Amelia Island | Lot 148
1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster
A Gentleman's Collection: The Pride & Passion of Orin Smith
$957,000 USD | Sold
| Amelia Island, Florida
10 March 2017
- High-quality restoration to concours standard in elegant, subtle colors
- Very desirable upgraded alloy engine block
- “Euro” headlamps, Rudge wheels, fitted luggage, and factory hardtop
- An excellent 300 SL roadster to show, drive, and enjoy
225 bhp (DIN), 240 bhp (SAE), 2,996 cc SOHC inline six-cylinder engine with Bosch mechanical fuel injection, four-speed manual transmission, coil-spring independent front suspension and coil-spring single point swing axle rear suspension, and servo-assisted drum brakes. Wheelbase: 94.5 in.
THE 300 SL ROADSTER
At the 1957 Geneva Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz introduced a new version of the celebrated 300 SL wearing open coachwork: 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 gull-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 Gullwings, good for a lift of 20 horsepower. Handling also benefited from a revised rear suspension with a lower axle pivot-point, minimizing the Gullwing’s 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 reclining soft top and elegant concealing cover, the model was never subject to the uncomfortably hot cabin issues that beguiled the Gullwing, and the roadster’s redesigned tube frame afforded lower door sills, facilitating far easier access than the Gullwing’s challenging ingress and egress.
Upholstered in leather and usually equipped with a Becker radio and climate control, the roadster was also offered with sporty Rudge knock-off wheels, fitted trunk luggage, and an ivory or black steering wheel. 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.
CHASSIS NUMBER 198.042.8500286
The 1958 300 SL roadster offered here is documented by its original Daimler-Benz data card, a copy of which is on file, as having been destined for a Mr. Johnson of New York, equipped with the 3.89:1 rear axle ratio and a side-view mirror, and built to the usual American specifications. Later part of Steven Wolf’s well-known Florida collection, it was restored several years ago, in what was obviously a superb and exacting effort, in Metallic Silver-Blue with tan leather upholstery, a new dark blue soft top, and all interior components properly restored in the correct materials and finishes.
Interestingly, the car is fitted with a later alloy engine block, a desirable upgrade correct to the final production 300 SL roadsters, as it results in a considerably lighter front end and appropriately more well-balanced handling. The engine block in the car bears its correct original tag but is unstamped, and may well have been a factory-authorized replacement in period.
The car is also equipped with the stylish racing-influenced Rudge knock-off wheels. Something of an icon of 1950s Mercedes performance, these wheels proved popular on the Gullwing, especially those examples that saw track use, but relatively few roadsters were fitted with them—making the set on this car rare indeed. The car is also equipped, as per its factory data card, with a full set of fitted luggage, ideal for touring in a Grand Tourer, especially one with, as on the 300 SL Roadster, an unusually shaped trunk compartment. The crowning touch is a removable hardtop in medium blue, which contrasts nicely with the lighter body panels. The roadster’s factory removable hardtop was designed “into” the car, so that unlike many removable tops, which appear awkward and out of place when installed, it appears right at home and produces a beautiful, snug closed coupe. In fact, it almost recalls the Gullwing.
As an original U.S.-delivery car with bumper guards, in addition to its “triple crown” of options, this car is equipped with a later upgrade to European-style single-lens headlamps. Many feel that this improves the overall appearance of a roadster, and here, the lenses are fresh and beautiful. The 300 SL rides on sports racing tires with a period-correct appearance and shows 21,650 miles, and it is accompanied by original radio manuals; an original English owner’s manual, service booklet, catalogue, and service directory; and a German language service directory.
Today, the 300 SL Roadster still carries with it an indelible aura of speed, power, and sophisticated style. Fast enough for the sports car lover, and comfortable enough for those who demand some luxury, it has remained one of the most admired automobiles in the world for nearly 60 years. The car offered here, with its unusually high assortment of desirable options and accessories, which, combined with a beautiful restoration in an outstanding choice of colors, makes it one of the most attractive examples still on the road.