Chassis number 5500640 is billed as "the rarest and most desirable W198 Gullwing ever presented for public auction," and it's not hard to see why. It was used for both racing and testing purposes, including an entry in the notoriously grueling Tour de France by none other than Sir Stirling Moss. He placed it second only to the Marquis de Portago in his Ferrari 250 GT TdF, often outperforming the Ferrari in stages of the event. It was in the possession of one owner since 1966, who stored it for 40 years before passing it on to his son in 2008, who in turn underwrote a comprehensive three-year restoration project and has now put it up for auction.
Gullwings are invariably the most sought-after post-war production Mercedes when they come up for auction. The highest price one has ever garnered, according to the records at Sports Car Market, was $4.62 million paid in early 2012 at Gooding & Company's Scottsdale auction. This example, however, stands to far surpass that amount to set a new record.
It's just one of several notable lots consigned for the Driven By Disruption event, set to take place on December 10 in New York. Alongside it, RM has the Lamborghini Concept S (valued at over $2.4 million), a 1962 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato (over $16m), and a 1956 Ferrari 290 MM driven by Juan Manuel Fangio ($28m). In short, it ought to be a significant sale, and we'll report the results once they're in.
New York - Driven By Disruption
- Unique 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL 'Sportabteilung' Gullwing joins RM Sotheby's cutting-edge 'Driven by Disruption' sale, December 10 in New York City
- The first of four factory-upgraded race prepared W198 Gullwings, the featured 300 SL was tested by the competition department during the 1955 season
- Racing highlights include second overall at the 1956 Tour de France driven by Sir Stirling Moss
- December 10 auction features impressive docket of 31 pioneering automobiles and select memorabilia
- Complete digital catalogue set for release in coming weeks at www.rmsothebys.com
NEW YORK, New York (30 October 2015) – Fresh on the heels of the announcement that it will offer the ex-Fangio, ex-Works 1956 Ferrari 290 MM in New York this December, RM Sotheby's has released details of another historic automobile with significant racing pedigree for its Driven by Disruption sale: a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL 'Sportabteilung' Gullwing, chassis no. 5500640.
The rarest and most desirable W198 Gullwing ever presented for public auction, the car on offer is one of just four W198 Gullwings prepared by the Sportabteilung for development and competition. Outfitted with a host of special racing features, including a desirable NSL-specification motor with revised camshaft profile, 5500640 was delivered to the competition department on August 27, 1955. Of the four known cars, it spent the longest stretch (13 months) with the Sportabteilung, during which time it was utilized for training and competition purposes.
In September 1956, 5500640 was sold from the Sportabteilung to Bernard Hans Hommel, who financed the car for enthusiast Georges Houel, a friend of Sir Stirling Moss. Houel promptly took the car to Paris to participate in the legendary Tour de France. Wearing #149 and with Moss behind the wheel, the unique Gullwing was entered in the Group B competition-car class, joining a contingent of Group A standard-specification Gullwings. After some early challenges, Moss aggressively drove the Gullwing, ultimately outperforming the eventual winner (the Marquis de Portago and his namesake Ferrari 250 GT) during the final stage of the tour. While the Marquis clinched the podium – he was well ahead on points - Moss made up sufficient time in the 300 SL to place an impressive second overall. The Sportabteilung Gullwing was campaigned by Houel several more times over the subsequent years, placing third at the 1956 Coupes du Salon and fifth at both the Rallye d'Automne and the "10,000 Corners" Tour de Corse.
In 1966, the featured 300 SL came into the possession of the father of its current owner. A longtime Gullwing enthusiast, he had been entranced as a boy by an early W198 Gullwing show car at the 1955 Paris Salon, and was thrilled to finally acquire his dream car. After a year of regular use, limited time led him to put the car into storage for the next 40 years. In 2008, 5500640 eventually came into the ownership of his son – the vendor – who commissioned a three-year preservation restoration to authentic TdF specifications.
Spectacularly presented in its 1956 TdF livery, 5500640 comes to market this December for the first time in over 50 years after single family ownership since 1966. One of just two known examples of the original four Factory-competition W198 Sportabteilung cars, it presents an exclusive ownership opportunity for discerning collectors (Est. $5,000,000 - $7,000,000).
"This car illustrates an important and lesser-known chapter in the Gullwing racing legend," says Alain Squindo, Vice President, RM Sotheby's. "Not only is it rarer than the ever desirable alloy-bodied Gullwings, but its desirability is amplified by its astonishing provenance – none other than Sir Stirling Moss drove the car to a second place finish at the '56 Tour de France, beaten only by de Portago in his Ferrari, which RM sold for a world record $13.2 million in Monterey earlier this year. It begs the consideration of any serious collector in search of the ultimate Gullwing for their stable."
Scheduled December 10 at Sotheby's Manhattan headquarters, RM Sotheby's Driven by Disruption sale will feature a carefully curated selection of 31 mold-breaking automobiles, along with select automobilia. Additional recent entries include:
- the 1972 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV, chassis no. 5014, delivered new to a lady enthusiast in Rome and freshly restored by marque experts, a project overseen by renowned factory test driver Valentino Balboni. The finest SV ever presented for auction, it is offered in New York with its original body, engine and drivetrain, and is striking in its original colors of Giallo Miura over Nero (Est. $2,400,000 - $2,800,000);
- one of the finest surviving 1954 Pegaso Z-102 3.2 Berlinettas, chassis no. 0150. Originally owned by José María de Caralt y Borrell, the second Conde de Caralt and a popular figure in Spanish auto racing of the era, the technically sophisticated supercar has remained in Spain all its life. Shown at the 1954 San Remo Concours d'Elegance, it is offered by its proud owner of 35 years and presents a superb combination of preservation and period competition success (Est. $800,000 - $1,000,000);
- a supremely rare 1959 BMW 507 Roadster Series II, chassis no. 70205, one of only 217 Series II examples, which has spent time in the collections of two New York residents and returns to the city sporting a beautifully preserved restoration, clothed in black over red leather (Est. $2,300,000 - $2,600,000);
- an impossibly rare and highly desirable CCCA Full Classic 1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow, chassis no. 2575029. Resplendent with gleaming silver coachwork, it is recognized as the 1933 Chicago World's Fair show car that eventually landed in the hands of prominent early enthusiasts D. Cameron Peck and Henry Austin Clark Jr. It is offered publicly for the first time in more than three decades (Est. $2,500,000 - $3,000,000); and,
- a grand and seldom seen 1934 Delage D8 S Cabriolet, chassis no. 38229, featuring flamboyant coachwork by Fernandez et Darrin. One of only two known examples of this body style, it is spectacularly presented in lilac and bare polished aluminum (Est. $1,300,000 - $1,600,000).
For further information on RM Sotheby's Driven by Disruption sale, or to view a frequently updated list of entries, please visit www.rmsothebys.com or call +1 519 352 4575. As a prelude to the auction, an exclusive six-day exhibition will open over the weekend of December 5 in Sotheby's 10th floor galleries.