Barn Find Hunter: Discovering a 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing


After Barn Find Hunter Tom Cotter stumbled upon a 427 Cobra and Ferrari 275 GTB/2 in the same garage a few months ago, we asked Tom what could possibly top that amazing discovery. “I dunno,” he answered. “It’d be cool to find a Gullwing.” It certainly would, Tom. Keep dreaming.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/05/16/barn-find-hunter-1954-mercedes-benz-300sl-gullwing


Dash color usually was the exterior color. From the pictures it appears. To be a dark color.
There are two humps in the aluminum hood. Drivers side is so the hood clears the valve cover, passengers side hump was for balance and possibly to add strength to the hood. 300SL’s did not have glove boxes.
Center top vents were for inside air to exit the car. Wind wings were used to ge air in to cabin.
The gear shift is an early model, later years the gear shift was similar to the 190SL’s, more of a straight stick from the transmission hump.
The custom luggage fit behind the seats. The first piece had a rounded bottom to fit under the rear window. The second piece was a small rectangle that fit on top of the first piece. There was no luggage to the trunk.
The trunk contained a gas tank(40 gal), a spare tire, jack and tool kit. Clothing needed to be rolled and fit into the rear trunk fender wells.


I have the utmost repsect for Tom Cotter, and he is welcome to come and see our collection of reallly interesting cars and barn finds anytime. However, if he slammed the doors on one of my cars like that, I would be quite upset. This is an American car thing as our cars were designed with huge heavy steel doors and weird double latches that had to be slammed to close. Most European cars, and especially luxury marques like Mercedes had lighter weight doors and more delicate latches. This is even more true with a gull wing design where the gravity tends to cause the door to close harder, and especially with aluminium doors and body sills, you should never slam the doors like that. Most American car owners slam the doors on our European cars, and many European car owners tend to close the doors of American cars too lightly and the second latch does not engage properly.
Also, the colour of the wheels and hub cap inserts on this Mercedes 300SL may not be indicative of the exterior body colour, as the wheels and cap center colours were often designed to complement, but not necessarily match, the exterior body colour. You would have to reference the paint code to verify the original body colour.


If a good condition running and driving car is hagerty valued at 1 million and it going to take 500k to restore this non running barnfind how can it be worth 900k Tom? Is it all the hoopla that it is an untouched barn find? Because simple math and economics tells me this one should be in the 500k to 600k range. Heck I wouldn’t have paid a Cuban sandwich for Batista’s old rusty hulk of a 300 but maybe I’m missing something.


Perhaps I don’t understand the definition of a “barn find”.

This is just a car in storage isn’t it?


A bit sickening that someone isn’t getting this car back on the road and driving it, which it was meant for. With so many new cars equalling and surpassing these old models and being drivable on a daily basis, it won’t be long before the values decrease, in my opinion. There are a lot of vehicles that I could buy for 500k(if I could afford it) that are new, reliable, can be driven anywhere, and I wouldn’t have to wait two years for it to be restored. This whole “investment” collector car mania is a real drag to the hobby, in my opinion!


It is a shame that a significant car like this is in the hands of someone who either doesn’t care or is virtually unaware of the car’s condition. I couldn’t believe the “agent’s” warning to the host about disturbing the original dust on the window sticker. Clearly the passion for “patina” is headed by someone who wouldn’t know how to restore a car in any event. It’s just a good excuse to do nothing driven by a bunch of wealthy antique collectors would wouldn’t get their hands dirty if you held a gun to their heads.

Robk, if you don’t understand why someone would want a restored classic rather than a modern super car, I’m guessing that you are a millennial who has been raised on the immediate gratification principle. I’ve never owned a Mercedes 300SL Gullwing, but I’ve owned several pieces of American muscle and I can only offer that, while a lot of Japanese sedans can out run many of them, there is still a special experience driving them that you can’t get from a modern technocar.


This doesnt NEED a full restoration, but could certainly use it. You dont have to repaint it or anything like that, Just get it going.


No, I’m 65 and have seen these cars go from $5,000 as a teenager (when I drove one a few blocks)to the million dollar range they are now. My regret is that once a fun hobby has been transformed into hyped up auctions, investor types, show cars that are never driven and the barn find with original dirt! Sour grapes, perhaps! I have a few cars that are affordable classics myself. My point is there are many cars like the new Ford GT, Ferrari, Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini, Corvette, Camaro, Mustang, Nissan GTR, etc., that have the hallmarks of future classics but can be driven today, enjoyed, with more performance, safety, etc., than this MB. Some are still in a class that only the wealthy can afford, however, just like the old MB. But what I am saying, more than ever, it’s possible to have a well styled performance car within range of the average “Joe”. Sure, I love the old stuff, nostaglia, but when do you say it’s getting out of hand? I think we are starting to see some resistance and lower prices. The Japanese have competed in all the world’s important car events and have been incredibly successful, therefore, yes, I also consider vehicles from Japan as worthy of collection. I own a 1999 Lexus LS400 that I paid $1,250 which would embarrass many cars “off the line” and has 209,000 miles, which is a testament to it’s design, use of quality materials, etc.


There is a 1965 Florida license plate on the bumper inside the car. So, this car was used for 11 years, not 2 years. The 35,000 miles could easily be 135,000 miles @ 12,000 miles per year.


@peter.cohen - True, the 1965 license plate does make an appearance. However it could also be a situation where the owner continued to pay the registration though the Gullwing was not being driven and was just in storage.

Unfortunately I can’t confirm one of the other way.


Well it would certainly make sense that a 10 year old car of that period would need a repaint…but after 2 years? Some of these “barnfind” stories start to sound like tall tales or maybe that old “telephone game” we used to play as kids where the story slowly gets embellished.


At the risk of possibly upsetting Tom and Bill I believe this car to have been the one that belonged to Mr. Claude Nolan that used to own Claude Nolan Cadillac in Jacksonville Florida. Bill referred to a second floor garage and in the old Cadillac building they had a second floor. I worked for a few years at Brumos motors and there were rumors that Claude Nolan had a gullwing stored in his garage for years. If fact I believe that Claude Nolan was the MB dealer in Jacksonville during the fifties. I don’t know for certain that THIS is that car but it sure follows the story line of the rumor. I am really surprised that if this is the car in the rumor that Bob Snodgrass of Brumos fame, quite the car collector did not managed to acquire it.


An interesting early car with a particular shifter dating it precisely. Such cars, in such condition , give the owner a life albeit none have the funds to restore it, or even the desire to drive it. God bless the guys who never get it done !


Anyone know if it can be bought?