Lot 3190

Gene Ponder Collection

1960 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster


$1,595,000 USD | Sold

United States | Marshall, Texas



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  • Finished in the striking color combination of Dark Red (542) over Cognac leather with matching soft and hard tops
  • Retains its numbers-matching engine, gearbox, steering box, front spindles, rear axle, and original hardtop
  • Delivered new to Ethiopia
  • Wears a previous restoration c. 1995 by Paul Russell and Company; maintained by them between 1988 and 2009
  • Fitted with Rudge wheels, factory-type lap belts, Europa Mexico radio, Talbot mirror, and matching luggage
  • Toured regularly by Gene Ponder and previous owners; over $14,000 of maintenance since 2019

At the 1957 Geneva Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz introduced a convertible version of the celebrated 300 SL coupe “Gullwing,” the 300 SL Roadster. In an early suggestion of the increasing focus the manufacturer would place on luxury cars over the ensuing decades, the new Roadster was, above all, a more refined car than its winged predecessor.

There was no denying the 300 SL’s mechanical performance, which had decidedly improved in the Roadster, with the updated six-cylinder engine receiving the competition camshaft used in the NSL racing coupes, good for a boost of 20 horsepower. Handling also benefited from a revised rear suspension with a lower axle pivot-point, minimizing the tendency for oversteer. Despite the added weight of chassis reinforcement required by an open model, the Roadster was every bit the performance car that the Gullwing had proven itself to be.

The Roadster’s overwhelmingly luxurious character, however, generally obscured its performance capabilities. With a convertible top, the model was never subject to the sometimes uncomfortably hot cabin that bedeviled the coupe, and the Roadster’s redesigned tube frame afforded lower door sills, facilitating far easier access than the Gullwing’s challenging ingress and egress. The new 300 SL was an improvement on the Gullwing in nearly every capacity, at least from a road-going perspective, and it has since evolved into one of Stuttgart’s most collectible models—a darling of both concours fields and vintage rallies.

300 SL 002546

This 1960 300 SL Roadster was completed on 25 March 1960 and delivered shortly thereafter to the Orbis Trading Company, Mercedes-Benz’s licensed distributor in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A copy of its factory data card shows that it was originally clad in White (50) over red leather (1079) and rather generously equipped with as a United States-specification order with Dunlop tires, Becker Mexico radio, 3.89 ratio axle, instrumentation in miles, sealed beam headlamps, and white cloth top with a matching hardtop in crate.

Any competition history or provenance from its years in Ethiopia are unknown, and it is believed that the car made its way to the US sometime early in its life. Importantly, comparison to the car’s current equipment and those listed on the data card confirm that it still retains its numbers-matching engine, gearbox, steering box, front spindles, rear axle, and original hardtop.

By 1988, this esteemed 300 SL Roadster had been acquired by the noted vintage racer Roy Walzer of Litchfield, Connecticut. Upon receipt he immediately consigned his new purchase to the trusted workshop of Paul Russell and Company in Essex, Massachusetts for a complete restoration.

However, shortly into its stay at Paul Russell’s shop, Walzer struck a deal with longtime Paul Russell client Ervin “Bud” Lyon of Lexington, Massachusetts. It seems likely that Mr. Lyon first saw the shapely but disassembled Roadster in Russell’s shop as he was reviewing the team’s restoration progress on one of his own cars. At any rate, it was finished to Lyon’s own specifications by early 1995 clad in the striking Dark Red (542) over Cognac leather color combination which it still wears today. Though not a factory-correct color for the model, this shade still undoubtedly presents an exceptionally fine and distinguished alternative to the oh-so-common standard black (040) finish—especially when paired with its color-matched hardtop and Rudge wheels.

After several years of involvement with the Gullwing Group, Lyon sold this Roadster to special-interest dealer and consummate 300 SL collector Bill Kling of Malibu, California. Kling retained the car within his personal collection for some time before passing it along to another California-based collector.

Across his many decades of collecting, Gene Ponder has always been fascinated by the 300 SL. His collection has almost constantly contained an example of the esteemed model—even sometimes a Roadster and Gullwing Coupe at the same time.

August 2018 proved another one of these fortuitous times for the collection as Mr. Ponder acquired this striking Roadster example as a stablemate for one of the many Gullwing Coupes he has held over the years. During Mr. Ponder’s enthusiastic ownership of this Roadster he has taken it on several regional and national Gullwing Group events, as well as the Copperstate 1000. Speaking to the Gullwing Group newsletter in late 2020, Mr. Ponder stated “I love both cars, but the Roadster is a lot cooler in Texas. You can’t beat the Germans for engineering. I did the 300 SL Rally last year in this car without one flaw.”

Invoices on file show that his maintenance schedule has kept pace with his touring concerns, and over $14,000 of mechanical servicing has kept the car in an impressive, rally-prepared state. Noted expenditures have included significant attention paid to the car’s suspension, brakes, and fuel system. While this Roadster’s underpinnings were treated to a complete brake system refresh with new master cylinder, lines, wheel cylinders, and drum assembly rebuilds, the numbers-matching powerplant received new belts, ignition coils, wires, spark plugs, an injection pump diaphragm with new fuel hoses, filters, and gaskets throughout (the electric fuel pump was also rebuilt).

Accompanied by matching Cognac luggage, maintenance manuals, spare wheel and a tool roll, this Roadster should encounter a warm welcome at club gatherings and regional concours d’elegance, and it is sure to strike the fancy of any Mercedes-Benz enthusiast or 300 SL specialist. It is a desirable example that amply demonstrates the high quotient of craftsmanship and performance for which the 300 SL model is renowned, equally comfortable on the autobahn or show field.