- Numbers-matching engine, gearbox, and body
- Restored in 2011 by Alte Sterne Manufaktur in Stuttgart, Germany
- Finished in attractive Medium Blue Metallic (DB 396) over a Dark Red leather interior
- Accompanied by ownership documents, owner’s manuals, tool kit, and restoration records
Though the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL “Gullwing” Coupe is the pinnacle of collectible automobiles bearing the three-pointed star emblem, many consider the 300 SL Roadster that followed it to be easier to drive and more practical for the frequent, long-distance driving tours that owners of these cars enjoy.
When Max Hoffman, the U.S. distributor for Mercedes-Benz, convinced Daimler-Benz in 1953 to put a customer version of the astounding and successful 300 SL racecar into production, the distinctive gull-wing doors and comfort of a closed cabin led the product planners to decide that the first version to be introduced would be the coupe. Nevertheless, believing that there would be strong demand for a roadster that offered the pleasures of top-down motoring, Hoffman encouraged the company to develop an open version with both a foldable soft top and a removable hardtop, which was introduced in 1957.
The most obvious area that had to be changed from the coupe was the tube frame, whose high side sills necessitated the novel gull-wing doors. By adding diagonal struts to brace the lowered side sections and further strengthening the main frame, engineers were able to maintain torsional rigidity in the Roadster while lowering the center connections below the doors. Larger, traditional doors were added to make entry and exit easier. These also permitted the use of roll-up windows, which made the car more comfortable when the removable hardtop was fitted.
In place of the unforgiving, high-pivot, swing-axle suspension 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 Roadsters with a much more compliant and comfortable ride than in the coupes, without adversely affecting the sporty handling.
Engine compression in the Roadsters was increased to take advantage of 100-octane gasoline becoming available and thereby increase output by 25 horsepower to offset the 250 pounds of additional weight from the Roadster chassis, folding top, and wind-up windows. Making a sports camshaft standard and installing a lower 3.89:1 rear end improved acceleration at the expense of reducing top speed to 137 mph—both changes that were more appropriate for U.S. speed limits and traffic conditions.
All in all, the Roadsters, then and now, were more practical to own than the coupes and sold well from introduction in 1957 to conclusion of production in 1963, with a total of 1,858 units produced.
This gorgeous example was delivered to the port city of Bremen, Germany in November 1957, destined for the United States. As shown on its data card on file, the Roadster left the factory finished in White Grey paint over red leather with a black convertible top. It remained in the U.S. for the subsequent three decades before being shipped back to Europe in 1987. In 2010, the car was sent to the highly respected restoration shop Alte Sterne Manufaktur in Stuttgart, Germany for refurbishment. Photos and invoices on file detail every aspect of the project and show the vehicle stripped down to bare metal for rebuilding. Completed in 2011, the Roadster now presents in the period-correct color of Medium Blue Metallic (DB 396) with a blue convertible top and dark red (641) leather interior, a truly splendid combination. In addition, the standard drum brakes have been replaced with discs at all four corners and allow for far greater usability and confidence when driving in modern traffic. The original drum brakes accompany the sale. Post-restoration, the car remained in Belgium until 2022, when it was air-freighted back to the U.S. after being acquired by the current owner. Significantly, the engine, gearbox, body, and front axle carriers show to be matching units correct to the car, as indicated by the serial numbers noted on the data card.
After purchasing the Roadster, the current owner sent it to award-winning Classic Performance Restorations in Gilbert, Arizona to address the 11-year-old metallic paintwork. As such, the car was completely resprayed to an exceedingly high standard and now presents in national concours condition. In addition to the photographs and invoices, the 300 SL Roadster is accompanied by owner’s manuals, a tool roll, and further documentation detailing ownership throughout the decades.
One of the finest automobiles ever made, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL exudes quality from every surface and detail, engaging, usable, and thrilling behind the wheel. This well-documented, concours-quality example is highly attractive, poised to become the highlight of any collection, thanks to its painstaking refurbishment under the care of conscientious caretakers and its numbers-matching engine, gearbox, and body.