Mercedes-Benz 124-based Boschert B300 Gullwing has all the hallmarks of a legendary 1980s tuner star
The modified Mercedes that graced Tino Zovko’s bedroom wall as a child is now under his ownership – we find out more about the one-off B300 Gullwing by Boschert and how this show car ended up with its latest custodian.
WORDS & IMAGES ROBB PRITCHARD
Dream come true
The 124-based Boschert B300 Gullwing has all the hallmarks of a legendary 1980s tuner star
“Knowing it was an opportunity of a lifetime, Tino drove across Germany to meet the seller”
As children, many of us had a poster of our dream car on our bedroom wall. Although at one time it might have been a life ambition, few of us manage to own the car on that poster. However, Tino Zovko owns not just the type of car but the actual one that hung above his bed. This feat is even more impressive as the car in question was the only one of its kind – the mythical Boschert B300 Gullwing.
Rear end shortened by a bold 250mm
Tino’s story begins at a magazine stand when he was nine years old. On the cover of the September 1989 issue of Auto Motor und Sport was a car that looked like nothing he’d seen before. Like a Delorean of a few years earlier, the doors opened in a futuristic style (notwithstanding the fact that the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing W198 predated it by some 30 years) and Tino was instantly besotted. But the magazine cost DM5, much more than the 1.50 his father usually paid for Auto Bild, so Tino had to earn an A on a maths test to be able to get it. He poured over how Hartmut Boschert was going to make 200 of these amazing looking cars, which came with twin turbos and uprated suspension, and Tino wondered how soon it would be until he saw one himself.
A decade later, Tino had not forgotten the B300, even though he’d never seen or heard of one since. With the advent of the internet, one of his earliest searches was for the unusual car but, surprisingly – and a little disappointingly – he discovered only 10 coupes had been made but none had the special gullwing doors that had enthralled him as a child.
Another few years passed and in 2005 another internet search brought up an advert for his dream car on eBay. The auction for the car had already ended, but while cursing his luck Tino realised the reserve price hadn’t been met, so the B300 was unsold. Better still, the car was the dream gullwing-doored version.
Knowing it was an opportunity of a lifetime, Tino drove across Germany to meet the seller, but as a broke student he barely had enough money to pay for the fuel to get home in his W124 400E. Upon meeting the seller, Tino learned that only one B300 Gullwing had been made and this was it. As Tino still had the poster from his youth, he could easily recall the silver paintwork and black interior, however the car before him was finished in Bornite metallic and its upholstery was in a colour that people in the 1980s considered futuristic – a kind of two-tone purple often attributed to spaceships in films of the time. Thankfully, the car’s provenance was confirmed when Tino lifted the bonnet and saw a silver engine bay.
“As you might expect, the B300 receives lots of attention wherever Tino drives it”
Of course, Tino wanted to buy it. The issue was that he only had 20 euros to his name and he needed that money to return home. It turned out the seller was the nephew of Mr Bertrandt, who’d bankrolled the project years before. As the car wouldn’t start, had a few dings from being in storage for so many years, and as one of the special doors wouldn’t open, Tino managed to strike a bargain. The seller kindly made a contract granting him three months to find the money.
To help fund his studies, Tino broke accident damaged Mercedes. With B300 ownership on the line, he sold everything he had, including his 400E. He also secured a bank loan, and borrowed some money from the guy who would become his brother-in-law. With a little more help from his father, Tino finally had enough funds to purchase the exact car that had stolen his heart 15 years ago.
The short game
To a discerning Mercedes-Benz enthusiast, the B300 has proportions strange enough to raise eyebrows. The base car is a 1988 C124 300CE, but with the front of an R129 SL grafted on; the bonnet and wings are reshaped to accommodate the C124 bulkhead. What makes this 124 look even more different from factory is the expertly executed 250mm reduction in roof length (the C-pillars were moved forwards) and rear overhang (note the reduction in boot depth), carried out by Zagato, the Italian styling house. Nose to tail, the B300 is half a metre shorter than a 124 Coupe.
A late 80s curio ready to recapturehearts and minds.
Unlike the 300SL Gullwing’s doors, the B300’s are purely for aesthetic purposes and meant sill reinforcement work was required. The doors open with an electronically operated hydraulic pump, and the same unit also raises and lowers the suspension several millimetres.
“Knowing it was an opportunity of a lifetime, Tino drove across Germany to meet the seller”
Under the bonnet, there are other impressive modifications. The three-litre six-cylinder (M103) features a pair of Garrett turbos. An output of 283bhp is not eye-widening by today’s standards, but it dwarfs the straight-six’s factory rating of 178bhp. The 10 non-gullwing-doored cars had the more powerful 24-valve straight-six with 316bhp/312lb ft torque, and their top speed was up to a reported 170mph, with 0-62mph completed in as little as 6.8 seconds. For mid-sized 1980s coupes, that was seriously impressive!
Unsurprisingly, given the input from Zagato, the B300’s asking price was astronomical. Think DM165,000 (around £60,000) in 1990, or about the same price as a 126-series 560SEL in the UK market. To reduce the sticker price, regular doors featured on the next 10 cars from Boschert. However, despite appearances at big motor shows such as Frankfurt, Geneva and Paris, the B300 concept failed to flourish and production ended there and then.
Getting to work
Once Tino had the B300 Gullwing prototype back home, he took it to a friend to get the door open and the engine running. Without a penny in his pocket, he paid for the work by handing over a W124 500E engine and a W124 400E bodyshell. Beginning a new career as an engineer meant Tino had less time to enjoy the B300 than he would have liked, but he did take it to a MB-ExotenForum meeting, where he won first place for the most exotic Mercedes- Benz conversion.
Button for raising/lowering the suspension
Like any youngtimer, as cars of this age are known in Germany, the B300 has needed a bit of maintenance over the years, such as a new fuel tank, fuel hoses, starter motor, clutch slave cylinder and a fuel pump relay. However, apart from these service items, everything else on the car is the same as the day he bought it. As you might expect, the B300 Gullwing receives lots of attention wherever Tino drives it. As soon as people see the passenger door open by itself, they want to learn more about the model. We’re sure the car had the same effect over 30 years ago. In fact, Tino has the B300 to thank for new friendships with people whose curiosity got the better of them.
One of these is with designer Hartmut Boschert. Tino wanted to find out as much about the car as he could, so went to visit Boschert at his home and straight away was impressed by him. A designer and engineer to the core, many of his technical drawings hang on the walls, and everything from the metal shutters in the kitchen to all the tables were created by the man himself. Hartmut was so touched that Tino loved his car so much, he put together all the plans and drawings of the B300, including homologation papers, and presented the package as a gift.
Tino has now owned his dream car for almost 20 years and, despite what it might be worth, has no intention to sell it.
Early encounterwith the B300
I first saw the Boschert B300 at the 1989 Frankfurt motor show, where I met Hartmut Boschert, the engineer behind this radical interpretation of the Mercedes 300CE, writes Ian Kuah. What was most impressive was the speed with which his team had moved, as the six-cylinder CE had only been launched the year before, while the brand new R129 SL, whose nose the B300 was wearing, had only been released at the Geneva show a mere six months earlier.
Garret turbos increase output to a useful 283bhp.
Also showcased on the silver prototype were the electro-hydraulically operated gullwing doors that echoed the legendary W198 300SL. While these doors created an even bigger wow factor than the C-pillars being moved forward and the tail shortened by the same amount, some details had not been resolved. One of these was the two-piece side window arrangement.
300km/h speedo with Boschert logo
However, by the time this same prototype had been resprayed in Bornite metallic for the 1990 Automechanika Show, each side window was a single piece of glass, further reinforcing the media and public perception that this was a different car.
As the C124’s wheelbase was unchanged the interior room did not suffer. Meanwhile, the shorter rear overhang reduced the polar moment of inertia, which benefited handling. This was no bad thing considering the increased grunt from the Mosselman Turbo Systems twin-turbo conversion. Willy Mosselman recalls that his upgrade for both the 12- and 24-valve versions of the robust straight-six was bolt-on and retains the factory compression ratio so throttle response is close to standard.
“The base car is a 1988 300CE, but with the front of an R129 SL grafted on”
There’s room for four people – at a push..
The installation features a pair of Garrett T25 turbos with water-cooled bearing housings and integral wastegates built to Mosselman specification by Garrett in France. With a very modest 0.5bar of boost, the conversion does not put much strain on the uprated engine, which also becomes quieter and more refined.
Returning the B300 to the road wasn’t easy. The tuner charged a princely sum for the B300.