Published January 10, 2013
Any Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing coupe soars as one of the hottest items in the world of collector cars, and the Gullwing that will cross the block at the upcoming Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction has an addition ace in the hole that’s hard to beat.
The 1955 Gullwing (Lot #5001) at Barrett-Jackson was originally owned and driven by one of the greatest leading men in Hollywood film history, Clark Gable, who bought the car new and used it regularly, including driving it to work on his final movie, The Misfits, which also starred Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Cliff.
Gable, who died of a heart attack in November 1960 shortly after the movie’s completion, purchased the Mercedes in 1955 from Mercedes-Benz of Hollywood, and he immediately swapped the standard steel wheels for desirable Rudge knockoffs and the stock steering wheel for a wood-rimmed Nardi.
Famously known as a car enthusiast and ladies man, Gable was often seen around Hollywood driving this evocative coupe, all the more so because his traveling companion could be one of the beautiful leading ladies of the day, such as Vivien Liegh, Ava Gardner or Marilyn Monroe.
The 300SL is part of Barrett-Jackson’s Salon Collection, a special group of high-end collector cars that represents the cream of the crop. The Salon Collection was instituted at last year’s Scottsdale auction, where it set some sales records and helped lift the overall results of the auction to impressive heights.
There was also a 300SL Gullwing in the 2012 Salon Collection, a 1954 model with a remarkably low 4,100 miles on its odometer that sold for $2.2 million, which was by far a record result for a non-alloy Gullwing.
A strong celebrity connection can lift the value of any collector car – witness the soaring values of any sort of vehicle connected with Steve McQueen – and the Gable Mercedes has ironclad documentation and a known history. The car’s original registration is signed by both William Clark Gable and his fifth wife, Kay Spreckels Gable.
“Gable’s 300SL is a stunning vehicle on its own, but it’s the pedigree that comes with it that really makes this Mercedes one-of-a-kind,” said Steve Davis, president of the Barrett-Jackson auction.
After the Gullwing was sold from Gable’s estate, it was owned for more than three decades by theme-park entrepreneur Charles Wood, who then sold it in 2003 to Mercedes dealer Bob Howard of Oklahoma City, one of the nation’s leading car collectors, who is now offering it at Barrett-Jackson. The car was extensively restored by vintage Mercedes-Benz specialists Paul Russell and Company of Essex, Mass.
The Gullwing is scheduled to cross the block on Saturday, Jan. 19, as part of the primetime Salon Collection sale.
The 42nd annual Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction takes place Jan 13-20 at WestWorld, with 39 hours of live coverage on SPEED. For more information about the January event, see Barrett-Jackson.com.
Bob Golfen, Automotive Editor for SPEED.com, is a veteran auto writer based in Phoenix, Arizona, with a passion for collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. SPEED.com fans can email Bob Golfen at email@example.com