alfa Romeo’s new sedan, went on sale in December with a starting price of $72,000.
The top-of-the-line sedan is powered by a biturbo V-6 that churns out more than 500 hp…
The 2018 Porsche 911 GT3
Next year, the model comes with a new engine, a revised chassis, and plenty of performance…
The 2017 Ruf CTR at the 87th Geneva International Motor Show.
With 700 hp and a top speed of 223 mph, this two-door tears it up…
If the DB11 were less of a looker, it might earn more attention for being the Best-performing, best-handling Aston Martin yet
The company’s first all-new car in 13 years was worth the wait…
The Lexus LC 500 will arrive at U.S. dealerships this spring sporting a bold new look for the brand…
The Lamborghini Aventador S
The head of Lamborghini for the Americas talks about why the car and company are cruising…