1957 Mercedes 300SL Gullwing coupe

mercedes-benz
sl-class

#1

…for sale, with an extremely detailed history:
https://www.classicdriver.com/en/car/mercedes-benz/300-sl/1957/448804

Apparently, this was a special-order vehicle, and it was ordered by none other than the Studebaker-Packard Corp., of South Bend, Indiana! Since it immediately passed into the hands of George Mennen (owner of the Mennen company), I am going to assume that he had some sort of “in” with the folks at Studebaker, but that is just a guess. Studebaker was the US distributor for Mercedes in those days, but I think that the mega-wealthy Mr. Mennen had some sort of connection with Studebaker in order for them to have done this for him.

In any event, the amount of detail provided about this car is nothing short of fascinating, IMHO.


#2

Maybe he was a customer/friend of Max Hoffman, who imported a lot of 300SLs into the US during the 1950s. I think that is more likely than an association with Studebaker. Hoffman Motors was located in NY, NY.


#3

No, it was bought through Studebaker, the MB importer at the time.


#4

Yup!
While I will admit that it takes a while to read through all of the details on that site, I suggest that everyone do so in order to see ALL of the details. The car was definitely ordered directly by the S-P Corp.


#5

Yes, but that was the first year Studebaker had the franchise. Before that, Hoffman had it. I suspect that Hoffman may have still been significantly involved, or at least the good will remaining for the franchise sale may have led to the deal. Just a guess.


#6

Well, we’re all guessing, as all of the US parties–both human and corporate–are long dead!

:disappointed:


#7

Sometime between 1953 and 1956, Popular Mechanics had a road test and the results of a survey given to owners of the Mercedes Benz 300SL gullwing coupe. Floyd Climer did the road test. Each month, Popular Mechanics did an owners’ report on an automobile which was the results of a questionnaire sent to owners of a.particular car followed up by Floyd Climer’s cross country road test. I had dreams of becoming a writer and automobile tester and becoming the next Floyd Climer or Tom McCahill.


#8

People are fanatic about documenting this stuff. I believe the write up over our guesses 100 to 1.


#9

I’m going to say something, which will probably not go over well . . .

I personally find the 300SL roadster of the late 1950s to be a better looking vehicle

I would not consider my comment to be totally off topic, as the link also showed such a roadster offered for sale


#10

I think we are talking past each other, @texases. I don’t dispute that the car was purchased through Studebaker. @VDCdriver thought Mennen must have had an in at Studebaker, and I offered a suggestion on how that might have worked. Is it clear now?


#11

Mennen is still around. It was bought by Colgate back in the 90’s but continues to operate as an (ever-shrinking) division of the company. The division HQ is the same building as it was when it was a separate company.

I’ll take either style. They’re both gorgeous.


#12

The Benz is a beauty, no doubt about it. The provenance and detail always add value. With my back and bum knee I’d never get out of it though. Someone would have be standing by with a cherry picker.

Much like Craig Jackson’s Hemi Cuda. Upon acquiring the car he discovered that it had been a gift from the head of Chrysler to the Prime Minister of England.
He also discovered the original Hemi had been replaced at some point so he went on a crusade to find the original motor.
It was discovered in the corner of a shop in England collecting dust so he snatched it up.

He said that he’s been offered 2 million for that car and turned it down; and that was some years ago.


#13

Yes, that brand is still around (after all, as a NJ resident, I am familiar with the brands that come from this state), but George Mennen is long dead. His company was not a party to this purchase, but George Mennen was, along with S-P Corporation, and (possibly) Max Hoffman and company,


#14

Was curious about frame construction. Tons of info showing chassis design online. Seems the roadster chassis was quite different in door area. Still not sure how u got into a gull wing. Sit on door sill and spin? Where do u put ur hands to rotate ur body? Gotta think chicks in skirts loved that move.


#15

Why do you think gentlemen helped the ladies into their cars? :slightly_smiling_face:


#16

Here’s an interesting modern test drive of the 300SL (mostly) and 190SL (for comparison).

https://www.wired.com/2011/01/driving-the-awesome-mercedes-300-sl-gullwing/

After reading this, I think I would only drive the Gullwing in the coldest part of the year, even though it was designed for the US. It also gives an interesting perspective on Max Hoffman, the instigator that got MB to put their race car on the road.


#17

I looked at pic of bottom of motor for awhile. Talk about a tinker toy assembly. Tube frames are ok for road cars? Vs race cars? I think the 50’s ferraris were even more sketchy tube frames. Wayne carini says most buyers of million dollar ferraris would scream if they saw how the chassis’s were built. But most of his rich customers don’t care. It’s an investment scheme after all.


#18

The 300SL was an advance car for the 1950s. We have to keep it in context. I also have to wonder who would want to drive it with the windows in and no AC. This is not a car for Arizona.


#19

I saw no description of the 190SL, just the 300SL convertible.


#20

The 190SL was the roadster of the same vintage and used a 4-cyl engine instead of the 6-cyl. It was offered to provide a less expensive alternative to the 300SL, and there were a lot more produced. It shows up in other descriptions of the 300SL of that era. I can post the references I read, or you can do a web search.

Edit: at least one of those references shows how important Hoffman Motors was to importing European motorcars after WWII. Hoffman was instrumental to importing VW, MB, BMW, Alfa Romeo and a Jaguar. He had a Jag dealership initially and pestered the others to bring in sports and sporty cars.