Wings of Fire
Five years ago, Peter Fodor started a hunt. As a serious collector of vintage cars, he knew he lacked an essential piece: a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing. From the roof-hinged doors and iconic lines to the speed and engineering that surpassed any car of its era, the Gullwing is a rare bird indeed, a classic supercar that is still so beautiful and so relevant that Tesla is cribbing its design ideas.
An admittedly picky man—by profession, Fodor is a plastic surgeon in Los Angeles—he spent years trawling auctions and classic-car sales across the country. He purchased one Gullwing only to sell it partly because it was too perfect to drive. Finally, last August, he landed his ideal: a luminous red 1955 Gullwing that he does not mind getting dirty as he blows down the highway.
"Just opening those Gullwing doors is a very special feeling," Fodor says. "You can’t help thinking about the old Italian Mille Miglia when Sir Stirling Moss was racing those cars. Every button on the dashboard is like a Swiss clock; the click they make is so fresh and special."
Now, when he swings down the doors and hits the road, he sits in a work of art as intricate as a Fabergé egg, perhaps the most historically significant model Mercedes-Benz ever produced—and without doubt, one of the hottest cars on the market.
In just the last year, prices for the 300 SL Gullwing and its sister car, the 300 SL Roadster, have skyrocketed. The average price of a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL sold at auction has almost doubled since 2011, from $705,024 to $1.35 million, according to data collected by Hagerty, which specializes in insurance for collector cars. Auction houses Barrett-Jackson, Gooding & Co., Russo and Steele, and RM all sold 300 SLs in 2014, with high bids ranging from $1.1 million to $2.5 million. In each of the last three years, Barrett-Jackson has sold a Gullwing for at least $2 million, including one formerly owned by Clark Gable for $2.035 million in 2013.
In January, Barrett-Jackson and RM Auctions will each offer noteworthy 300 SLs, with prices expected to hold steady at those stratospheric heights.
Not bad for a car that was almost never made.
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