Healing Wings: Resurrection of the ‘Lisbon SL’

Healing Wings: Resurrection of the ‘Lisbon SL’

The history of this Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing is exceptional. Formerly shipped to Lisbon, and boasting a competition history, it is now being completely restored. Classic Driver has been given an exclusive preview.

A tranquil backyard in the Stuttgart commuter belt of Markgröningen houses M&W Classic’s inconspicuous premises with its hidden entrance. This low-key environment is a good thing: if the works of automotive art that are restored here were parked on display, they would create far too much attention.

Behind the unassuming workshop walls sit ageing automotive icons: 300 SL Gullwings and Roadsters from the legendary Mercedes-Benz W198 series. Car connoisseurs Miguel Morais and Mathieu Woehrle founded the company with the aim of meticulously restoring these Stuttgart sports cars back to fighting fitness.

Healing Wings: Resurrection of the ‘Lisbon SL’ Healing Wings: Resurrection of the ‘Lisbon SL’

Around 20 of these vehicles are parked in the various workshop areas of M&W Classic, with a very special example currently stripped down to its bare aluminum shell. “This 300 SL is a recent find from Portugal,” said Woehrle. “As well as being aluminium-bodied, it is an even rarer ‘NSL’ version – one of those Gullwings that received factory-approved performance enhancements.”

Mercedes referred to the NSL performance kit as consisting of “special engine parts for sporty driving.” The dated phraseology conceals classic mechanical engine-tuning with sports-tuned exhaust systems and engine parts, which made the brilliant fuel-injected three-litre six-cylinder engine even more responsive. With more than 200bhp in a 1000kg body, the SL Gullwing was the fastest production car of its time.

Healing Wings: Resurrection of the ‘Lisbon SL’
Healing Wings: Resurrection of the ‘Lisbon SL’ Healing Wings: Resurrection of the ‘Lisbon SL’

The original sales invoice from Mercedes-Benz is also intact. With serial number 198040-6500045, and specified in black paint with red leather, the car was delivered on 5 March 1956 to the North German Shipping Company in Hamburg. The buyer, a C. Santos, is mentioned as awaiting delivery of the car in Lisbon, Portugal. The speedometer had recorded a delivery mileage of just 118km and the serial number also appears on the Portuguese import documents of 7 April that year.

“Such complete documentation of a classic Gullwing is just phenomenal,” says Morais. A verifiable history clearly adds to the car’s value – and also makes it far easier to undertake a full restoration. For instance all the optional equipment on this particular model is recorded, such as: ‘Disc wheels with Rudge hubs 985-198’, or an ‘extended steering column SA 944-198’ as well as the ‘Radio-Becker Le Mans with Reims adapter SA 55 041 / 1 with Hirschmann antenna’. A sample of the original paint colour was also supplied.

Healing Wings: Resurrection of the ‘Lisbon SL’
Healing Wings: Resurrection of the ‘Lisbon SL’

“This 300 SL was used for racing in Portugal, as we know from in-period race reports and photos,” says Mathieu Woehrle. This makes the car’s history even more colourful although, for the race track, the car was painted in a different, light ivory colour. Since there is such complete documentation on the race specifications of the car, including additional air-cooling to the front brakes, M&W can apply strict standards to the accurate restoration of the engine, transmission, steering, chassis and axles – even the thickness of the body shell is known, and can be maintained.

Healing Wings: Resurrection of the ‘Lisbon SL’

“This is all of utmost importance,” the restorers agree – and Morais and Woehrle know their stuff. Though the restoration could take up to two years, eventually this Gullwing will fly again.

Related Links

Read our M&W Classic dealer portrait

Many Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwings can be found in the Classic Driver Marketplace.

Text: Mathias Paulokat
Photos: M&W Classic