Maxim

FLIGHT OF THE GULLWING

The first time I fire up the 300 SL my stomach is in knots. I’m in a parade of 400-plus cars charging their way out of the Italian city of Brescia, but this is no ordinary procession. This is the famed 1000 Miglia (“Mille Miglia”), arguably the most legendary rally the world over, meaning each of these antique vehicles is a collectable widget of obscene value. There are Bugatti Type 35s, Ferrari 750 Monzas and Blower Bentleys in our midst. The entire scene feels strangely apocalyptic—a high-tension dip and duck through teeming public roads with police motorcycles zipping by, sirens blaring their binary wail, stopping traffic at every intersection so this parade can snoot by in a display of surreal entitlement.

Maybe it’s my nerves, maybe it’s the $2 million street value of this 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL “Gullwing” (spec’d as a ’55) I’m piloting white-knuckled, or maybe it’s the flashing lights, alarms and high-revving Ducatis ripping by from every direction, but the whole scene has a distinct Children Of Men anxiety to it. It is, in a word, chaos.

The first time you slip behind the wheel of a priceless unicorn, all you can think about is pressing the throttle at the right time, not burning the

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