Evocatively named the African Alloy, an exceedingly rare 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Alloy Gullwing will be offered as “the undisputed star” of RM Sotheby’s Arizona Auction Week sale at the Arizona Biltmore Resort on January 27.
Just 24 aluminum-bodied Gullwing coupes were produced for 1955, and the lightweight models are considered to be the ultimate production versions of the iconic sports cars, as well as the most valuable by far.
This example, the 13th built, is named for its original new-car delivery to Mercedes-Benz agent Joseph Weckerlé of Casablanca, Morocco. The Leichtmetallausführung, or Light Metal Version, retains its factory alloy body in Silver Gray Metallic and matching-numbers 3.0-liter OHC inline-6 engine in high-performance NSL configuration.
“The Alloy Gullwing boasts a special, competition-bred configuration, which differs in many ways from the standard steel-bodied production car,” RM Sotheby’s says in a news release announcing the consignment. “These incredibly rare and historically significant alloy coupes were purpose-built for competition and the changes resulted in an overall weight reduction of 209 pounds, thus making the Alloy Gullwing especially competitive against the best of the competition.”
Chassis number 5500332 was specially ordered by Weckerlé as a road-going example.
“It was fitted with all the requisite lightweight equipment and finished in Silver Gray Metallic (DB 180) over a blue vinyl/blue gabardine fabric interior (L1),” the announcement says. “Additional factory specifications include a full complement of desirable features such as the high-speed 3.42 rear axle with uprated metric 270-kph speedometer, Becker radio, and standard glass windows (as opposed to Plexiglas).
“It was the only alloy example commissioned by Weckerlé, and as such, the sole specimen delivered new to Africa.”
The African Alloy was brought to the US in 1975 by Jack F. Bryan Jr. of Dallas, who submitted the car to “the world’s foremost 300 SL restoration facility, Paul Russell and Company in Essex, Massachusetts (then operating under the name Gullwing Service Company in nearby Topsfield) for a complete restoration.”
This Alloy Gullwing is unusual in having its aluminum body remain intact and original as it came from the factory, RM Sotheby’s says.
“Notably, damage to Alloy Gullwings is remarkably common as the aluminum is notoriously thin, and most examples were raced extensively in-period,” the news release notes. “Further, the bodies are known to deteriorate at the mounting points where the aluminum meets steel.
“As a result, almost all lightweight examples have been reskinned or repaired at some point, though notes from this car’s 1975 restoration illustrate only minor aluminum stress repairs inside the engine bay.”
The Gullwing was later acquired by Hyatt Cheek, then director-at-large on the Mercedes-Benz Club of America’s National Board and soon elected national president of the MBCA (1984-1986).
“He regularly drove it to MBCA and Gullwing Group events all over the country and completed several iterations of the famous Colorado Grand and Texas 1000 road rallies, in addition to those driving tours organized by the MBCA and Gullwing Group,” the release says. “After three decades of storied ownership by one of America’s foremost marque enthusiasts, this Alloy Gullwing was acquired by the consignor in 2014.
“Unquestionably one of the most sought-after and rarely seen Mercedes-Benzes in the world, this exceptional automobile is estimated at $7,000,000 – $9,000,000.”
For more information about RM Sotheby’s Arizona sale, visit the auction website.