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Nestled in the untamed wilds of Northern Michigan, or more specifically the charming mini-metropolis of Traverse City, is a world-class collection of vintage cars you’ve probably never seen or even heard of before.
Attention history buffs and antique-auto aficionados: get your gristly haunches in gear because a landmark Detroit-area automotive attraction is closing its doors.
Rudi Koniczek and the people that make Rudi & Co. are a part of a tiny niche within a niche of automotive enthusiasts. They are restorers and classic car barn finders, traveling across the world for leads and clues that will reunite them with rare vintage cars thought to be lost forever.
Their most recent adventure has brought the group to a garage door step in Santa Monica, California. The relic in question is the last remaining alloy bodied 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing needed to complete the recovery of all 29 ever produced.
When Koniczek approached this 300SL, he knew the search was over when the metal didn’t stick to a magnet he ran across the body. While the other 28 Mercedes-Benz 300SL alloy bodied coupes are all accounted for, this particular chassis (#21) has stayed hidden for approximately forty years.
The fastest car of its time, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL remains an icon and a legend today. The 29 alloy bodied 300SLs pushed the envelop even further as it was lighter and faster than the standard model. Lighter alloy body panels replaced steel and Plexiglas windows replaced glass while a high-lift cam, stronger brakes and a modified suspension set up enhanced the 300SL’s performance.
The story behind this particular 300SL Gullwing date all the back to 1955, when the parents of the current owner gave it to him as a college graduation present. A daily driver until the early 1970s, the owner left the car in the garage after its transmission failed.
The owner did make an attempt to repair the vehicle himself, as the Gullwing was found lifted on jacks with its wheels and transmission removed. However, discouraged by the complex German engineering, the car was left untouched since. After that the garage slowly accumulated with large computers and electrical components over the years, which provided Koniczek and his team a bit of a challenge when they removed the vehicle from the garage.
The last alloy bodied 300SL is now relocated to Victoria, British Columbia, where Koniczek and his team will begin restoration on the car early next year. In the past, Koniczek has restored almost a hundred 300SL sports cars during his forty years in business, including the 300SL alloy bodies serial number one through six.
GALLERY: Lost 1955 Alloy Bodied Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing
Remember how fast we thought the Lamborghini Countach, BMW M1, and Porsche 928 GTS were? Remember hanging posters on our walls, idolizing the wedge-shaped awesomeness and iconic styling of the DeTomaso Pantera or the Ferrari 308? How can we forget?
After all, every time we see a Countach out in the wild, we drop what we are doing, watch, and listen to it go by, remembering those posters. But one thing we may have forgotten is how fast they actually went? Or, more importantly, how slow they are by today’s standards. Yes, it’s been 30 years and cars have come a long way. But we still think of a Countach as a fast car, right? Not when you consider the fact that a 2011 base, V6 Mustang will outperform it in most areas.
Jalopnik was nice enough to dig up a 1981 issue of Popular Mechanics, where legendary racers Phil Hill and Stirling Moss put 16 of the wildest 1981 production cars through their paces on the track to find out who was the performance king, with somewhat surprising results. Because we’re awesome, we’ve included the results table for you, but check out the entire article via Google Books. For the record, Dragtimes reports the 2011 V6 Mustang as running a 13.7 @ 102 mph.