The “Cars” series by pop art pioneer Andy Warhol (1928 to 1987) is world famous. It shows a selection of vehicles from Mercedes-Benz and its predecessor brands in a striking and colorful rendering typical of the North American artist. The first of his motifs at the start of the photo series in 1986: the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL “Gullwing” (W 198).
In the Mercedes-Benz Museum, the works of art depicting the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL and the sports car will be on display nearby from June 21 to 26, 2022. The original silkscreen is from the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection. The vehicle is supplied by BRABUS GmbH, Bottrop, combined with proof that this is the sports car that served as Warhol’s “model” for the “Cars” series.
The joint submission is an absolute first. Indeed, the iconic, world-renowned artwork and the vehicle itself have never been shown together before. The exhibition in the Atrium of the Mercedes-Benz Museum is open to the public free of charge.
“Andy Warhol’s “Cars” series constitutes a final point in the creative work of this artist. They are works of timeless beauty,” says Bettina Haussmann, director of the Mercedes-Benz Museum. “Now, for the first time, we offer all art lovers the opportunity to admire his representation of the 300 SL with the ‘prototype vehicle’ supplied by BRABUS.”
The history of the 300 SL “Gullwing” with the registration number “EI-DR 1”
The 300 SL was in production from 1954 to 1957. Only 1,400 vehicles were built at the Sindelfingen plant, largely using manufacturing methods. The “Gullwing” is one of Mercedes-Benz’s most famous vehicles and was voted “Sports Car of the Century” in 1999.
The vehicle with the license plate “EI-DR 1” has been in private ownership for 39 years until BRABUS GmbH bought it in 2020 and realized that it was the exact prototype vehicle used for the series of images “Cars”. This “Gullwing” was produced in 1955 in the color combination silver gray (DB 180) with blue leather (DB 355) and Rudge wheels. Meanwhile in private hands, a photo of the 300 SL with the license plate “EI-DR 1” ends up in a sports car book. According to research by BRABUS GmbH, the photo of this vehicle served as a model for Andy Warhol for the first motif of his “Cars” series. The artist never saw the vehicle itself in the original. BRABUS has restored the vehicle to manufacturer specifications.
An expert opinion from Mercedes-Benz Classic confirms the authenticity of the 300 SL. Mercedes-Benz Classic regularly produces expert reports on high-quality classic cars from the Mercedes-Benz brand. The detailed content of these expert reports includes a description of the individual vehicle history as well as an assessment of the vehicle’s authenticity. The basis for every expert opinion is extensive research on the vehicle itself and in the extensive archives of Mercedes-Benz AG.
“Cars”: series of photos for the centenary of the automobile
In 1986, the then Daimler-Benz AG commissioned Andy Warhol to paint the “Cars” series to mark the centenary of the automobile. The goal is to show 80 images documenting the automotive history of the Daimler Motorized Carriage and the Benz Patent Motor Car from 1886 to the present using 20 selected vehicles from Mercedes-Benz and its predecessor brands. Warhol cannot complete the series: until his death, a total of 36 paintings and 13 large-scale drawings representing eight different models were executed in 1986 and 1987. 30 serigraphs as well as the drawings of the executed series are still in possession of the Mercedes-Benz art collection. They are made accessible to employees and to an international public both internally in the company and in the Museum’s exhibitions.
The Mercedes-Benz Art Collection was founded in 1977. The collection focuses on 20th century abstract avant-garde and contemporary art: examples of abstraction related to Bauhaus and classical modernism, concrete art, constructivism and Art Informel after 1945, European ZERO Art, minimalism and conceptual art, neo-geo, postminimalism and conceptual trends in international contemporary art, automobile art, international photography, video art and sculpture. The Mercedes-Benz Art Collection reflects the commitment to art as an important part of the social self-image and cultural profile of Mercedes-Benz Group AG. The company’s global presence is reflected in a greater mobility of the collection, but also in the form of an increased inclusion of international positions that follow the fundamental orientation of the collection.
“The dialogue between art and automotive history will occupy an increasingly important place in the permanent exhibition of the Mercedes-Benz Museum”, says Bettina Haussmann. “In addition to the works of art that we already exhibit at the Museum, we will make other holdings of the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection accessible to the public from October. We look forward to further strengthening this cultural component here in our company. . »
The BRABUS Classic 6-star restoration on this 300 SL Gullwing
The BRABUS Classic 6-star restoration of this vehicle was recently completed, approximately two years after its purchase and after investing more than 4,500 working hours and installing countless new parts. Naturally, the restoration was precisely to the same specifications in which the sports car was delivered as a new vehicle by Daimler-Benz.
Perfection is paramount and therefore this Gullwing has been stripped down and cataloged down to the last nut and bolt. Any new required parts have been purchased; original serviceable components have been restored to pristine condition.
The body and chassis of the vehicle were completely stripped of paint and rust. Experienced coachbuilders then meticulously restored it to its original condition. The scope of work also included flawless corrosion protection with state-of-the-art paint protection technologies and a perfect paint finish in the original color “silver gray 180 metallic”.
While work on the bodywork was in progress, the entire powertrain was completely rebuilt by BRABUS. Special “Classic” lubricants from technology partner Motul guarantee maximum reliability for everyday driving.
The specialists at BRABUS Classic have also made no compromises when it comes to chassis and brakes. They have replaced all components with new ones and thus guarantee optimum active safety.
The BRABUS upholstery workshop has reupholstered the two-seater cockpit true to the original and perfect in every detail. To this end, they have exclusively worked with leather in the original color “Blue 355” as well as fabric and carpeting in the exact same color and quality “Grey L1” as originally used on that specific vehicle.
After the work in the various departments was completed, the sports car was reassembled with maximum precision in the BRABUS Classic Manufaktur at the company headquarters in Bottrop. In the process, all mechanical wear parts as well as all seals and the entire on-board electrical system were systematically replaced.
After the restoration was completed, Classic Data, Germany’s leading organization for classic car experts, assessed this 300 SL Gullwing as it does for every newly rebuilt vintage Mercedes by BRABUS Classic. And gave this vehicle an “A with New Car Character” rating for its condition.