Mercedes-Benz turned the automotive world on its head when it unveiled the astonishing 300SL Coupe at the 1954 New York International Auto Show. A technological tour de force, the 300SL featured a race-derived tubular spaceframe chassis, independent suspension, and a 3-liter inline-six with dry-sump lubrication and Bosch mechanical fuel injection. Surrounding all of that technical goodness was a stunning coupe body derived from the W194 racing sports car. The distinct top-hinged doors were an offshoot of the high-sided tubular frame – a quirk that became one of the most iconic features in automotive history. Mercedes-Benz built 1,400 “Gullwing” coupes and just over 1,800 roadsters in the car’s nine-year production run, and today, no significant collection is complete without an example of this post-war sporting car masterpiece.
Original 300SL values reflect their status as benchmark, “blue-chip” collectibles. Upwards of seven-figure values are the norms, and restorations can easily top a half-million dollars or more. As the 300SL slipped out of reach for the average enthusiast, the market for replicas and recreations grew accordingly. In the 1980s, a 300SL owner and former Mercedes-Benz employee named Anton “Tony” Ostermeier founded Gullwing International Cars to take the concept of a “replica” 300SL to another plane, designing a ground-up, exacting recreation worthy of sharing the spotlight with the legendary original.
Ostermeier cut no corners developing his 300SL tribute using the finest components and materials available. It is based on a welded square-tube chassis crafted in a similar manner to the original. Keeping it “in the family,” Ostermeier utilized contemporary Mercedes-Benz W124 steering, suspension, and running gear. The body was made of an aircraft-derived material called GLARE that bonds fiberglass to a thin outer layer of aluminum, using factory bucks and original cars as patterns. The material ensures precise fit and a nearly flawless outer surface with superior quality and finishes compared to traditional fiberglass. Many of the trim parts, instruments and other details are so accurately produced that owners of original cars began using them on restoration projects, and even experts are hard-pressed to tell the difference between an Ostermeier and the real thing at first glance. Ostermeier built only 150 or so, and these hand-built cars took over 400 hours each to complete. Much like a Lynx D-Type Jaguar or Glenn Pray Auburn, the cars of Tony Ostermeier are highly desirable and considered genuine collectibles in their own right.
This outstanding Gullwing International 300SL is one of just a handful of roadsters built by Tony Ostermeier. It is finished to the same standard of excellence and accuracy as the coupes and is virtually indistinguishable from the original at first glance. Superb throughout and impeccably presented, it has just 1,200 miles from new and is powered by the desirable twin-cam 3.0-liter M104 engine (as fitted to the 300CE) mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox. The bright red paintwork is excellent, and the car is superbly detailed with impeccable trim and brightwork. Gorgeous polished wheels shod with color-keyed hubcaps and new period-style Avon 185-15 radials complete the period-correct aesthetic. The cabin also stays remarkably faithful to the period, with accurately reproduced seats, instruments, and ivory steering wheel keeping the late-50’s vibe intact. The leather, carpet, and soft trim are beautifully finished, reflecting the attention to detail Gullwing Cars put into every car they built. Only the accommodations for the radio and air conditioning hint at this car’s modern-era underpinnings.
Ostermeier offered a variety of engine options from the Mercedes-Benz catalog. Many customers opted for the somewhat subdued but bomb-proof single-cam M103 inline-six, as used throughout the factory range in the ’80s and ’90s. For the more performance-oriented buyer, the 3.0-liter M104 was the pick. This twin-cam, 24-valve inline-six was good for approximately 220 horsepower, which is ample grunt for breathtaking performance while maintaining the inline-six character that is essential to the 300SL experience. Gullwing raided the Mercedes-Benz parts bin for most of the suspension, brakes, steering components, and rear differential, ensuring the cars were reliable and readily serviced with accessible parts.
This rare and exquisitely preserved Gullwing Cars ‘Ostermeier’ 300SL Roadster stands on its own as a highly desirable collector vehicle, perfectly encapsulating everything great about the original 300SL in a driver-friendly, reliable, and eminently enjoyable package.
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