RM Sotheby’s has released details on the historic automobile with a racing pedigree for its Driven by Disruption sale: a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL ‘Sportabteilung’ Gullwing, chassis no. 5500640.
The W198 Gullwing is one of just four W198 Gullwings prepared by the Sportabteilung for development and competition. Outfitted with a host of special racing features, including a NSL-specification motor with revised camshaft profile, 5500640 was delivered to the competitiondepartment on August 27, 1955. Of the four known cars, it spent the longest stretch (13 months) with the Sportabteilung, during which time it was utilized for training and competition purposes.
In September 1956, 5500640 was sold from the Sportabteilung to Bernard Hans Hommel, who financed the car for enthusiast Georges Houel, a friend of Stirling Moss. Houel promptly took the car to Paris to participate in the legendary Tour de France. Wearing #149 and with Moss behind the wheel, the unique Gullwing was entered in the Group B competition-car class, joining a contingent of Group A standard-specification Gullwings. After some early challenges, Moss aggressively drove the Gullwing, ultimately outperforming the eventual winner (the Marquis de Portago and his namesake Ferrari 250 GT) during the final stage of the tour. While the Marquis clinched the podium – he was well ahead on points - Moss made up sufficient time in the 300 SL to place an impressive second overall. The Sportabteilung Gullwing was campaigned by Houel several more times over the subsequent years, placing third at the 1956 Coupes du Salon and fifth at both the Rallye d’Automne and the “10,000 Corners” Tour de Corse.
In 1966, the featured 300 SL came into the possession of the father of its current owner. A longtime Gullwing enthusiast, he had been entranced as a boy by an early W198 Gullwing show car at the 1955 Paris Salon, and was thrilled to finally acquire his dream car. After a year of regular use, limited time led him to put the car into storage for the next 40 years. In 2008, 5500640 eventually came into the ownership of his son – the vendor – who commissioned a three-year preservation restoration to authentic TdF specifications.
Presented in its 1956 TdF livery, 5500640 comes to market this December for the first time in over 50 years after single family ownership since 1966. One of just two known examples of the original four Factory-competition W198 Sportabteilung cars, it presents an exclusive ownership opportunity for discerning collectors.
“This car illustrates an important and lesser-known chapter in the Gullwing racing legend,” says Alain Squindo, vice president of RM Sotheby’s. “Not only is it rarer than the ever desirable alloy-bodied Gullwings, but its desirability is amplified by its astonishing provenance – none other than Stirling Moss drove the car to a second place finish at the ’56 Tour de France, beaten only by de Portago in his Ferrari. It begs the consideration of any serious collector in search of the ultimate Gullwing for their stable.”
Scheduled Dec. 10 at Sotheby’s Manhattan headquarters, RM Sotheby’s Driven by Disruption sale will feature a carefully curated selection of 31 mold-breaking automobiles, along with select automobilia. Additional recent entries include:
-1972 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV, chassis no. 5014, delivered new to a lady enthusiast in Rome and freshly restored by marque experts, a project overseen by renowned factory test driver Valentino Balboni. It is offered in New York with its original body, engine and drivetrain, and in its original colors of Giallo Miura over Nero.
-1954 Pegaso Z-102 3.2 Berlinettas, chassis no. 0150. Originally owned by José María de Caralt y Borrell, the second Conde de Caralt and a popular figure in Spanish auto racing of the era, the supercar has remained in Spain all its life. Shown at the 1954 San Remo Concours d’Elegance, it is offered by its proud owner of 35 years and presents a superb combination of preservation and period competition success.
-1959 BMW 507 Roadster Series II, chassis no. 70205, one of only 217 Series II examples, which has spent time in the collections of two New York residents and returns to the city sporting a beautifully preserved restoration, clothed in black over red leather.
-CCCA Full Classic 1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow, chassis no. 2575029. Resplendent with silver coachwork, it is recognized as the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair show car that eventually landed in the hands of prominent early enthusiasts D. Cameron Peck and Henry Austin Clark Jr. It is offered publicly for the first time in more than three decades.
- 1934 Delage D8 S Cabriolet, chassis no. 38229,featuring coachwork by Fernandez et Darrin. One of only two known examples of this body style, it is presented in lilac and bare polished aluminum.
For further information on RM Sotheby’s Driven by Disruption sale, or to view a frequently updated list of entries, please visit www.rmsothebys.com or call +1 519 352 4575. As a prelude to the auction, an exclusive six-day exhibition will open over the weekend of December 5 in Sotheby’s 10th floor galleries.