Lot 3093

Auburn Fall 2018

1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster


$852,500 USD | Sold

United States | Auburn, Indiana



Chassis No.
Engine No.
Body No.
  • 240 bhp, 2,996-cc overhead-camshaft inline six-cylinder engine
  • Four-speed manual transmission
  • Two-owner example; in current ownership since the mid-1980s
  • One of only 618 examples produced for 1957
  • Accompanied by copy of factory build sheet
  • Desirable first year of the 300 SL roadster

In 1953 Max Hoffman, the U.S. distributor for Mercedes-Benz, convinced Daimler-Benz to put a customer version of the astounding and successful 300 SL race car into production. While initially offered only in gull-winged coupe form, the strong demand for an open air, top-down experience led Mercedes-Benz to develop a roadster variant of the 300 SL which was first offered in 1957.

The most obvious area that had to be changed from the coupe was the tube frame with its roof-hinged doors. By adding diagonal struts to brace the lowered side sections and strengthening many of the mainframe tubes, the engineers were able to maintain torsional rigidity in the roadster while lowering the center connections between the doors. Larger doors in a traditional shape were added to make entry and exit easier. These also permitted the use of roll-up windows.

In place of the unforgiving high-pivot swing-axle geometry of the coupe adapted from the W186 chassis of the larger 300 sedans, the roadster chassis used the low-pivot swing-axle rear suspension adapted from the later 220a sedans, with a coil spring mounted transversely above the differential linked to the axles by vertical struts to mitigate bump oversteer. The frame and suspension redesign also allowed for the installation of softer coil springs, providing the roadsters with a much softer and more comfortable ride than in the coupes without affecting the sporty handling.

Engine compression in the roadsters was increased to take advantage of 100-octane gasoline becoming available, which increased horsepower by 25 to offset the 250 lbs. of additional weight of the roadster chassis, folding top, and wind-up windows. Introduced in 1957, the 300 SL roadster was in production through 1963, during which time a total of 1,858 examples were produced.

This 1957 300 SL Roadster was completed on September 16, 1957. The car was originally finished in the unusual and very rare Strawberry Red Metallic (one of approximately 30 such examples) with a Gray interior. Built for the U.S. market, it featured English instrumentation, sealed-beam headlights, Becker Mexico radio, 3.89:1 ratio rear end gearing, and Michelin tires. The car was transported by train to Amsterdam, where it was crated and shipped to the United States by vessel.

Today, the car is presented in a beautiful and much more subtle shade of cream with a tan leather interior and black convertible top. A two-owner example from new, the car’s current ownership is traced back to the early 1980s. It is powered by a replacement 1958 engine with 8.5:1 compression, as per original. The engine is paired to a four-speed manual transmission and the car rides on Michelin tires which are mounted to color keyed steel wheels with matching Mercedes-Benz hub caps. The leather interior presents beautifully and features a dash-mounted clock, though the original Becker Mexico radio has since been removed. This excellent driving example has never been fully restored aside from being repainted and retrimmed to its current combination. The car presents very nicely throughout and would make a superb candidate for touring and vintage road rallies.

Mercedes-Benz has always produced automobiles which displayed the finest performance, craftsmanship and luxury the time period had to offer. This 300 SL roadster is no exception, one of only 618 produced in its first year of the body style. The 300 SL features a timeless design produced by an iconic marque, and remains highly sought after by collectors today.