1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster

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CHF1,100,000 | Asking

Switzerland | Duillier, Switzerland

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Chassis No.
198.042.8500203
Engine No.
198.980.8500207
Body No.
A 198.042.8500203
  • Finished in desirable Silbergrau Metallic over black leather with a matching black soft-top
  • Matching-numbers body, chassis and engine, with factory build certificate
  • Powered by a 2,996 cc straight-six engine mated to a four-speed manual transmission
  • Benefitting from a desirable disc-brake conversion
  • Accompanied by a two-piece fitted leather luggage set
  • One of just 1,858 examples of the Roadster built between 1957 and 1963
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The 1950s was the era when the sports car truly came of age, as stunning aerodynamic design met performance forged in the white heat of competition. Few models exemplified that electrifying fusion quite as completely as the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster, a machine born of the first true supercar, yet endowed with a glorious open body that made it the envy of the motoring world.

The scene was set by the 300 SL Gullwing, the Roadster’s tin-topped predecessor, which stormed circuits and road courses from 1952 before being offered to the general public in road trim from 1954. Stunning the world not just for its slippery shape and outrageous “gullwing” doors, but for a level of performance that instantly rendered its roadgoing rivals obsolete, the 300 SL was part-grand tourer, part-endurance specialist, gifted with a 2,996 cc straight-six engine with advanced Bosch mechanical fuel injection and a tubular-frame chassis designed for success at the very pinnacle of motorsport. But while the Gullwing enjoyed the adulation and adoration of the press and public, its more glamorous—and arguably more accomplished—Roadster sister car wouldn’t break cover until 1957.

When the curtain dropped on the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster at the 1957 Geneva Salon, buyers’ expectations shifted forever, a new benchmark for beauty and performance having been registered for the emerging jet set. While the W198 Roadster shared a striking familial resemblance to its tin-topped stablemate, changes had been made beneath the skin that resulted in a more polished and accomplished roadgoing machine. The most notable change—beyond the lack of roof and addition of more modern “goldfish bowl” headlamps—was replacement of the eye-catching “gullwing” doors in favour of more conventional front-hinged versions.

Reworking of the tubular chassis and the increased rigidity that resulted allowed for fitment of the more usable doors, which not only made getting in and out of the car easier—especially for glamorously attired passengers—it also allowed for conventional wind-up windows that made the cabin a much more comfortable place in which to spend time. The rear swing arm suspension, meanwhile—so unpredictable in the 300 SL—was modified with a lower pivot point and a coil-spring mounted transversely above the differential, and was linked to the axles by vertical struts, resulting in a composed drive with more forgiving handling at the limit. Power, meanwhile, was increased by around 25 horsepower, thanks to the inclusion of the high-lift camshaft that had helped bring such success to the alloy-bodied 300 SL racers.

Built in 1958, chassis 8500203 left Mercedes-Benz’s Sindelfingen works finished in the marque’s iconic Silbergrau Metallic over contrasting black leather, with a matching black soft-top. Though it narrowly preceded the option of a factory hardtop, it did benefit from minor model year changes that included fitment of an electromagnetic shut-off valve that prevented overrun. It is believed to be one of the first examples to feature modified perforation to the seats, for improved ventilation of the leather covers.

Chassis 8500203 was delivered to its first owner via Mercedes-Benz in Zurich. The car is reported to have then spent the following 38 years with its long-term second owner, who was based in Brugg. In 2007, the car passed into the care of the consignor—also a Swiss resident—with whom it remained for the following 16 years.

Purchased with 116,000 km on the odometer, the 300 SL Roadster has since been the recipient of an envious level of care and attention, with dozens of invoices detailing extensive preventative maintenance, and a cumulative expenditure totalling well in excess of €100,000. In addition to regular servicing at the start of each season and manifold minor works throughout the years, significant sums were lavished on the Mercedes-Benz more recently; in September 2016, October 2017, and September 2018.

A notable invoice from Volante Classic Car Engadin in 2016 for the sum of CHF 40,825.70 covered work to the drum brakes; a refresh of suspension rubbers, shocks and springs; replacement of the fuel tank and fuel lines; and engine mount replacement. The following year an even greater sum—CHF 53,192.60—was spent fine-tuning the Roadster, with another invoice—again from Volante—noting replacement of the clutch; removal of the gearbox to replace ageing seals; new flywheel bolts; replacement of the water pump housing; fitting of correct ignition coils; and installation of a new fuel-injector pump. A further €40,697.45 was expended at leading W198 specialist, HK Engineering, in 2018, to cover fettling of the mechanical fuel injection system; adjustment of the doors; fitting of an additional cooling fan and uprated alternator; and a hugely desirable conversion to disc brakes, usually the preserve of post-1961 W198s.

As at home burbling through downtown Carmel as it is howling along the autobahn at full throttle, there can be fewer examples of a more glamorous, exhilarating, or indeed usable, mid-century classic as the 300 SL Roadster. With an enviable maintenance record over the past 15 years, a desirable upgrade to Dunlop disc brakes, and matching-numbers body, chassis and engine, chassis 8500203 presents an even more irresistible ownership proposition today than it did in 1958.