1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster
Sold For $1,182,500Inclusive of applicable buyer's fee.
RM | Sotheby's - MONTEREY 15 - 16 AUGUST 2014 - Offered on Saturday
- Formerly of the Bob Pond Collection
- Believed to be just two owners from new
- Optioned with special-order paint, a Becker-Mexico radio, and painted wheels
- Currently showing less than 17,500 actual miles, with its original interior
- Features original books and tools
215 bhp (DIN), 240 hp (SAE), 2,996 cc overhead-camshaft inline six-cylinder engine, 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.
Just as it had been a massive success on race tracks around Europe and North America, the 300 SL proved to be a victory for the company in its dealerships around the world. U.S. importer Max Hoffman believed that a street-legal version of the W194 Coupe would sell well in the United States, and he convinced the top brass at Mercedes-Benz to produce a road going version. Upon the car’s premier at the 1954 New York Auto Show, it was clear that Hoffman was right, as the car caused nothing short of a fanfare. With the world’s most advanced sports car chassis and powertrain laying underneath gorgeous bodywork, it was quite difficult for many well-heeled enthusiasts to not write a check and place an order on the spot.
But Hoffman had higher hopes for the already successful 300 SL Gullwing. He believed that a convertible version of the 300 SL would bring even more buyers to his dealership, as they were now lusting after a car that would not only give them world-beating performance but also a chance to let the wind flow through their hair. Other manufacturers were successfully selling convertible sports cars throughout America, and Hoffman wanted his own piece of that market.
In production, the convertible remained largely similar to the coupe, albeit with a few minor changes. In order to support conventionally hinged doors, the space-frame chassis had to be lowered, which also allowed for greater ease of entry into the more elegant convertible. Cosmetic changes included new headlights, a smaller opening in the front grille, and dual chrome strips that were affixed to the side sills, giving the roadster a more streamlined look.
Several mechanical updates were also introduced in order to keep up with the competition. The rear suspension was fine-tuned by the repositioning of the single-pivot rear swing axle and the installation of a coil spring mounted transversely above the differential. As the roadster was linked to the two axle halves by a vertical strut, which allowed engineers to install softer rear springs, it boasted a more comfortable ride and improved handling over its coupe predecessor. While these revisions added an additional 250 pounds, the roadster also received a healthy boost in horsepower. All roadsters produced were outfitted with the more sporting NSL engine from the coupe as standard configuration. Depending on the final drive ratio specified by the buyer, the roadster was capable of top speeds ranging from 133 to 155 mph.
Nineteen fifty-seven marked both the first year of production for the 300 SL Roadsters and the last year of production for the gullwing. The final 70 gullwings were produced in the first five months of that year, and 618 roadsters were produced in the roadster’s inaugural year, more than any other year in terms of roadster production. By the end of the production run in 1953, 1,858 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadsters had been produced, over 400 more than the gullwing, speaking to the car’s commercial success.
This car, chassis 7500666, was produced in 1957 and outfitted with the special-order exterior paint of Hellgrun (274 G) over a cream leather interior, which was a subtle yet highly attractive color combination. Like many 300 SLs, it is believed that this 1957 Roadster was delivered through Max Hoffman’s distributorship in New York City. Bob Pond purchased this 300 SL from The Fine Car Store in San Diego, California, on November 17, 1991, and traded in a 1967 Aston Martin DB6 at the same time, as confirmed by a Bill of Sale included in the car’s documentation file. At the time of purchase, it was reported to have only had a single owner, a Marland G. Langley Jr. of Concord, New Hampshire, and it was still fitted with its original Becker Mexico radio and Michelin tires.
Since then, and before his passing in December 2007, Pond drove the car less than 1,000 miles, putting the current mileage at just under 17,500, which is believed to be original. The paint still has a splendid shine, and while the cream leather interior is starting to show its age, it is still a lovely place to be in for a drive. Quaker State service record stickers affixed to the inside of the driver’s side door show the intervals at which the car had oil changes, corroborating with the current reading of the odometer. This car also comes with a trio of original Mercedes-Benz books, a spare parts list (part number 10056), a catalogue (part number 12034), and an owner’s manual. The original spare tire still resides in the trunk, along with its set of tools.
Even 50 years after the last example left the factory, the 300 SL Roadster is still respected as one of the most incredible production cars ever produced. Its performance is still considered suitable, even by today’s standards, and many are still driven enthusiastically by their owners in vintage tours and rallies. Today, this Mercedes remains in remarkably well-preserved condition, and it would be an ideal candidate for a full restoration, or it could be left as-is and enjoyed as a wonderful original example.