"Enjoy your toys. Don't worry about breaking them, don't worry about scratching them. Just have fun with them," says the owner of the salt-covered Mercedes-Benz Gullwing. No, it's not a new SLS AMG, but an original 300SL that Bob Sirna bought a year out of college in the early 1980s. Since 2001, it has been repurposed as a Bonneville Salt Flats racecar.

Some people call him crazy for bringing a rare classic worth over a million dollars to the Salt Flats, but, in the Petrolicious video, we don't see a collector in Sirna as he prepares to make a run in a car he has owned for 29 years. Instead we see the college graduate who just landed his first nice car and intends to use it for what it was made for, albeit with a salty twist: high-speed driving.

Watch the video below to see a Mercedes 300SL Gullwing as you've never seen one before.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 20 Comments
      Carac
      • 1 Year Ago
      I have a couple issues with this. I don't know where he comes from where 1400 of a car isn't "rare." Consider that number is how many were made in the 50s, not representative of how many made it to present day. It excludes ones that were totaled in accidents, were left in barns to rot, badly preserved examples sitting in garages, etc. There's probably a couple hundred running examples in the US. "Instead we see the college graduate who just landed his first nice car and intends to use it for what it was made for, albeit with a salty twist: high-speed driving." I don't think it was made to not have a gear capable of starting it from a stop, or having the paint sandblasted (literally), or be exposed constantly to one of the most corrosive substances to ever menace a car, or be stripped down to the point where it would be unrecognizable as a 300SL if you pulled off the bodywork. Etc. I agree these cars should be driven...on a twisty mountain road, on a street where they can be admired, on a re-enactment of the Carrera Panamerica, etc. I don't think going fast on salt is a particularly good use of one of the most iconic and important cars in the history of automobiles. There are literally thousands of other cars he could use if he wants to go fast at Bonneville. The only reasons I can see for doing what he does is a) he couldn't afford to restore since buying it out of college decades ago, he gets off on rustling jimmies about ruining a 300SL, he's crazy, or a combination of the three. I've got a soft spot for the 300SL. So much so that I bought a SLS and plan on keeping it forever, but you can be sure I'll never be found doing a forest stage of a WRC rally or depriving future generations the ability to look at it because it rusted to a heap from my hubris. It's the guy's car and money so he can do what he wants...but damn I hate seeing a 300SL in that condition, being subjected to that abuse. Drive it hard, rebuild the engine when necessary, and keep her beautiful.
        mawhalen53
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Carac
        Good points, and you did a nice job framing up the dilemma for car lovers. In my opinion, at the end of the day, he drives it, loves it, and we enthusiasts get to enjoy seeing it in action. I will happily trade a Gullwing doing this duty over the Gullwing that Bradley Uppercrust III has sitting in his garage, never to move under its own power. And the truth is - since this car is such a valuable icon - when it finds a new home, there's a high chance it'll be built right back to OEM standards... for better or worse.
          Carac
          • 1 Year Ago
          @mawhalen53
          Here's hoping it does. A video more my kind of guy/car: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ti0aoGREUKU
          mawhalen53
          • 1 Year Ago
          @mawhalen53
          Carac - great story, thanks for sharing
        snap_understeer_ftw
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Carac
        Make sure you find me once you've owned the car for 29 years and we'll see if your tune has changed about your SLS AMG. You do you and let him do him because as long as both of you are driving these cars, it's all right in my book. Here's another 300SL for you shot by Josh Clason before he joined Petrolicious. You'll find his shooting style hasn't changed http://vimeo.com/42913762
          Carac
          • 1 Year Ago
          @snap_understeer_ftw
          But you're right, it's his car and money. I'll just mentally write that 300SL off since it's probably not going to be any better off than one that got totaled sometime in the past 50 years once he's done with it.
      davido
      • 1 Year Ago
      As we've never seen one before? Didn't Autoblog cover John Fitch's attempt to set a class record at Bonneville in a 300SL in 2006? Do you guys read Autoblog? Great site, you should.
      The Angry Intern
      • 1 Year Ago
      Question for the people in the know: Why does he get the push start from the other vehicle?
        Carac
        • 1 Year Ago
        @The Angry Intern
        The transmission isn't capable of starting from a stop, needs a push to get going.
        British_Rover
        • 1 Year Ago
        @The Angry Intern
        In order to reach the high top speeds that Bonneville racers are capable of they need very tall, numerically low first gears and final drives, so their isn't enough mechanical advantage for the engine to move the car from a dead stop. You can experience the same thing if you ever tried to move your car from a dead stop in say fifth gear. A normal street with a manual car probably has a first gear of around 4.XX:1 and a final drive of 3.XX:1. A salt flat racer is going to have a final drive ratio of less then 2.XX:1.
      sforza209
      • 1 Year Ago
      I wonder what he paid for it in the 80s?
        Carac
        • 1 Year Ago
        @sforza209
        Met a guy the other day with a 57 Roadster 300SL, says he bought it in the late 70s for $7k.
      gtv4rudy
      • 1 Year Ago
      Maybe the most expensive race car to ever hit the Salt Flats.
      erjhe
      • 1 Year Ago
      I had the pleasure of talking to Bob a couple years ago while waiting in line at the salt flats. I have to say, he's a real treat to talk to and the quality of work on that car is worth admiring.
      Tommy
      • 1 Year Ago
      Did they say how fast it runs? Missed it?
        LBJAY02
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Tommy
        Looks like the F/GT record is in the 173 mph range.
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