Rare Mercedes Gullwing restored for hit US TV series
Dream Car Garage team on location in Münster, Ludwigshafen and Southfield
The Gullwing will be completely restored and finished with Glasurit brand paints from BASF Coatings. To maintain the Gullwing s original appearance during restoration, the car will be finished in an original 1957 Mercedes color, using the waterborne Glasurit 90 Line.
"The Glasurit 90 Line waterborne basecoat system is undoubtedly the best waterborne system on the market today," said Peter Klutt, host of Dream Car Garage. "The fact that it is used in the original production of ultra-luxury cars such as the Maybach, the Rolls Royce, and the Bentley testifies to the quality of the system and the confidence that these manufacturers have in Glasurit paint."
When it came to refinishing the Mercedes Gullwing, there was no question that Glasurit paints were the products of choice. Besides offering the highest quality automotive refinish paint, Glasurit also offers the world s largest color database and an unparalleled color-matching system. BASF Coatings extensive color archive allowed the match of the original 1957 Gullwing color.
Mercedes Benz and Glasurit share a rich and somewhat similar history. In 1886, as Mercedes Benz was inventing the automobile in Stuttgart, Germany, Hamburg merchant Max Winkelmann was about to open a business for paints and lacquers that by 1898 were ultimately marketed under the Glasurit name. Winkelmann chose the city of Münster as the main site for his business with paints and lacquers. This marked the beginning of the Glasurit success story as it evolved into one of the world's most successful automotive refinishing brands.
The official name of the special Mercedes is the 300 SL, whereby the "300" refers to the three-liter engine and the "SL" stands for "Sport Leicht" or "Sport Light." The "Gullwing" nickname is derived from the car s most distinctive feature, its gullwing doors, which when open evoke the impression of a bird s outstretched wings.
The gullwing doors are not a mere styling gimmick, but are rather an ingenious solution to the challenge posed by the 300 SL s spaceframe chassis. The tubular frame was composed of 25 x 1 mm steel tubes welded to form triangles to create a light (82 kilogram) frame that provided maximum strength and stability.
The spaceframe design meant that the tube chassis had to surround the car, resulting in high sills that ruled out the use of normal doors. Mercedes' chief development engineer, Rudolf Uhlenhaut, came up with a stopgap solution for the original 300 SL race car: an upwardly hinged door that allowed the driver to enter through part of the roof. The production of the Mercedes 300 SL was based on the very successful 1952 W 194 race car. The revolutionary Gullwing coupé won at the Grand Prix in Bern, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, at the Nürburgring racetrack and the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico.
Mercedes had no plans to put its race car into production. However, the carmaker was swayed by Max Hoffmann, Daimler-Benz's official importer in the United States, who convinced the executives in Stuttgart that a street version of the 300 SL would be a hit with his well-to-do clientele.
Production of the Gullwing was launched, and it made its debut at the 1954 New York Auto Show. Hoffmann was right. Between 1954 and 1957, Mercedes produced 1,400 Gullwings, 80 percent of them going to customers in the United States.
The Gullwing was to change Mercedes image in America forever. The 300 SL helped transform Mercedes from a manufacturer of conservative sedans to a producer of technologically sophisticated sports cars.
BASF s 1957 300 SL is one of only 76 of the vehicles built in the Gullwing s last year of production. The 300 SL Gullwing represents a technological and styling triumph that captured the hearts of American car enthusiasts and signaled the rebirth of Mercedes in the post-war world.
This particular Gullwing was originally shipped to Texas on May 13, 1957, and in the ensuing years saw a number of owners and color changes. For the past decade, the Gullwing had led a quiet life, cloistered in the lobby of BASF Coatings Southfield, Michigan, headquarters - until it was discovered by the makers of Dream Car Garage.
Jürgen Book - a popular interviewee
To capture the history and spirit of this project in its entirety, the Dream Car Garage crew traveled to Germany, where they visited BASF s headquarters in Ludwigshafen, filmed at the home of Glasurit paint in Münster and stopped at the home of Mercedes Benz in Stuttgart. Jürgen Book, head of Automotive Refinish Customer Service at BASF Coatings, was interviewed by the Dream Car Garage crew. Based in Münster, Book is an official classic car expert and in his free time is a passionate collector and restorer of vintage vehicles. He fielded all kinds of questions from the TV crew, impressing them with his wealth of knowledge. In the meantime, the first show of the new season has appeared, attracting a large audience. That s a clear signal that over the coming months, viewers in the United States will be tuning into the Gullwing restoration on a regular basis.
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