Common SLK Gets Extraordinary 300SL Gullwing Transformation

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Built by artist John Sarkisyan, this replica took five months to build, and was assembled with parts molded from a real Gullwing.

If there’s any Mercedes at the top of any fan’s list, it’s more likely than not a 300SL Gullwing. Only 1,400 of the iconic coupe were made between 1954 and 1957 (the only year it and the roadster variant existed at the same time), 1,100 of which landed in the United States. Thus, hot-rodding such a rarity would be out of the question, right?

That’s what John Sarkisyan thought when he set out to build his 300SL Gullwing. Thus, he transformed a 2002 SLK32 into the ultimate tribute to the majestic Mercedes, one captured by none other than Larry Chen for Hoonigan AutoFocus. And yes, this is the same 300SL we ran into at the 2019 Acura Long Beach Grand Prix in Southern California not long ago.

Mercedes 300SL Gullwing Replica

“It’s a Gullwing body sitting on a 2002 SLK32,” said Sarkisyan of his replica 300SL. “It’s got all of the features that the SLK would have, with the body on top. We have a friend that has a real Gullwing. We made a mold of that, popped the fiberglass one out, and sort of shaped it around the SLK.”

Mercedes 300SL Gullwing Replica

Sarkisyan says he’s always wanted a 300SL Gullwing for years, going so far as to obtain a tattoo of it in the belief he’d never have one in his garage. Fate then steered him to an owner of his dream car, who allowed Sarkisyan and his crew to take the entire car apart to build a mold around it. The resulting 33-piece work of art means that trim pieces and windows for an real 300SL “fit like a glove” on his replica.

Mercedes Gullwing Replica

“A really crappy one, if you could find one, it’s still gonna be $800,000. They’re not cheap,” said Sarkisyan when asked if it just would have been easier to rebuild a derelict 300SL. “Then, you’re gonna have to redo all the parts, anyway; none of them are gonna be good. I just bought everything new, and it happened to fit. We made it work.”

Mercedes Gullwing Replica

The glass and rubber seals are OEM, per Sarkisyan, while the grill took $30,000 to create. The side windows are also his creation, improving on the original with a sliding door in the center. And of course, the amazing blue leather interior is as stunning as the outside, from the OEM seats to the stock SLK32 gauges moved to the center as if they’ve always been there.

Mercedes 300SL Gullwing Replica

Under the hood of the replica 300SL is the SLK’s supercharged 3.2-liter V6, which Sarkisyan says makes around 380 horsepower while dressed up in copper and chrome. He adds that the firewall is much further forward in his replica than in the original Gullwing, even though both share the same wheelbase length.

Mercedes 300SL Gullwing Replica

“The doors were very difficult on this,” said Sarkisyan. “Probably the hardest part of this car is making the doors fit. They just didn’t want to go together. We probably spent two months on the doors, but we got them to function. They shut nice, and they work. They work the way they’re supposed to.”

He adds the real cars also have the door fitment issue, with gaps and not being able to close properly. Not only that, but more than a few owners of real 300SL Gullwings tend to lose interest in their project cars. In contrast, the replica build took only five months for Sarkisyan and his team to build from start to finish.

Mercedes 300SL Gullwing Replica

And besides: how many 300SL Gullwing owners would ever dare to consider smoking the meats, let alone actually do it? We definitely need more cool replicas like Sarkisyan’s to do what the real ones can’t.

Photos: Screenshots

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Since launching her professional writing career nearly a decade ago as a fashion blogger, Cameron Aubernon has written for a handful of online and print publications on a wide variety of subjects, including expat issues, fashion, music, and, of course, the automotive industry. The automotive expert was even the editor-in-chief of a popular online lifestyle publication, where she reviewed luxury cars and interviewed fellow automotive enthusiasts.

A graduate of The Evergreen State College Class of 2005 with a bachelor's in liberal arts, Aubernon took a left turn from fashion writing into the automotive realm when she asked a fellow writer via Facebook if she could write for their site. Following an internship, stints with a couple of hyper-local online publications, and a move to Seattle, she made her then-biggest impact with The Truth About Cars, writing full-time for the publication from 2013 to 2015.

Currently, the highly-regarded automotive journalist is a frequent contributor to the high-traffic Internet Brands Auto Group websites Rennlist, Club Lexus, LS1Tech and Mustang Forums, among others.

Aubernon’s expert knowledge of all things Ford trucks has also made her a mainstay as one of the most prolific writers on Ford Truck Enthusiasts and F-150 Online.

Aubernon can be contacted via email at [email protected].

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