Sunday, January 08, 2017

Mercedes 300SL Gullwing Exhumed From Aircraft Hangar After 40 Years: Family of merchant marine engineer discovers incredible time-capsule Benz

You’ve heard of barn finds; how about a hangar find?

Our story beings in 1955, when Sid Nygren, a former U.S. Merchant Marine engineer, purchased the Mercedes-Benz 300SL from Max Hoffman’s dealership on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. Mr. Nygren personified Gullwing cliente: a well-heeled, self-made aviation enthusiast with a penchant for race- and aero-inspired engineering. His car was delivered the following February, and put into use as a daily driver. Sometime during 1976, Mr. Nygren retired the steel-body SL to his Oregon airplane hangar. Neighbors say that, until the early 2000s, he’d periodically start the car and trundle around the airfield for 20 minutes. But he never took it out on the road again.

Flash forward to 2016. Three years after Mr. Nygren’s death, his stepson, Wally Rogers, slid open the hangar doors. There, he discovered a small collection of light aircraft, tool, and parts. Mixed in with those spares, the 300SL sat sealed under protective covering. The last record of service, from 1974, showed an oil change at 30,773 miles. The odometer now read 31,239. In more than four decades, the car had logged less than 500 miles, none of them on public streets. Talk about a time capsule. 

Rogers found his stepfather added some neat aviation accessories, too. This 300SL has a unique rearview mirror, toggle-activated fog lighting, dashboard altimeter and thermometer, plus an aircraft chronometer and small plane windscreen defroster. It’s also got an eight-track player and upgraded stereo speakers, retrofitted from the flagship 300d Adenauer sedan.

Between its original Feuerwehr Rot paint, fantastic tartan interior, optional aerodynamic belly pans, reams of paperwork, cool backstory and natural patina, Gooding & Co. expects this Gullwing to bring top dollar at auction. Look for it to bring as much as $1.1M at the Scottsdale sale later this month.

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