The world over, there’s probably only one Mercedes-Benz 300 SL gullwing sporting a three-inch chopped roofline, bubbles in the top to clear the driver’s and passenger’s heads, and ostrich-leather interior. This week, that outlaw gullwing is in the wind after thieves stole it from right out front of the Nurburgring race track in Germany.
According to Paris-based photographer Remi Dargegen, who photographed the car for owner Thomas Rosier last year, the 1955 gullwing – serial number 5500434 – was stolen the night of August 11 from in front of the Dorint Am Nürburgring Hocheifel, a hotel located adjacent to the finishing straight of the famed track and to a police station, no less.
One of fewer than 30 steel-bodied gullwings built with the NSL version of the engine used in the alloy-bodied cars, serial number 5500434 rolled off the assembly line in June 1955, destined for Max Hoffman’s dealership in New York City. Originally painted graphite gray, it also featured a red leather interior and Rudge knock-off wheels. Over the next 40-plus years, it progressed from the East Coast to Michigan to Colorado and then to California, where its Los Angeles-based owner decided to personalize it in 1999.
First, the 8-centimeter chop, tricky enough without the doors. Because the California owner wanted to track the car, that much off the top led to the Gurney-style bubbles in the roof section of each gullwing door. The Rudge wheels remained, but the original paint gave way to black, the original bumpers gave way to slimmer chrome strips, a pair of Marchal driving lamps joined the headlamps, and a small side mirror sprouted from the left front fender.
Under the hood, the original NSL engine remains, augmented with an upgraded ignition and clutch. The California owner also lowered the car by a couple inches with a Koni sport suspension and added an aluminum fuel tank and side-exit exhaust.
As for the ostrich leather in the interior (which accompanies cognac leather on the seats and driveshaft tunnel), Rosier said the California owner operated an ostrich farm, though according to a New York Times reporter’s discussion with the owner, the leather actually came from a friend who operated an ostrich farm. Whatever the case, it adds yet another element of distinction.
Rosier, who discovered that his father had briefly owned the gullwing in the Eighties – and had, in fact, sold it to finance the business that Rosier currently runs – bought the car around the end of 2014 and repatriated it to Germany. Rather than return it to stock, he has since left it in its outlaw state.
A €250,000 reward is being offered to anybody who returns the car. Anybody with information about the car’s whereabouts should contact Rosier via Rosier Classic Sterne or at Diebstahl300sl@classic-sterne.de.