| Monterey, California
- A late-production example of the 300 SL Roadster, benefitting from an improved alloy engine and fitment of disc brakes
- Built in left-hand-drive specification for the European market; imported into the UK in 1979
- Four registered keepers from new, and presented for sale now after nearly 40 years with the same owner
- Workshop invoices on file demonstrate record of maintenance from the point of purchase by its consigning owner to the late-1990s
- Offered with a leather tool roll and color-matched red hardtop
In either Coupe or Roadster form, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL has always impressed with stunning visuals and performance to match, standing as both an icon of 1950s and 1960s design and an exercise in technical excellence. The roots of both cars can be traced as far back as 1952, when Mercedes-Benz announced its return to motor racing with the two-seat W194. This motorsport influence would shape the roadgoing version of the 300 SL in more ways than one.
Among the most recognizable features of either style of the production-spec 300 SL is its attractive profile, featuring flowing lines matched with a slick silhouette. This comes as a result of Mercedes-Benz engineers pinning their hopes on entering their new racer into the 24 Hours of Le Mans, investing huge resource in making its form as aerodynamic as possible. Naturally, the road car retained these features—most notably, the lift-up “Gullwing” doors that endowed the Coupe with such a slippery profile and small frontal area.
The American Mercedes-Benz importer, Max Hoffman, approached the Daimler-Benz board with a proposal to put the race car into series production. Approval was forthcoming in September 1953 and incredibly, just five months later, a road-legal 300 SL Coupe was unveiled at the 1954 International Motor Sports Show in New York. Rated at 215 brake horsepower, the 300 SL Gullwing was by then the fastest car in the world, and proved a huge hit with American and European buyers alike. Both hard- and open-top types of the road-ready 300 SL would employ the M198 engine, a straight-six derived from the earlier competition M194 powertrain but gaining mechanical direct fuel-injection for extra power.
By the start of 1957, orders for the Coupe version were dwindling, whereas enthusiasm for convertible cars—particularly in the more temperate parts of the US and Europe—was at an all-time high. With this in mind, Mercedes-Benz introduced the Roadster variant of the 300 SL. Although retaining the majority of the running gear of the tin top, the Roadster benefitted from a modified chassis to accept conventional outward-swinging doors and wind-down windows, and a revised independent rear suspension providing more progressive and predictable handling. Officially in production until 1963, the Roadster captured the imagination of car buyers seeking a potent sports car with elegant open-top appeal, and the later model was made in greater numbers than its Coupe predecessor, with 1,858 examples of the open variant thought to have left the Sindelfingen factory.
A ROADSTER OUT OF THE PUBLIC EYE
While the early history of this example is not documented in detail, records show that the Roadster was built towards the end of 300 SL production. It was completed by the factory in 1962 and, as a result of its standing as a late-production car, benefits from both an alloy engine and disc brakes—a distinguishing element that typifies later 300 SL models, compared to earlier examples that were slowed by drum brakes. Chassis number 003055 is believed to have been prepared for, and delivered new to, the European market, having been built in left-hand-drive configuration and featuring an odometer showing kilometers.
In December 1979, the Mercedes-Benz was registered for road use in the United Kingdom. The 300 SL is recorded to have had one private registered owner in Fraserburgh, Scotland, before it was acquired by the consignor in December 1982—beginning a spell of ownership that would last for nearly 40 years. Shortly before being acquired by its most recent long-term owner, invoices accompanying the car attest to a significant engine rebuild carried out by Auto Weber, an authorized Mercedes-Benz repair workshop based in Freiburg im Breisgau, in the southwest of Germany, in 1981. Around this time the original alloy block is thought to have been switched for a correct-type replacement alloy block. Additional invoices outline further repairs carried out in England in 1982, shortly before ownership was formally transferred to the consignor.
Among the documents in this car’s history file is a slip from the history department of Mercedes-Benz, dated October 1983, revealing that this 300 SL was originally built in “180 G Silber”—or silver—with a “Schwarzes Leber”—or black leather—interior. Today, the Roadster is presented in a shade of red, still with a black interior featuring red details. This 1983 identification document specifies the car’s current color as red, suggesting that its color was changed before it was issued. The stowable fabric hood is also finished in black, while the car is offered for sale with a color-matched red hardtop. Further invoices on file are dated up to 1997—the most significant of which is for a set of Borrani wire wheels and conversion kit, which are still fitted on the car. Accompanying the car at auction is a roll of tools found in the trunk.
This 300 SL has been submitted for MoT testing—the national test for roadworthiness in the UK—in most years of the consigning owner’s tenure, even though its “historic vehicle” status now makes it exempt from annual checks. In the 16 tests it has undertaken since electronic records began in 2006, the Mercedes-Benz has passed every one, each also noting the minimal distance covered between tests. Owing to limited use in recent years, it is recommended to have the lightly serviced prior to returning it to regular road use.
This appealing Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster, benefitting from the desirable qualities only found in late-model examples, offers its next owner a golden opportunity to own one of the most sought-after variations of a true design icon.