roadster engine was in the Gullwing. Parts for both cars were discovered in other old cars on the owner’s properties — with Garry being fortunate enough to uncover an injection pump and inlet manifold in the boot of one of these old cars. A camshaft and injectors were lying rusting away on the mud floor of the shed alongside the roadster and, when turned over, water drained from the missing cover bolts in a gearbox that had been lying open to the weather. For an avid Mercedes-benz enthusiast, the entire scene was akin to something out of his worst nightmares.
However, with the rarity of the alloy-bodied coupé not open to question, Garry forged ahead with the purchase, and, once he’d viewed all the relevant paperwork and documentation pertaining to each vehicle, bills of sale were duly signed and the cheque exchanged.
Unfortunately for Garry, however, the owner’s next request was terse: the cars had to be gone from his property by Sunday, giving Garry just three days to make all the necessary arrangements. After a few phone calls to round up a few friends, including good friend Ken Williams (who turned up with his six-wheel 5.5-litre V8 G-wagen race-car transporter, this proving invaluable for negotiating the wet and muddy conditions at the cars’ locations). By 3pm on the Saturday, they had rescued the cars and as many of the parts as they could find. At that point, Garry realized just how much had gone missing over the 25 years that these cars had spent being moved from one bad situation to another.
By late Saturday evening, the roadster was safely with Garry’s restorer, Lloyd Marx in Hamilton, to be used as a reference for the final assembly of Garry’s 1957 roadster, while the Gullwing was at last in safe and dry storage within his own garage in Auckland.
Over the following months, as Garry and Lloyd worked to complete the 1957 roadster, a comprehensive schedule for the restoration of the two new acquisitions was compiled. Garry also decided to visit Classica Technico in Essen, Germany, to look at other 300SLS and talk with parts suppliers. As well, he took the opportunity to visit the Mercedes-benz archives in Stuttgart. There, once his credentials had been accepted, he was able to obtain a copy of the build sheet for the Gullwing. This contained all the factory information pertaining to the car and confirmed that it had originally been delivered, ex-works, to the MercedesBenz dealer in London on 29 January 1956.
Once the ’57 roadster was complete, Lloyd commenced work on Garry’s new acquisitions, starting with the Gullwing.
With the car completely stripped down, the first step in the long road to restoration was to place the car’s unique space frame on a chassis robot. As expected, the frame was found to be twisted, probably as the result of an accident that had occurred in 1972. The chassis was pulled back to factory specifications, with only two small pieces of the chrome-moly steel needing to be replaced. The space frame was then bead-blasted and powder-coated in semi-matte black. Verification of the chassis rebuild was by laserbeam wheel-alignment machine, which confirmed the front and rear wheel tracking to be at 0.02.
The next stage of the restoration process was to tackle the huge task of repairing the car’s aluminium body. As well as suffering from past accident damage, the alloy was also showing signs of metal fatigue cracking and electrolytic corrosion.
Approximately 25 per cent of the metal in the body was refabricated and welded into place, including a full set of belly pans. Great care was taken to retain as much of the original metal as possible. In the parts of the body where stress fatigue had taken place, a double thickness of material was panel-bonded internally to give added strength and rigidity — especially in the roof centre, where the hinges for the car’s iconic gull-wing doors are mounted. Particular attention was also given to boot, bonnet, and door gapping. Garry points out that these gaps are now absolutely perfect, and he reckons that the sign of a good 300SL restoration is the five-millimetre paint line on the A-pillar between the windscreen rubber and the door gap — which has been achieved with this car.
Meanwhile, the 2996cc in-line six-cylinder engine was rebuilt to its original factory ‘NSL’ high-performance specification — the motor still retains the original engine number as per the factory build sheet. The NSL power plant was a factory special-order competition engine that was standard on the 29 alloy-bodied Gullwings built and fitted (on rare occasions) to steel-bodied cars as well.
The ‘Sonderteile’ (special-parts) engine consisted of a racing camshaft, adding about 11kw (15bhp), paired with a different governor for the injection pump, and an appropriately calibrated distributor. Only four per cent of total Gullwing production was supplied with these special motors.
The 8.55:1 compression ratio remained unchanged, but the alloy cars did receive different springs and shock absorbers.
The block was rebored and fitted with Mahle pistons and a replacement standard-size crankshaft was also fitted. The head was also a replaced — Garry still has the original — while the fuel pump and injectors were rebuilt and calibrated by Pacific Fuel Injection in San Francisco. Final dynamometer testing showed the engine capable of producing its originally rated power and torque.
The gearbox, which is numbers correct, was disassembled and all the internal gears were replaced along with new bearings and seals. The differential was also completely rebuilt with new bearings and seals.
The wiring loom is new and is a complete replacement, while all dash instruments are original and were rebuilt as necessary. The clock is the original mechanical one, which runs via an automatic electric rewind every 15 minutes. The faces of all the instruments were cleaned and now look fantastic with their period patina.
According to the car’s factory build sheet, the trim was ‘cream L2’, and Garry endeavoured to stay as close to this as possible. ‘L2’ called for ‘Tex Leder’ — a vinyl used before MB Tex but no longer available. Instead, Garry chose to use leather, as it was a period option.