$1,050,000 USD | Sold
| Monterey, California
- Offered from the Collection of Rodolfo Junco De La Vega, Jr.
- Presented to market for the first time in nearly 50 years; acquired in 1973
- Presented in its factory-correct color combination of Ivory (DB 608) over red leather (1079) with black soft top (872)
- Recently treated to an extensive mechanical refresh by Bob Smith Coachworks
- Retains its numbers-matching gearbox, rear axle, and body
While the original Mercedes-Benz 300 SL “Gullwing” Coupe was exiting stage left in 1957, its successor, the 300 SL Roadster, was debuting at that year’s Geneva Auto Salon. The conversion of the 300 SL to an open car meant redesigning the chassis, which was strengthened significantly to compensate for the loss of the roof structure. Enthusiasts who may have worried about the super-leicht going “soft” had absolutely no cause for concern: Thanks to a fully synchronized gearbox, greatly improved engine mechanicals, new rear axle design, and wide range of final drive selections available to customers, the Roadster remained among the fastest-accelerating automobiles on the road.
Importantly, the 1957 model year not only marked the 300 SL Roadster’s debut, but also the cancellation of dealer Max Hoffman’s exclusive distributorship in lieu of a new sales partnership with the Studebaker-Packard Corporation.
Offered today after nearly fifty years of residency within the esteemed collection of Rodolfo Junco de la Vega, Jr., this very early, US-market Roadster, chassis 7500563, is the 526th of only 618 examples produced during the model’s initial year of availability.
The car’s accompanying data card reveals that it was delivered new a Studebaker dealer in New Orleans, Louisiana on 16 December 1957, and originally specified in the elegant color combination of Ivory (DB 608) over red leather (1079) beneath a black fabric soft top (872). Additional special options fitted to this handsome super-leicht include a 3.89 rear axle, Becker Mexico radio, sealed-beam headlamps, and standard disc wheels wrapped in Michelin tires. The car remained in New Orleans until 1972, when it was purchased by a Mercedes-Benz enthusiast in San Antonio, Texas.
In 1973, Junco de la Vega, Jr. purchased this Roadster from that enthusiast in a highly original, though non-running, condition as a “gift in waiting” for his wife, Lillian. Over the next several years he made true on his promise, treating the car to a sympathetic mechanical restoration by his own hand, while also having it professionally refinished in Lillian’s preferred color combination of Medium Blue over matching blue leather.
After Lillian’s many years of much-enjoyed ownership, around 2010 the Roadster was submitted for a complete restoration back to its factory-correct color combination, which it still wears today. Chassis 7500563’s resplendent red leather interior and black fabric soft top were executed to factory-correct specifications by master upholsterer Benny Lesch of Havana, Florida, and these serve as attractive complements to its striking Ivory paintwork. The superb quality of this restoration was confirmed in 2012 when the Founder and President of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, Bill Warner, invited Junco de la Vega to exhibit it at that year’s show.
Inspection of the present equipment fitted to this fabulously restored 300 SL at time of cataloguing has revealed that while it retains its numbers-matching gearbox, rear axle, and original body, the car’s chassis stamp and chassis plate are labeled with the prefix code of the contemporaneous 300d sedan (W189.010). This error is believed to be attributable to the timing of this Roadster’s completion in late 1957, when production of the 300d had only just begun and the two models occupied parallel assembly lines at the company’s sprawling campus of workshops in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim. Major similarities between the 300 SL and 300d models are strictly limited to their novel fuel-injection systems. The construction, dimensions, production method, and mechanicals of these models’ respective chassis designs bear almost no similarity whatsoever.
In early 2023, Junco de la Vega’s heirs sent the 300 SL to Mercedes-Benz Classic Center USA for a complete inspection to submit a formal inquiry to the factory archives regarding the chassis number. Correspondence with Mercedes-Benz (on file) leaves no doubt that 7500563 certainly is, and always has been, a genuine 300 SL Roadster—though per Mercedes-Benz’s standard policy regarding potential production errors, they are unable to comment on the stamping error. In any case, this Roadster’s serial number (7500563), observable attributes, and plethora of component stampings (particularly on the car’s body), conspicuously match those listed on the factory data card supplied by the Mercedes-Benz Corporate Archives.
More recently, the noted specialist Bob Smith Coachworks in Gainesville, Texas has furnished 7500563 with an extensive regimen of mechanical refreshment that included the fitment of a new clutch, fuel lines, pilot bearing, water pump, distributor cap, spark plugs (with wires), generator, valve cover gasket, transmission and engine mounts, and resurfaced flywheel. Additionally, the starter, regulator, brake booster, master cylinder, fuel tank, and fuel injection system were all fastidiously rebuilt or refurbished, and the car’s radiator and oil cooler also received new cores.
Today, the 300 SL Roadster still carries with it an indelible aura of speed, power, and sophisticated style. It is fast enough for the sports car lover yet comfortable enough for those who demand luxury, and it has remained one of the most desirable and well-supported automobiles in the world.