SHIFT/Monterey | Lot 123
1960 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster
$1,045,000 USD | Sold
| Detroit, Michigan
14 - 15 AUGUST 2020
- Only four private owners since 1961
- High-quality restoration in stunning Anthracite over Beige leather
- Still fitted with its original engine, matching the data card
- Equipped with desirable matching hardtop and fitted luggage
- Accompanied by tools, jack, and spare parts
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 hp. 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 uncomfortably hot cabin that beguiled 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.
FROM MILAN TO MASSACHUSETTS
The data card for this 300 SL Roadster notes its delivery new by the Carlo Saporiti dealership in Milan, with a removable hardtop but no soft top (“without cover”), and finished in the rather common color scheme of White over Black leather interior. Interestingly, despite its having been ordered in Milan, the car was built to U.S. specifications, indicating that someone may have been taking what is now known as “tourist delivery.” There was certainly no better automobile in which to be a tourist!
According to a letter on file from Paul Russell & Co., the nearly new 300 SL was acquired in 1961 by Charles Dufton, who had worked as an economist for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, later serving as a marketing and sales analyst for Bendix and as a distinguished faculty member at both Harvard and Northeastern University. A speaker of six languages, he traveled widely, including extensive journeys in China and Tibet, and a visit to South America in which he rafted down the Amazon at the age of 87! Additionally he was involved in the family home contracting business in Andover, Massachusetts. Mr. Dufton’s tastes in automobiles were as interesting and diverse as the man himself; in addition to owning the 300 SL, he was a longtime member of the Veteran Motor Car Club of America and the Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club, and in 1997 participated in the London-Brighton Veteran Car Run.
Following Mr. Dufton’s passing in 2000, his daughter, Gayle Nieburger, inherited the car. She sold it through Paul Russell & Co. in 2014, as a very original car with 77,000 miles, which had by then been in the same family for 54 years. Soon thereafter it was purchased by an enthusiast in Southern California who commissioned its restoration by Almar of Kaczory, Poland, a firm staffed by former Daimler-Benz factory employees. The car was mechanically refurbished as-needed and finished in the striking period-correct colors of Anthracite over Beige leather, with correct square-weave carpeting. Upon the 300 SL’s return to the United States, additional cosmetic details under the hood were further sorted, by Hjeltness Restorations of Escondido, California.
Since its acquisition by the current owner, it has continued to be well-maintained by the staff of his private collection, known for the mechanical sorting and meticulous upkeep of its automobiles. To this end the rear differential was changed to 3.25, using parts supplied by the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center, for faster performance, and the fuel system has been carefully tuned. The car showed about 200 miles when acquired and has been driven over 800 since, very pleasurably. It retains its removable hardtop, in body color, as well as a black soft top, proper set of fitted luggage, a full tool roll, and a jack.
There are always several 300 SL Roadsters for offer, but few boast this car’s desirable combination of an exceptional cosmetic presentation and finely sorted drivetrain, as well as the most desirable optional features of hardtop and fitted luggage. It is a beautiful 300 SL for all manner of touring – in Milan, Massachusetts, or even the far-flung destinations in which its longtime owner enjoyed his adventurous life.