Mercedes 300SL Gullwing Left in a Garage to Rot for Five Decades

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1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing

Classic Driver finds an abandoned 300SL, No. 43 of 1,400, returned to Germany for mechanical restoration by Mercedes specialists.

There you are, rolling through the country roads in your Mercedes of choice. Mile after mile, you come across more than a few barns and old homes, each packed with a story or two. A few might have a few cars that have not seen the light in years, if not decades. You think to yourself, “I wonder if there’s a cool old Mercedes in that barn over there.”

Classic Driver has such a barn find: a 1954 300SL Gullwing, No. 43 of 1,400, that was about to be restored when its previous owner left it in a decaying garage in his native Jacksonville, Florida home for 53 years.

1954 Mercedes-Benz Gullwing

The tale begins with a phone call in late 2018 to Mercedes-Benz Classic from none other than the founder and chair of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, Bill Warner. Warner knew of the 300SL Gullwing because he knew the previous third owner of the car, and had seen it in a less worn state when he was 16.

1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing

The 300SL was sent to Los Angeles in October 1954 for shipment to a Miami, Florida-based dealership. Its first owner was Otto Bowden, whose local sports car club later joined Sports Car Club of America. Bowden sold the car to his mechanic, who then sold it to its final owner in 1957, a naval pilot based at Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Florida.

1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing

After a decade on the road, the 300SL was set to undergo a restoration in 1965 of its Medium Blue paint and a refreshment of its mechanicals when, for reasons unknown, the project was abandoned in the place it would call home for the next 53 years, until Mercedes-Benz Classics recovered it.

1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing

Upon recovery, the team took the 300SL back to Germany to become a part of the Mechatronik collection near Stuttgart. However, Pascal Stephan, the collection’s owner, says a full restoration is out of the question. Instead, it will receive a mechanical restoration to get it back on the road, while retaining the patina and history it collected over the decades.

1954 Mercedes-Benz Gullwing

Photos: Mathieu Bonnevie for Classic Driver

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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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