Gull Wing Group Early Years
The Gull Wing Group International was founded in San Francisco, California on June 16, 1961 by a group of eighteen driving enthusiasts. It was just called the Gull Wing Group at that time, the International was added a decade later. These 18 owners of the 300 SL Coupe were committed to sharing technical and maintenance information and to joining together for the mutual enjoyment of these fantastic automobiles. By the fall of that year by-laws had been drafted, membership cards were designed and the dues were levied at $10 per year. There were eleven paid up members, including founder and first President Ernie Spitzer and member, George Nixon, both of whom continue active membership in the Group to this day.
The first ever official event of the newly formed Gull Wing Group was a series of three technical sessions covering the mysteries of (you guessed it) the fuel injection pump and system; these sessions were presented by a representative of the Robert Bosch Corp. Monthly social and driving events were in progress during the organizational phase of the club, and President, Ernie Spitzer, wrote and mailed the early newsletters. By year's end in 1961 the fledgling club boasted a total of thirty-eight dues paying members.
In 1962, the Gull Wing Group had been photographed for In Aller Welt and Road & Track magazines and counted over fifty members, some living in Southern California and Oregon. The Group made provision for Associate Membership for those who did not own a Gull Wing. For what it is worth, an aluminum Gull Wing was advertised for sale in March of 1963 for the outrageous sum of $5,100 or best offer.
The Group continued to grow and in 1965 a Southern California Chapter was established. The first meeting of the Southern California Chapter took place at Stanley Kaufman's home on August 11, 1965. Elections were held, and Stan became President of the new chapter, with James Mangham serving as Vice President, and Tom Burniston as Secretary. Three years later Tom Burniston became President of that chapter.
The Group continued to grow and in March, 1969 a precursor to the annual convention took place when the Southern California and Northern California Chapters met in Santa Barbara, with nineteen members present. At this meeting they planned the first annual Gull Wing Group Convention, to be held near Reno, Nevada. The first convention ran for three days in May of 1969. Current member, Chad Hunt, was then President of the Group and presided over the Convention. By that time the membership numbered nearly two hundred nationwide, and almost half of them attended the event. At this time a beautiful Gull Wing was advertised at $6,800 or best offer.
The club remained primarily a West Coast organization for several years, with President Chad Hunt noting in 1970 : "I would like to point out that since the Group began back in 1961 in the San Francisco Bay Area, the officers have all come from that area. Now all of this is not to say that it must remain this way; however, I am sure you can imagine the problems that would come about if we had a president in New York, a vice president in California and a secretary-treasurer in Illinois. This could work if we were to have a business office address that could be staffed on a permanent basis." And the Gull Wing Group established a business office and by its tenth year anniversary in 1971 the total membership had grown to 387. Also in 1970, 300 SL Roadster owners were accepted by the group.
The Group has continued to grow and develop for last forty-five years. It now boasts an international membership of over 600. There are six chapters and over 60 members from outside the United States. The club has hosted annual conventions, sometimes attracting up to 250 attendees, in locations all over the United States and Canada. Our very professional 300 StarLetter is published 10 times a year. The club has now has a web site with a public and members only side. All of the 300 StarLetters are archived on the members side of our web site with a key word search facility. Now a Forum talk group has been added for members only.
We count among our membership some of the finest people on the planet. We should remember though, that we owe so much to those who made the club a reality. To our founder Ernie Spitzer, to Chad and Barbara Hunt who held offices, ran the Business Office and published the newsletter for many years; to Bob and Jackie MacKey who also also ran the Business Office and published the newsletter for a lengthy period; to Lynn and Roberta Yakel who have contributed talent and wisdom on technical matters, and were both National Presidents, and to all those other men and women who have been officers, directors, writers and otherwise supported our club by providing so many hours of their time, all on a volunteer basis--the club extends its heartfelt thanks. We have no paid officers and cover no meeting travel expenses of the Directors or officers. Therein lies much of our strength.