An abundance of platitudes get lazily thrown about when describing modern cars. So much so that we begin to lose sight of what truly makes a car special and stand out from the rabble. But while it’s easy for a car to be called a classic, it is much harder for one to deserve such adoration. That isn’t the case with the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing. For many auto enthusiasts the Mercedes 300SL represents a high point in automotive engineering and rests atop the mountain with other legends like the Shelby Cobra and the Jaguar E-Type.
Making its debut at the 1954 New York Auto Show, the 300SL Gullwing is as iconic as it is rare, with only 1,500 copies of the classic Mercedes sold over the car’s four-year life span. The Gullwing’s frame was comprised primarily of steel, except for the aluminum hood, doors, and trunk lid. Mercedes later offered an all-aluminum outer skin at tremendous added cost. Much attention is given the car’s unique doors, but the 300SL also has the distinction of being the first ever four-stroke car equipped with a gasoline direct engine. Sending power to the rubber was 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, making the sporty Merc the fastest production car of its day with a top speed of 161 miles per hour.
Needless to say with the 300SL Gullwing, Mercedes-Benz enjoyed instant success: selling 1,400 of the 1,500 produced in the United States alone. Not only was the Gullwing a success, it is largely credited for enhancing Mercedes’ image on this side of the Atlantic.
Given the Gullwing’s celebrated period piece pedigree and highly collectible status, it goes without saying that eyeing one milling about town will prove more than difficult. If you’re not satisfied by merely viewing one from afar — behind a velvet rope, no doubt — then the video below, courtesy of Depth of Speed’s Josh Clason, will surely get your gears going. In it, Clason captures some of the most compelling modern footage of the 300SL to date with the car’s unidentified owner pouring out all his love and passion toward his prized possession. The best part: he shares our vision that cars like this were meant to be driven; taken to the open road; and pushed hard. Not locked away in some collector’s garage.