- Post is under moderationMerc duo set to dazzle at auction #Mercedes-Benz-300SL-Roadster-W198 / #Mercedes-Benz-300SL-Roadster / #3Mercedes-Benz-300SL-W198 / #Mercedes-Benz-300SL / #Mercedes-Benz-SL-Roadster-W198 / #Mercedes-Benz-SL / #Mercedes-Benz-SL-W198 / #3Mercedes-Benz-M198 / #1955 / #1957 / #3Mercedes-Benz-300SL-Gullwing-W198 / #Mercedes-Benz-300SL-Gullwing / #Gullwing-W198 / #Gullwing
Unmolested 300 SL Roadster and Gullwing head for #Pebble-Beach sale stardom
Even by the standards of star lots at the Pebble Beach auction sales, Gooding’s latest announcement is breathtaking. Fresh from the sale of a remarkable unrestored Gullwing that fetched $1.46 million at Scottsdale in January, it will be offering not only an even better-preserved unrestored Gullwing with a mere 16,000 miles but a 300 SL Roadster to go with it, owned from new by the same father and son and showing just 38,000 miles.
The vendor took over the care of the cars from his father in 1964 and has in his own words ‘just kept ’em’. Neither has been driven much, as indicated by the mileage, but both have been stored in perfectly dry garages and started up often enough to arrive in #2017 in good running order.
The Gullwing was acquired in 1955 after the vendor’s father bought out someone else’s place in New York importer Max Hofman’s waiting list. He paid an extra $65 to have the car painted British Racing Green, which with the tan hide trim makes this combination a one-of for a Gullwing. The marker lights that are all original, and the front bumper has never been drilled for a licence plate, and there’s even original sale paperwork from Hofman Motors.
The 300 SL Roadster joined the family in 1957, the same year the model was announced. The open car’s greater userfriendliness prompted more miles and a little more wear, with touched-in Silver- Blue Metallic paint and grey leather fading to its un-dyed colour on parts of the dash and seats. It has its original set of fitted Karl Baisch luggage and, like the Gullwing, is surely enough of a survivor to be preserved rather than restored.
Sales of $1m-$1.3m for the Gullwing and $800k-$1m for the Roadster are expected at the Californian sale on August 18-19, but anyone wanting to keep them as a pair will need serious commitment and financial clout to fight of rivals whose bids could go some way beyond those figures.
Both the SL Roadster and Gullwing will hopefully be preserved rather then restored.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationGolden opportunity / Classic choice Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster W198
With its still exceptional touring capabilities, this apparently unique, low mile 300SL Roadster was born for the Californian sunshine. Words & Images Richard Truesdell.
The year is 1963 and Beatlemania is sweeping across Great Britain. Over on the other side of the Atlantic, an American president is felled by an assassin’s bullet in Dallas, Texas. And in Germany, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster ends its illustrious, almost six-year production run.
It was with these events as a backdrop, that Arthur Dring walked into Budd and Dyer Mercedes-Benz on Catherine Street in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1964. Intending to buy a 190SL, instead he purchased this #1963 300SL Roadster, apparently the only one produced in this unusual but prepossessing shade of DB462 Tunis Beige metallic, that had been specially ordered for another client of the dealership who, in the end, took delivery of a different car. Its VIN indicates the chassis was built in late 1962, titled by Canadian authorities as a 1963 car and delivered to Arthur Dring, its first registered owner, in 1964.
LAST OF THE LINE
The story of the 300SL Gullwing and #Roadster has been well documented many times. The duo of road going 300SLs built upon the success of the legendary W194 300SL racing car, and both coupe and roadster were supercars of their era. They were informally marketed as race cars for the road, owing to their relationship to the #Mercedes W194 racers, especially true in the case of the gullwinged coupe. In roadster form, the 300SL could be said to be brutally elegant, and its classic exterior styling has stood the test of time exceptionally well and is reflected by the prices that well maintained and documented examples command when they change hands, especially at auction. This particular 1963 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster is virtually 100 per cent original, with just 42,000 documented miles showing on its odometer at the time of its recent sale, which came about through an interesting set of circumstances.
The tale starts with Tony Shooshani, a real estate investor and car nut living in Beverly Hills, California, and Craig Calder who operates FastCars Ltd in nearby Redondo Beach. For more than six months, starting in June 2010, the pair searched the world for an alloy block, disc brake 300SL. Their search located several cars, including a white/black car in Germany offered by the Mercedes-Benz Classic Centre. But in December 2010 a very interesting car popped up in an online search performed by Calder, a car that would become known as Goldie.
FINDING THE ONE
This car was being presented by Robert Dening of Spirited Automobiles in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, a dealer that works with the legendary restoration firm, Rudi & Company.
Rudi is Rudi Koniczek, whose shop is located near Victoria, British Columbia. Known as one of the world’s foremost restorers of the 300SL, he was sought out by representatives of Mr Dring, now in his 80s, who was no longer able to handle his own financial affairs. Calder, knowing that the car would not stay unsold for long, contacted Shooshani, who told him to put down a deposit right away, based only on the online description and Koniczek’s reputation. This was in December 2010. The next month, they flew to Victoria to inspect the car and the deal was finalised. “We knew we had to act quickly,” said Shooshani. “We flew up on a Friday evening and looked over the car on Saturday. I had to immediately return to California, so Craig stayed an extra day, completing the inspection.
“As soon as I saw the car I knew I would buy it,” Shooshani recalls. “I feel that a car has to talk to me before I buy it, and this car did. It was love at first sight. Looking at the car in Victoria I thought about how much I would enjoy having it in my garage, among my other cars, and sitting in it each night. The car exceeded my expectations in every way.”
Once the roadster arrived in California, FastCars worked hard to bring it back to its factory fresh condition, maintaining originality the primary goal. It was not the intention to restore the SL to better-than-new condition. “We serviced and detailed the car,” explained Calder. “One of the things we did was fabricate a unique frame and crate system to keep the original soft and hardtops safe.”
LIVE AND LET DRIVE
Shooshani, being an enthusiast collector, someone who feels that he is a custodian of history, has not kept Goldie locked away. He has enjoyed several long drives in this 300SL Roadster, including two from his home in Beverly Hills, up the Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Barbara, a round trip of 200 miles. “I’ve done it with the top up and with the top down,” he tells us.
“The car is rock solid, a great touring car, perfect for the open road. In the summer of 2011, I did the Tour d’Elegance at Pebble Beach. The car is very smooth, even upwards of 90mph. While in Monterey, I did the famous 17-mile drive, drove it south to Big Sur and back to Monterey. In my mind the car is a work of art because it is unique, it’s priceless.” So now, the SL has 43,350 miles on the clock, more than 1,000 of which were added in the first nine months of 2011 alone!
It is this roadster’s superb condition and the fact that everything is in perfect working order, that makes it such a dream drive for Shooshani. “Every time I take the car out, I turn on the radio,” he says. “The original power antenna raises every time, and the music comes on when the antenna is extended fully. I listen to the station that gives me the clearest signal. With the right music, it’s easy to imagine what it must have been like to drive Goldie when the car was brand new.” It is wonderful to know that a classic Mercedes of such stunning beauty and in such fabulous condition has been enjoyed – and is still being enjoyed. One of its most striking elements is the beguiling lustre of its rare paint. On this topic, Koniczek was able to share some interesting details.
“The cars were originally painted with a nitrocellulose lacquer with no clear coat. This kind of paint, especially the metallics, dulled over time. We spoke with Art’s [Arthur Dring] neighbours who said he took the car back to Mercedes-Benz in North Vancouver at some point in the 1980s to have the paint restored.”
I can’t help but wonder if Art and Mary Dring drove the car when they relocated from Montreal to Vancouver, British Columbia. If they did, they probably travelled the Trans-Canada Highway that spans Canada over two routes from St John’s in the east to Vancouver and Victoria on the Pacific coast. While many of us fantasise about driving a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster top down through the Alps, the Canadian Rockies, especially the Lake Louise region, would provide equally spectacular roads and scenery for a drive in a million.
But then, in a classic Mercedes-Benz of this calibre, every drive is special, every journey a grand tour, the gently purring straight-six the perfect companion.
Thank you to Rudi Koniczek at Rudi & Company Tel 00 11 1 250 727 6020 Web www.rudiandcompany.com, Robert Dening at Spirited Automobiles Tel 00 11 1 250 532 6547 Web www.spiritedauto.com and Craig Calder of FastCars Ltd Tel 00 1 310 937 6700 Web www.fastcarsltd.com for their help
A surprising discovery offers a glimpse into the past The paperwork trail of this 300SL Roadster was extensive. Quite possibly the most interesting document was found in the car’s glove box – a nearly new owner’s manual.
We had noted there was no mention of firm Studebaker-Packard in any of the 300SL Roadster’s documentation. From 1958 to 1964, Mercedes-Benz automobiles were distributed in the United States by Studebaker-Packard. The lack of mention of Studebaker-Packard in any of the printed materials indicates that Mercedes-Benz vehicles from this era were imported to Canada through a separate sales and marketing organisation. Interesting!
When we opened the owner’s manual, on its back page we found a fold-out map showing all the authorised Mercedes-Benz sales and service outlets, including service only outlets. The map shows that many were in faraway and remote locations, demonstrating that even back then, #Mercedes-Benz went to great lengths to support owners of its cars, wherever they lived or travelled.
One of its most striking elements is the beguiling lustre of its rare paint.
The car is rock solid, a great touring car, perfect for the open road.
As soon as I saw the car I knew I would buy it – it was love at first sight.
This 300SL Roadster is virtually 100 per cent original, with just 42,000 miles on its odometer.
JUST THE FACTS #Mercedes-Benz-300SL-Roadster-W198 / #Mercedes-Benz-300SL-Roadster / #Mercedes-Benz-300SL-W198 / #Mercedes-Benz-300SL / #Mercedes-Benz-SL-Roadster-W198 / #Mercedes-Benz-SL / #Mercedes-Benz-SL-W198 / #Mercedes-Benz-M198 /
Engine #M198 2,996cc 6-cyl
Power 212bhp @ 5,800rpm
Torque 203lb ft @ 4,600rpm
Transmission 4-speed manual, RWD
Top speed 155mph
Fuel consumption 22.6mpg
Years produced 1957-1963
Presented three years after the coupe, the 300SL Roadster became an even greater sales success than its iconic, gullwing doored sibling Figures for car as pictured; fuel consumption determined at ¾ of top speed (not more than 110km/h, 68mph) plus 10 per cent; top speed depends on rear axle ratio.
This now evocative, trademark design is seen on later SLs.
The two-seat, red leather cabin has been used but not abused.
The roadster’s rear suspension differs from that of the coupe.
The Becker Mexico radio works well.
The glove box lid with “300SL” script.
The SL has recirculating ball steering.
The M198 was Mercedes’ first fuel injected engine in a series produced car.
All the 300SL ’s original tools are present and correct.
The full size spare wheel is in ready to use condition.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationClassic Choice 300SL Gullwing Glamour and Elegance
After inheriting this beautiful 300SL Gullwing from her late husband, this owner really got into the spirit of classic Mercedes-Benz ownership. Words & Images Richard Truesdell.
Celebrity 300SL Gullwing owners included actors Clark Gable (whose example changed hands in January for $1.85m, or about £1.18m), Glenn Ford, Yul Brynner and Tony Curtis, and musicians Skitch Henderson and Don Ricardo, a leader of the famous NBC Orchestra. But it wasn’t just the men that had all the fun, women in the 1950s were also known to appreciate the styling and engineering of the 300SL, two of the most notable being actresses Sophia Loren and Zsa Zsa Gabor. In the case of Sophia Loren, Mercedes-Benz heavily publicised her connection to the flagship three-pointed star.
Move the clock forward more than 50 years after the last Gullwing rolled off the assembly line, and we find ourselves at the 2012 Gull Wing Group convention in Palm Springs, California. There, among all the perfectly restored cars and trailer queens, one Gullwing beckoned us, a silver 1955 model. It wasn’t perfect – the paint showed signs of cracking in spots – but with the doors open the interior carried a patina that told us this car was driven by an enthusiastic owner.
As we were leaning over the sill and inspecting the odometer that registered more than 100,000 miles, its owner greeted us. “Friends came over to the pool and said that you wanted to talk to me about my car. I’m Penny Akashi.” Getting the introductions out the way, we talked about her history with this very lovely 300SL Gullwing.
“My husband purchased the car in the 1960s from a man in San Pedro, which was long before I knew him,” she explains. “I became more familiar with the Mercedes after we got married and it went into our garage in the early 1980s. The car pretty much stayed there for most of the next 20 years. Every now and then my husband would just start the engine without taking the SL out.
“Eventually, he disconnected the battery, the tyres went flat and it was not driveable. He did make some minor attempts at restoring it and once had it towed to a local car show, however it just went back into the garage,” Akashi remembers. “Even though he was one of the very early members of the Gull Wing Group, the only activity I remember us participating in together was a trip to Don Ricardo’s house to see his collection of vintage cars. It was while we were there that I saw person after person drive up in their 300SL Gullwings and realised there were people who actually drove their cars. I would ask why we had a car that we didn’t drive, but I never got an answer that made sense to me – but then again, it wasn’t my car,” she adds with a smile.
THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
“It was the winter of 2001 when he told me he was having the car towed to Tom Burniston’s in Long Beach, to be restored,” continues Akashi. “Over the course of three years, Tom painstakingly and meticulously restored the engine of the car and documented each step.
I would see a letter and bill from Tom occasionally, but I really didn’t have anything to do with it. I was just happy to have an extra parking spot in the garage during that time.” The work was finished in 2004, almost simultaneously with her husband’s passing. That’s when she became the owner and, with the help of her brother-in- law, went to pick it up.
After retrieving the SL, it mostly sat until 2008, except for once-a-month drives around the neighbourhood. That was when her good friend Pete Moyer asked, as a birthday present, if he could get a ride in the car. Akashi was happy to oblige, and with encouragement and support from Moyer, she started taking the Mercedes-Benz out for longer drives.
Needless to say, she was soon hooked. At this point she connected with fellow Gull Wing Group member Steve Marx, who is well known in southern Californian Gullwing circles as the owner of Marx Mercedes Service in Costa Mesa. “He encouraged me to get the engine checked out and serviced, and said we should start taking the car for ‘real’ drives,” Akashi tells us. “Freeways, the Pacific Coast Highway. Let it really go and get warmed up.”
After servicing the 300SL and giving it a clean bill of health mechanically, Marx mentioned that there was a Gull Wing Group convention coming up in Sonoma, California, up in the Bay Area east of San Francisco. “He said I should seriously think about driving up and that the members were a ‘nice bunch’. That first long trip that Pete and I took was one of the highlights of my life,” Akashi recalls fondly. “I think the most exciting part was crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. I couldn’t believe that we were there in that car! Of course, the funny part was that it was getting dark and neither of us knew which knob on the dashboard was for the headlights. We must have tried them all – and one we shouldn’t have touched – before we found it!”
Working with Gullwings is never anything but pure delight. But when the owner gets into the spirit of things and dresses in period for the photoshoot – right down to the politically incorrect mink stole – it’s a real treat. We headed to the world famous Venice Beach. Now, a #Mercedes-Benz 300SL #Gullwing will draw a crowd no matter what, but when what looks like a 1950s film star gracefully gets out from behind the wheel, well, a near riot ensued! As we continued, someone even asked us what TV show Akashi was starring in, someone else wondering if this was a retro photoshoot for something like Vogue!
It was a magical experience with a remarkable owner and her iconic classic #Mercedes -Benz. For just a few, all too brief hours, it was wonderful to recreate another era where glamour and elegance were the norm, not the exception. It’s great to have the opportunity to tell, in words and photographs, the story of one very special 300SL Gullwing and its enthusiastic driver who understands the true spirit of the car. Something tells us her husband would be very proud of her.
It was getting dark and neither of us knew which knob was for the headlights, we must have tried them all!
It went into our garage in the early 1980s – it pretty much stayed there for the next 20 years.
The interior carried a patina that told us this car was driven by an enthusiastic owner.
Getting into the spirit, owner Penny Akashi is the proud custodian of this 1955 classic.
The vibrant, red leather shows gentle signs of its use.
This was the first Mercedes production car with a fuel injected engine, the three-litre straight-six developing 212bhp.
The steering wheel moves to help the.
Standing in the iconic pose, after years of inactivity, this now restored and often used classic Mercedes still turns heads. driver get in/out.
The delicate, chrome script glistens on the two-tone dashboard.
A decent boot and a spare are handy for the miles this SL enjoys.
Akashi was soon hooked and this SL is now very well used.
JUST THE FACTS / TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Mercedes-Benz-300SL-Gullwing-W198 / #Mercedes-Benz-300SL-W198 / #Mercedes-Benz-300SL / #Mercedes-Benz-W198 / #Mercedes-Benz-SL / #Mercedes-Benz-SL-W198 / #Mercedes-Benz-M198 /
Engine #M198 2,996cc 6-cyl
Power 212bhp @ 5,800rpm
Torque 203lb ft @ 4,600rpm
Transmission 4-speed manual, RWD
Top speed Up to 162mph
Fuel consumption 29.7mpg
Years produced #1954 / #1955 / #1956 / #1957
When introduced, it was a landmark car, attracting the attention of the rich and famous – as it still does today Figures for car as pictured; fuel consumption determined at ¾ of top speed (not more than 110km/h, 68mph) plus 10 per cent; top speed depends on the rear axle ratio.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationCar Feature. Two classic Mercedes-Benzes that have stayed in the family. Mercedes Family Album. A son honors his parents’ memories with the restoration of Mom’s #1959 #Mercedes-Benz-220S-Coupe and Dad’s #1963 #Mercedes-Benz-300SL-Roadster . Words and photography By Jeff Koch / #Mercedes-Benz #Mercedes-Benz-W198 #Mercedes-Benz-300SL-Roadster-W198 #Mercedes-Benz-300SL
Mrs. Bertha “Tiny” (Linsenmeyer) Lutfy of Phoenix, Arizona, was doing all right in the ’50s. Her family owned a number of properties around downtown Phoenix, including near the intersection of 16th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, home of the nation’s first Circle K convenience store. (When the Texas-based Kay Foods wanted to expand into Arizona, and couldn’t use that name in Arizona because there was already a business with that name, it was her brother — the company’s local attorney — who suggested a name change to Circle K.) Beyond that, Tiny was a world-class champion trap-and-skeet shooter, from the days when pigeons were not made of clay, and travelled extensively throughout the States, Mexico and Europe on the marksmanship-competition circuit. Later, she would pursue oil painting with the same vigor and enthusiasm.
On one of her many European trips, she bought a used 1957 Mercedes 219 sedan from a friend to take her from event to event across the continent; eventually, they made their way home to Phoenix and the car was sold. But it made enough of an impression that when it came time to order a new model, Tiny had made up her mind: she was going to buy a new Mercedes.
“In those days,” recalls Philip Lutfy, 75, Tiny’s eldest son and keeper of the pair of vintage Mercedes-Benzes seen on these pages, “the car companies promoted European delivery — you’d save some money on buying the car new through a local dealer. A European-delivery 220 S like Mom’s was something like $5,800 with overseas delivery in 1959, while it was $7,000 through the local dealer. They’d help arrange for your flight over and everything. What’s more, when she brought it back to the States, it returned as a used car, so the import duty was less than it was buying a new one.”
The “Ponton” series of Mercedes-Benz sedans, launched in 1953, were the marque’s first completely new postwar cars. They used a fully unitized body and chassis, and four-wheel independent suspension — nothing that Opel hadn’t done in the ’30s, but all of which was high-tech stuff compared to the domestic U.S. luxury cars of the time. Theories about the “Ponton” name vary — some say that it comes from the fender lines stamped into the sheetmetal to give a faux-pontoon-fendered-look, while others suggest that the U-shaped subframe mounted to the unit-body in three places and resembled a pontoon bridge. (Either way, it’s better than some names: In Costa Rica this generation is known as Chanchito, or “little pig,” and in Mexico it’s known as Bolitas, or “little balls.”)
The coupe version of the Mercedes 220, the #Mercedes-Benz-W180 / #Mercedes-Benz-220S-W180 , was short-lived, launched in late 1956 as a 1957 model and lasting just three years. The roof incorporated a wide B-pillar and wrap-around rear window glass, for a jaunty, contemporary look not completely out of place with the big Studebaker coupes it shared a stateside showroom with. It was, Philip admits, the last of the postwar Mercedes that lacked the full array of comfort and convenience options that have come to define the marque today: no automatic transmission (save for the fussy Hydrak system), no power steering, no disc brakes filtered down from the Gullwing Mercedes’s race experience. A total of 3,429 220 S coupes and cabriolets were built through the end of 1959, against more than 55,000 fourdoor sedans, making either of the two-door variants rare and desirable today.
You can’t deny that Tiny had taste. She wanted a full-zoot 220 S — convertible, fuel injection, the works — but one by one, these ideas were shot down by Dr. Louis P. Lutfy, Tiny’s then-husband and Philip’s dad. “She really wanted a convertible, but Dad said, ‘No, you don’t want a ragtop,’” Philip recalled. “Then she looked into the Webasto sunroof option, which is really rare today, and Dad said no to that too, because he thought the sunroof would leak. So she went to the dealer to order her car; she was intrigued by the fuel injection, and inquired about it. And the salesman advised against it: He said no, fuel injection is brand-new this year; they still have to work the bugs out.” And the result was a bog-standard Light Blue 1959 Mercedes 220 S coupe, with optional Becker Mexico radio, whitewall tires, and precious little else. And off Tiny went, back to Europe to shoot pigeons and to pick up her brandnew American-spec Mercedes coupe.
“At one point, she sent the car back to Phoenix to have air conditioning put in, then had it shipped back to Europe.” Philip recalls that, “When we were on vacation in Europe, I drove it mostly to sharpen up my driving skills. I was very lucky. We’d be over there — my brother, my sister, my mother and I — and we’d drive to some little town early in the morning to get fresh bread, then get to another town to get some wine, and by noon we’d stop on the highway and have a picnic. There were roadside tables for this — all you’d do was get out a tablecloth and spread out. We always had packaged food in the car, with different specialties from different countries.” Good times. By the early ’60s, the 220 S was back in Phoenix to stay, although Philip’s parents had split.
It’s fair to say that the Lutfys were pleased enough with the 220 S that they became a Mercedes family for a while thereafter. “We got a four-door 190 sedan in 1960, for my sister, Nan, and me to take to Phoenix College. We drove it for years.” Which led fairly directly to Dad’s purchase of one of the last Mercedes 300 SLs ever built. “Dad saw that we got good service out of the 190 in college, got a burr in his saddle, and decided that he wanted a new 300 SL. He was kind of a flashy guy, he was divorced, and he wanted something sporty to be seen in.” This was in 1963, when Mercedes-Benz was trying to get rid of the last of the old 300 SLs in favor of the new-and-improved 230 SL, just recently launched in Geneva.
It was this generation of Mercedes SL that changed the marque’s stateside image over the course of its life. With the carmaker known for its line of sedans (much like Tiny’s 220 S) that were considered by many to be solid and stolid in equal measure, famed sports-car distributor Max Hoffman told the Mercedes bosses that a production version of the company’s successful racing W194 coupe would go down a treat with well-heeled Americans. Mercedes gambled and produced them, and Hoffman, as usual, was right: More than three-quarters of Mercedes’s three-year, 1,400-unit SL Gullwing production came to the States. The W198 generation 300 SL’s name came from its three liters of displacement from its straight-six, and the term Sport Leicht (Sport Light), referring to its liberal use of aluminum body panels. Its blend of high technology (first-ever production fuel-injected engine) and dramatic style (those doors!) spruced up the corporate image quickly. The roadster replaced the coupe in 1957; it kept the coupe’s high technology, and most of its style (including the wheel-arch “eyebrows” that helped direct airflow over the body), while increasing its livability, thanks to the conventionally opening doors. A total of 1,858 300 SL roadsters were built through 1963, though not all of these were the same: The last 209, starting in March 1963, received a light-alloy block and fourwheel- disc brakes.
As hard a time as Louis gave Tiny about her choices on the 220 S a few years earlier, the karmic wheel of destiny rolled around to trouble the now-single Louis’s decision-making process. “He wanted European delivery,” Philip recalled, “so he went to Phoenix Motor Cars, the local Mercedes-Benz dealer here, and they said no to European delivery on the 300 SL — they were promoting the new car, the 230 SL. Dad wanted a 300 SL, though, and the dealer was discounting them to move them out of inventory; the sticker was more than $12,000, and they discounted the price to an even $10,000.” Yeah, wrap your head around that: The last remaining SLs were considered bookkeeping albatrosses, and Mercedes-Benz’s U.S. operations had to resort to drastic discounts to get these all-time classics out of inventory. Cue dropped jaws.
When Dr. Lutfy and Phoenix Motor Cars called Mercedes-Benz Sales Inc., in Montvale, New Jersey, there were just three 300 SLs left: silver, red and white. They were the last three new SLs in the country. “Well, Dad liked silver because it was the Mercedes colour — the Silver Arrows racers, and all that. So the dealer called Montvale, and they’d sold the silver one. Next choice was red. By the time the dealer called back, the red one was gone, too. So the only one that was left was white with the red interior.” And here it stands today. It’s not the highest-serial-number SL by any means (it’s about 100 units shy), but it could well be the last one sold by Mercedes-Benz in these United States. “Others were sold here later,” Phil recalls, “but they were most likely sold by brokers who bought ’em in Europe and brought them here.”
As it happened, Dr. Lutfy’s late decisionmaking was fortuitous: wouldn’t you know it that he received one of those last 209 alloy-blocked, four-wheel-disc-brake shod machines. (And at a discount, no less.) In the already rarefied air of 300 SLs, this makes this particular roadster one of the more desirable examples extant. “It was just a fluke that Dad would get one of these,” Philip says.
It was also something of a fluke that Philip ended up with it. “Eventually, Dad got tired of the SL; the battery was frequently dead, so he hooked up a tricklecharger. The wide sill was a pain to get over, too. He bought other cars and drove them, mostly American cars, for a couple of years. I remember he had a Dual-Ghia for about a year. He wanted to get rid of the SL in the ’70s, but no one was interested in it.” Could it be that the 300 SL was, at one time, just a used car? An old Mercedes? Something seen in the mid-’70s as we look upon a 2003-model Mercedes- Benz today? No one (beyond Philip) was interested in a one-owner Mercedes 300 SL? How could this be?
Well… “Tom Barrett, of Barrett-Jackson, offered him $3,000 for it. I was off in Europe at med school at the time, and my mother told my dad that he would make me upset if he sold it. They had split up, but they still talked, and she put her foot down. They brought it to the house, parked it under the carport behind another car, and Mom took away the keys” — lest it disappear in the middle of the night in exchange for some quick cash. Once Louis died, Philip became the rightful owner.
Each car had been in the family for more than a quarter-century at this point, so moving them on to new homes seemed foolhardy somehow. And each of them remained straight and unblemished. “There was never any rust damage or accidents,” Philip tells us. “Dad was very particular about his car. He’d take it to the car wash once a week” — you can almost hear Philip wincing at the memory — “and the washers would climb on it and scuff up the sills under the door.”
Philip made the decision to invest in a complete top-to-bottom restoration of the 300 SL in the mid-1980s. “I got it for free and spent something like $100,000 restoring it then, which was way more money than what it was worth, but I thought, so what, it’s Dad’s car.” Pricing guides put an alloy-block, disc-brake SL with a factory hardtop somewhere in the $1.6 million range — probably more at a well-advertised auction. Balancing that good fortune, perhaps, is the $52,000 top-end book average value of his mom’s 220 S — a car that certainly cost more than its current value to restore, even in the early 1990s when Phil brought his mom’s example back to its current splendor. (A convertible, like Tiny wanted, is valued at two and a half times the coupe today.)
Since their restoration, they have been driven little as Philip’s Mercedes collection extended into the double-digits — a series of Pontons, a gaggle of Pagoda-roof SLs, and other ’50s and ’60s Mercedes delights make the bulk of his car collection today. It’s fair to say that these two are the cause for Philip’s particular brand of three-pointed- star enthusiasm. So they’ve sat, Tiny and Louis’s cars, their odometers showing original miles.
But you’d never know by looking at them that these restorations have now been around longer than the cars’ original materials: Both appear new, patina-free, and have particularly supple leather, considering they’ve been sitting in the desert for nigh on three decades now. “I had them in un-air-conditioned rental storage units for a while, but I kept buckets of water in the cars; the moisture stayed in the car, and the leather has remained in good condition.” It’s remarkable to note that the replacement leather has been in these cars as long as — if not longer than — the original factory-born hides were.
Tiny was 96 years old when she died in 2013, and even though she’d gone through a number of other European coupes in her long life, from Jaguar to Rolls-Royce, she always had a soft spot for her old 220 S. “She really liked cars, and took good care of them,” son Philip remembers. “She loved that 220 S, because it brought back so many fond memories — of her traveling in Europe from one shoot to the other, her shotgun in the back; for outings and picnics; and occasionally for extended vacation trips when we were over there. I know she really appreciated me taking it all apart and making it better than what it was.” My mother told my dad that he would make me upset if he sold it. They brought it to the house, parked it under the carport behind another car, and Mom took away the keys.
The 300 SL doesn’t seem much sportier than the 220S from this angle, though the wraparound buckets, lower-slung seating and floor shift all suggest otherwise once you’re inside. Hard to believe that this SL was sold at a discount in order to get it off the books.
1963 MERCEDES-BENZ 300 SL ROADSTER
Engine SOHC inline-six
Displacement 2,996 cc
Horsepower 222 @ 5,800 RPM
Torque 202-lb.ft. @ 4,600 RPM
Fuel system Mechanical direct fuel injection, #Bosch injection pump
Gearbox Four-speed manual, floor shift
Suspension Front, double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar; rear, low-pivot swing axle, transverse compensating spring, coil springs
Steering Recirculating ball
Brakes Four-wheel disc, hydraulic power assist
Wheelbase 94.5 inches
Length 179.9 inches
Width 70.5 inches
Height 51.2 inches
Shipping weight 3,130 pounds
0-62 MPH 7.2 seconds
Top speed 137 MPH
1959 MERCEDES-BENZ 220 S
Engine SOHC inline-six
Displacement 2,195 cc
Horsepower 105 @ 5,200 RPM
Torque 126.5-lb.ft. @ 3,500 RPM
Fuel system Dual two-barrel #Solex carburetors
Gearbox Four-speed manual, column shift
Suspension Front, double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar; rear, swing axle, radius arms, coil springs Steering Recirculating ball
Brakes Four-wheel drum, power assist
Wheelbase 111 inches
Length 187 inches
Width 69 inches
Height 61 inches
Shipping weight 3,110 pounds
0-62 MPH 17 seconds
Top speed 99 MPH
The 220 S cabin is elegant and orderly. Air conditioning was dealer-installed after purchase. Engine is the standard carbureted 2.2-liter inline-six, good for 105 horsepower. Inside and out, it’s sized like the compact Studebaker Lark it sold next to in U.S. showrooms.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationRoss Brawn’s #Wilson-Pilcher . The #Formula-1 legend and his unlikely mount. Day Off Ross Brawn’s Wilson-Pilcher.
He’s the technical genius behind nine Formula 1 Drivers’ Championships. So why is #Ross-Brawn ’s passion now driving the unique London-to-Brighton #1904 Wilson-Pilcher ? Words Glen Waddington. Photography Andy Morgan.
We meet early-morning on a chilly Thursday in winter, Ross Brawn alert yet laidback, friendly without being over-effusive. He comes across as a focussed yet straightforward man, the kind of persona you might expect of someone with his career and reputation, albeit disarmingly down-to-Earth. He hops into the passenger seat of my car and directs me to where he keeps his collection, a few minutes' drive from his house.
It's an unassuming, anonymous industrial unit that photographer Andy and I are invited into, with the promise of coffee to warm our insides. Within are arrayed a number of cars, the stars of Brawn's personal collection. 'I tend to collect cars built by the manufacturers I've been associated with,' he smiles, before asking us to guess what's what under the covers. Without wanting to give away too much, we spy the outlines of #Ferraris-288GTO and F40 - 'great on a track, if you like that sort of thing, but too fast for the road' - plus #Jaguar-E-types and a #Mercedes-Benz-300SL Gullwing, all reminders of time spent dominating Formula 1 at Ferrari (six consecutive championships with Michael Schumacher from 1999 to 2004), his period at Jaguar (he was lead designer on the #Jaguar-XJR-14 , which won the #1991 World Sportscar Championship), and the #Mercedes-Benz buy-out of his own Brawn GP outfit after winning the manufacturers' title (and Jenson Button's Drivers' Championship victory) in #2009 .
There are others too, including an #AC-Ace (the rare Ruddspeed-engined one, of which he seems particularly proud) and a 289 Cobra. Yet while most of the collection spans a not-unexpected era (from the 1950s to the 1980s, on the whole), there's one car in here that breaks with that convention. Massively. And it's the one that gets Brawn smiling more than any other, no matter what's lurking under those covers. It's the 1904 Wilson-Pilcher in which he completed the Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run last year - when it was 1.1 centuries old.
'We're blase about transport these days,' says Brawn. 'When this car was new, people had to adjust from riding a horse one day to jumping on and driving this the next.'
Even by 1904 standards the Wilson-Pilcher is unusual, and this one is believed to be the sole survivor. If you read the badge on its nose you'll discover it's actually an Armstrong-Whitworth, built at the company's Elswick works in north-east England to Wilson-Pilcher patents. Of which there were many. A flat-four engine, for a start, 'certainly the earliest I can think of', according to Nigel Parrott, who recommissioned the car for Brawn and has worked with London-Brighton entrants for some 30 years. There's also a four-speed semi-automatic transmission, achieved by two epicyclic gearpacks and a pair of crown wheels (one forward, one reverse) in the aluminium-cased live rear axle. It should come, therefore, as no surprise that the Wilson pre-selector gearbox popular in luxury cars of the 1930s was designed by the very same man. Furthermore, the engine is separated from the main chassis by a subframe, attached laterally by coil springs to the main structure.
'It's extraordinarily smooth for such an old car,' says Brawn.
'Walter Wilson [its designer] clearly got his head around the needs of the day,' Parrott tells me later, 'and discovered that motorists wanted less vibration and an easier drive.'
We'll find out more about that shortly. First some history. Walter Gordon Wilson founded the company in Westminster where, according to his grandson, he built perhaps the first 50 to 60 examples of his car, beginning in #1900 , and established 25 engineering patents in doing so. While his great friend Percy Pilcher was not involved in the car company, Wilson honoured him posthumously: #Pilcher had died in a gliding accident in late #1899 at Stanford Hall in Leicestershire. #Wilson had designed an engine for the flying machine but a last-minute fault meant the aircraft had to fly without it. Had matters turned out less tragically, the pair could have beaten the Wright brothers as the pioneers of powered flight by three years.
At the #1904-Crystal-Palace-Motor-Show , Wilson displayed a flat-six- engined car - 'which must have been a monster!' says Parrott - but, though he was clearly a design and engineering genius, his prowess as a businessman was less assured. Already short of capital, in late 1903 Wilson had been persuaded by Sir WG Armstrong-Whitworth (of the armaments and shipbuilding conglomerate) to sell his business. That's why this car was badged as such and built in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It is believed that 100 Wilson-Pilchers were manufactured there, re-designated as Armstrong-Whitworths, of which this one - registered BB 96 - is chassis number 52.
Henry Wilson is The Grandson of Walter Gordon. 'My father gave it to me when I was 21,' he tells me. 'I drove it on the Veteran Car Club Centenary Run in the 1990s and we made it - just. It drove my daughter to her wedding too. We had lots of work done by Patrick Blakeney-Edwards but we could make little use of it and it cost a fortune to keep up.' The family, worried it would leave the UK, reluctantly decided to sell the car at the Bonhams auction ahead of the #2012 London-Brighton Run.
If 150 or so Wilson-Pilchers were built, how come only this one survives? The answer is that it lived at the factory, close to the family. 'It was bodied as a fire tender and kept at the Elswick works. Apprentices there restored it during the 1950s and presented it to my father who, at the time, was the managing director of Self Changing Gears.' That's the company that grew out of the Wilson pre-selector business, and was based in Coventry.
'The Wilson-Pilcher sat in the foyer of the office block; the building was by Sir Hugh Casson, so it was quite an impressive sight. And it remained there until my father resigned soon after the take-over by Leyland.'
Yes, the Wilson transmission concern became a casualty of the Leyland empire. 'My father left to set up his own consultancy and the car went with him. It lived first at Stanford Hall, then at the Bovingdon Tank Museum.' Wilson had perfected the design of the first British Army tank; in MkV form it featured his transmission and could therefore be operated by one driver instead of four. For his wartime work, Wilson was appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in #1917 .
'From there it went to the Coventry Transport Museum, where it remained until it was restored by the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust's volunteers from 2006 to 2011 at the Derby works.' Walter Wilson had been a personal friend of Charles Rolls.
'I remember him as a great character; not an easy man but extremely talented,' says Henry. 'And the car was really quick when it got going.'
That's a Story In Itself. Ross Brawn climbs on board to retard the ignition timing via a lever on the steering column. Meanwhile, his mechanic Darren Glass busies himself by ensuring that the pressurised lubrication system is operating and that fuel is able to make its way to the carburettor. Then it's a swing of the crankhandle and 2.7 litres of 1904 fiat-four erupt into life with a pall of smoke from the exhaust... and very little other drama. In fact, the engine is mechanically very quiet, all the vocals instead arriving as a high-frequency phutt-phutt-phutt from the rear end of the car.
Brawn's delight is palpable as he invites me to clamber on board, and so I join him, to perch on a bench that's mounted directly above the fuel tank. 'My wife Jean sat there for the London-Brighton. I was surprised at how enthusiastic she was and she smiled all the way through, despite terrible rain and hail. She'd have had to pay a fortune at a beautician's for a facial to match what the weather managed that day! I thought she'd have hated it but she loved it. I didn't mention about the fuel tank though…
It takes a moment to engage drive as there's still a bit of work to be done on the epicyclic transmission, which has a tendency to slip, but up with the clutch pedal and we're away, without any hesitation or snatching. None of that ear-rending transmission whine you so often suffer with cars of this era, either, and the lack of roughness from that isolated fiat-four is nothing short of astonishing. With refinement of this level, London to Brighton would surely be a breeze.
Well, not quite - though it's hardly the car's fault. 'Driving it is a very different pleasure from what you experience even with an older sports car,' says Ross, slipping the lever (no clutch pedal required once you've set off, remember) effortlessly into the next ratio. 'What you really have to remember is how much you need to anticipate traffic; you have to be assertive...' (Right now, we're in the middle of the road, passing parked cars and facing down a white van that's coming towards us. We win.) 'Most of the time your hands are full, so it's fortunate there aren't many gauges to look at. You have to be aware that other road users don't know how much distance you need to stop or how much of the road you need to manage a corner. They don't mean to get in the way, but they do.'
We're purring along now, Ross measuring his accelerative success through the village by whether he can turn out from his storage facility and gain sufficient pace to make the 30mph warning sign glow. We manage it. Shortly after, we also demonstrate what was said about space for corners; another driver slows to take a look (and who wouldn't) and his car takes up the very patch of road we need to make the turn: time for a rapid exfoliation by a holly bush.
By the standards of its day, this is an easy car to handle, and - despite the intense cold of being exposed to winter weather with zero protection - it's comfortable, with a soft, bumbling, slightly lurchy ride. Yet the steering is always heavy, and the brakes don't offer stopping power so much as gentle attenuation. There's also what Ross describes as a pronounced castor shimmy through the steering wheel, which seems to be set off by the particular frequency of undulations on this road. It's the only real dynamic demerit the car suffers from.
There were reports of a Wilson-Pilcher being driven 270 miles from London to Newcastle in June #1903 , averaging 42.5mph and returning 20mpg, all the while proving remarkable for its absence of vibration and smooth running. This is a car that has always impressed. Except, perhaps, when Brawn first bought it. He immediately presented it to Nigel Parrott.
'Those #Rolls-Royce apprentices hadn't been able to get it to work properly,' he says. (Indeed, Henry Wilson had told me that they only got to the end of the Centenary Run by blowing into the tank to pressurise the fuel system!) 'We stripped the valves out and checked the timing, which was out by a full 45° - that meant there was only half an induction stroke; the timing marks turned out to be wrong and heaven knows who put them there. Things get changed over time.'
With that done plus myriad other details, Nigel found power and could get the car running without resort to bump-starting. Then he simply had to make it driveable. 'We stripped the top off the gearbox: there were no details or drawings available on how to set it up. It's a work of art. We had to get our heads round how it worked but we got it functioning properly. Then it was just a case of tightening the wheels and relining the brakes, then showing Ross how to operate it - which he picked up very quickly. He made good time on the London- Brighton; the thing certainly gets a move on.'
Which ought to suit Ross Brawn. Or so you'd think. Ironically, 'I'm not into competition driving,' says the Formula 1 legend. 'This has opened up an interest in older cars.' And just how does it pique that interest? 'I like to look at the solutions that were applied. That's what fascinates, seeing how Wilson achieved his objectives. A cam-driven inlet system is clearly better, but looking at the requirements of the engine and its atmospheric set-up, well, why not? Engineers of that era were empirical. They worked on intuition, experience. They didn't have great knowledge of materials and calculations but they had a feel for strength. Nothing here is over-engineered or crude. It's all been resolved within the limitations of the day.'
His favourite aspect? 'It's the product of one man; themes run through the whole car, rather like a single philosophy runs through a Formula 1 car. There's a quality of engineering that flows through it in a consistent way. The more I look, the more appreciative I become of how advanced it was for its day.'
The Wilson-Pilcher is more than 110 years old. And still counting.
THANKS TO Ross Brawn, Henry Wilson, and Nigel Parrott of NP Veteran Engineering Ltd, tel: 1435 813811. The 2015 Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run is on Sunday 1 November 2015, the first car leaving at 6.54am from Serpentine Road, Hyde Park. Entries open on Monday 30 March, veterancarrun. co. uk. The EFG International Concours d’Elegance will be held the day before, from 10.30 am to kpm at the Regent Street Motor Show in London.
Car 1904 #Wilson-Pilcher-12/16HP-Phaeton
ENGINE 2715cc flat-four, atmospheric inlet valves, cam-driven exhaust valves, fixed-jet carburettor with adjustable air controls
POWER 12/16hp RAC fiscal rating, max 900rpm
TRANSMISSION Four-speed epicyclic, rear-wheel drive
STEERING Worm and quadrant
Front: beam axle, elliptical leaf springs.
Rear: live axle, centre-pivot tie rods, elliptical leaf springs.
BRAKES Rear drums, rod-operated
PERFORMANCE Top speed 55mph (est)
Above and right Noweatherprotection and only an oil pressure gauge to see from the bench seat; new rear bodywork was fashioned from aluminium in the 1950s and restored 2006-11; original front wings are wooden.
'The engine is mechanically quiet, the vocals arriving as a phutt-phutt-phutt from the rear’
Left and above Ross Brawn shows writer Glen Waddington around the car before setting off for a drive. Note the vaned flywheel that acts as a cooling fan, and suspension tie rods pivoted from the gearbox.
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