Rare "graduation present" Mercedes Gullwing found in a rat-infested garage

Tom Wellmer's parents bought him an 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL for his college graduation. He drove it until the transmission gave out, then he parked it in a garage in California. That was 40 years ago.

Wellmer, who now needs the assistance of a walker to get around, finally parted with the car he intended to fix all those decades ago. It's now in the hands of a Canadian gullwing-restoration expert, who says he'll make the car look exactly like it did when Wellmer took delivery — that was a stipulation of the sale. It's unknown who the SL's new owner is.

This SL, last registered in 1971, is no standard coupe. It's an all-alloy-body lightweight model. That means along with the lighter body, it came with a full spate of sporting gear: Plexiglas windows, lowered suspension, larger brakes, a high-performance camshaft and special knockoff wheels.

It gave its young owner a little over 15 good years, and then it sat in Wellmer's garage in Santa Monica — amid an increasing collection of junk and mainframe computer parts, remnants of his days as a tech executive. After 20 years of coaxing — and a massive appreciation in value, despite the car's 40-year deterioration — Wellmer finally parted with it.

(Thanks to Davis for the tip!)