The Mercedes 300SL Gullwing has today spawned a subculture of fanatics in the California-based Gull Wing Group, an organization dedicated to preserving these rare machines. With only 1,400 made worldwide and only 1,100 sold in the U.S., it's quite the select group. They have an annual road rally, where they drive the cars around in a parade that must give insurers heart attacks, and presumably trade tips on where you can order custom-fitted luggage made for their rides.
Owners of that new SLS AMG Gullwing—which I consider an abomination compared to the original—can join the group, but never as full members, and they're not allowed into the road rally. Hear hear for tradition.
In 2009 auto enthusiast Jay Leno, one of America's more well-known classic car fanatics and perhaps the luckiest, somehow managed to find a 1955 300SL Gullwing languishing in a storage container. It had been sitting in there since 1980!
I really respect that he decided not to restore the exterior, so that he can actually drive the car around and not have to worry about it getting dinged up. (The following point is somewhat moot since your indigent correspondent will never own a $590,000 car, but if I had one, I'd leave the exterior as-is and drive the ish out of it.)
Yes, the car is well out of reach for most of us mere mortals. Even this company, which announced in 2009 that they would be producing replicas of the 300SL Gullwing, were planning to sell them for about $280,000.
Caveat Emptor: You don't want to buy a replica, or at the very least, you don't want to try to smuggle one into Germany. That's a serious no-no, as Daimler AG has copyrighted the 300SL Gullwing as "a work of applied art." And they take it seriously--earlier this year, someone tried to get the Gullwing replica you see below through German customs.
German officials confiscated it, and as AutoGuide reported, justice was served: "The destruction process involved two presses that apply over 30 tons of pressure each, and once the fiberglass body was tossed in, it was 'smashed into small pieces.'"
Yep, you'd better save your pennies like the guy in the first video.
The Origin of the Mercedes 300SL Gullwing
» Intro: Why a Car Collector with a One-Car Collection Is the Richest of Them All
» Part 1: The Type 300
» Part 2: The W194
» Part 3: Mercedes Gets Convinced and Heads to New York
» The Mercedes 300SL Gullwing Today