Mercedes 300SL Gullwing Left in a Garage to Rot for Five Decades
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photos: Mathieu Bonnevie for Classic Driver