$1,380,000 USD | Sold
| Amelia Island, Florida
- From the collection of racing education luminary and former Formula One driver, Skip Barber
- Ordered new by H.M. King Hussein bin Talal of Jordan
- A superb and fully sorted example of the famous super-leicht convertible
- Restored by Rudi Koniczek in 2005; benefits from over $50,000 of continued care from marque specialists during Barber’s ownership
- Desirably equipped with European-market headlights, color-matched hubs, Becker Mexico radio, and Baisch-style seat belts
At the 1957 Geneva Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz unveiled a convertible version of their celebrated, world-beating 300 SL “Gullwing” Coupe. Foreshadowing the increasing focus which the three-pointed star would place on luxury cars over the ensuing decades, the new 300 SL Roadster was, above all, a more refined car than its winged predecessor. Abounding in aesthetic beauty, powerful competition-bred specifications, and superior build quality, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster is one of those rare paragons of automotive excellence that attest to the brilliant engineering of post-war Germany.
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 preceding NSL racing coupes, good for a boost of 25 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 and conventional side windows, 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. Furthermore, a smaller gas tank and longer rear overhang facilitated enlargement of the trunk space, an ideal dividend for owners interested in extended touring.
The new 300 SL Roadster 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. Better yet, both the closed and open-air variants of the super-leicht enjoy the same robust, close-knit community of active owners across the world.
FIT FOR A KING
Among the last batch of those 324 examples produced for the 1958 model year, this stunning 300 SL Roadster was ordered in early September 1958 by His Majesty King Hussein bin Talal of Jordan. Then just six years into his long reign, the 22-year-old King was known as a consummate “petrolhead,” taking an interest in all forms of motorized transport (particularly helicopters). He was already well-acquainted with the 300 SL, having greatly enjoyed and raced a 1955 Gullwing Coupe which still resides to this day within Jordan’s Royal Automobile Museum.
An accompanying data card copy shows that Hussein’s Roadster was delivered new to the King’s representatives in London on 31 October. As the data card indicates, the car was delivered in White-Grey (DB 158) over black leather; this represents a change from the initial order sheet, a copy of which is also on file, which specifies a livery of Ivory (DB 602) paint over red leather. Some years after its time with King Hussein, this car was eventually imported to the United States.
Around 2005, it was treated to a no-expense-spared, multi-year restoration by the renowned marque specialist Rudi Koniczek, which has been very nicely preserved over the subsequent years. In August 2013, this fantastic 300 SL Roadster was subsequently purchased by Skip Barber, three-time SCCA champion, former Formula One driver, and founder of one of the world’s most respected racing instruction schools.
During his much-enjoyed ownership, Barber lavished this super-leicht with over $50,000 of continued care and additional sorting entrusted to marque specialists at Mark Allen’s Rare Drive, Inc. of Kingston, New Hampshire. Work orders on file illustrate a comprehensive refresh of the car’s suspension, steering, braking, and engine cooling systems. To this end, technicians replaced a great number of gaskets, lines, bushings, bearings, clamps, mounts, boots, and consumables. Further to a valve adjustment and engine-timing service, the car’s ignition distributor, steering box, radiator, rear brake shoes, and famously complicated fuel injection pump were all completely rebuilt. The addition of a modern electric back-up fuel pump is the sole listed “update” furnished to Barber’s exceptional 300 SL, and it still retains its factory-correct drum brakes, 3.89:1 rear axle, and interior appointments.
Today this late 1958 300 SL Roadster is presented in the handsome and especially uncommon factory color of Medium Blue (DB 350) over an exquisite gray leather (955) cabin finished with correct square-weave grey carpeting and Medium Blue dashboard insert; all-weather protection is provided by a black canvas cloth top. A matching set of fitted luggage trimmed in grey leather accompany the car, and its handsome specifications are further improved by the presence of a desirable Becker Mexico radio, Baisch-style seat belts, single driver’s side mirror, and attractive European-market headlights which complete the package.
An engineering and design masterpiece that offers a truly sublime driving experience, over 60 years after it was first introduced, the 300 SL Roadster remains the gold standard for sports cars of its era. This exquisite and fully sorted example checks all the right boxes, and it would undoubtedly be a joy to use spiritedly on the tremendous breadth of tours, rallies, and events for which it is eligible.