Monterey | Lot 241
1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster
$1,655,000 USD | Sold
| Monterey, California
13 August 2021
- An ideal early-production 300 SL Roadster for touring and events
- Attractively finished in its factory-correct Black exterior
- Participant in the 2015 and 2016 California Mille rallies
- Extensively serviced by Canepa Design, Virtuoso Performance, and Coachwerks B.C.
Though the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing Coupe is the pinnacle of collectible automobiles bearing the three-pointed star, most aficionados will agree that the 300 SL Roadster that followed it is actually much 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 race car 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 with its gull-wing doors. By adding diagonal struts to brace the lowered side sections and strengthening many of the mainframe tubes, the engineers were able to maintain torsional rigidity in the Roadster while lowering the center connections below the doors. Larger doors in a traditional sense 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 for foul weather.
In place of the unforgiving high-pivot swing-axle 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 softer and more comfortable ride than in the coupes without affecting the sporty handling.
Engine compression in the Roadsters was increased to take advantage of 100-octane gasoline becoming available, which increased horsepower by 25 to offset the 250 pounds of additional weight of the Roadster chassis, folding top, and wind-up windows. Making the sports camshaft standard and installing the lower 3.89:1 rear end improved acceleration at the expense of reducing top speed to 137 mph, both more appropriate to 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.
CHASSIS NUMBER 7500603
Mercedes-Benz factory build records indicate that this early, U.S.-specification 300 SL Roadster (order number 890 159) was completed on 27 December 1957 and sent by rail to Hamacher in Hamburg. Hamacher handled many of the overseas shipments for Mercedes-Benz at the time, and the company still exists today. This Roadster would have arrived by sea to the San Francisco branch of the Studebaker-Packard Corporation, who were the Mercedes-Benz distributors at the time.
This order was likely specified by a customer as it came new with a top-of-the-line Becker Mexico Radio, and was special-ordered in black paint (DB 040) over a red leather interior (1079) with a black soft top. Today, it is very attractively finished in Black (DB 040) with a tan interior. Not only has it benefitted from recent cosmetic refinishing, it has also undergone extensive mechanical maintenance. Importantly, the chassis, body and engine numbers match the factory build sheet.
After an early life presumed to have been spent on the West Coast, the car was restored in 2000 to concours standards while in the care of its previous owner, Chuck Mountain. Mountain was an owner and former engineer at Kar Kraft Engineering and was highly involved in many of Ford’s successful factory racing efforts during the 1960s and 1970s. He hired an employee from Mercedes-Benz Classic Center to help restore his 300 SL, and most of the work was done in his facility with parts purchased from the renowned specialists at Paul Russell & Company in Essex, Massachusetts. Once the restoration was complete, the 300 SL was evidently driven only a few hundred miles.
Looking for a great touring car for events, the previous owner of this 300 SL Roadster purchased it in 2015. Canepa Design of Scotts Valley, California spent over 250 hours on the car, addressing mechanical servicing and cosmetic detailing, immediately prior to his purchase. Upon acquisition, the car successfully participated in the 2015 California Mille, after which it returned to Canepa for further sorting. In 2016, the previous owner completed the California Mille once again, proving what a great choice this 300 SL Roadster is for long-distance events.
In 2019 the Roadster was first sent to Virtuoso Performance of Hayward, California, for a no-expense-spared service and mechanical overview. The ignition, timing, braking, and fuel-delivery systems were all attended to as needed. It was then sent to Coachwerks in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, where it was repainted in its factory-correct Black (DB 040) exterior. A two-piece set of fitted luggage for the trunk is included, as well as a tool roll and several binders of extensive service history and photos.
This 300 SL Roadster has benefitted from a highly skilled restoration as well as proactive maintenance and care from three highly reputable workshops. Having proven itself a highly competent entrant twice on the California Mille, this Roadster is an excellent choice for anyone who desires an open-top 300 SL for future events.