1958 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
Registration no. NVS 332
Chassis no. 8500101
Engine no. 8500170
Created to spearhead Mercedes-Benzs return to competition in the post-war era, the 300SL debuted in the 1952 Mille Miglia, finishing second and fourth overall. Wins in the Carrera Pan-Americana and at Le Mans followed, and the 300SL was on its way to becoming part of motor sporting legend. The first racers were open-topped, but before the 52 seasons end the distinctive gull-wing doored Coupé had appeared. Unusually high sills were a feature of the multi-tubular spaceframe chassis, and while access was not a problem of the open car, the adoption of coupé bodywork required innovative thinking - hence the gull-wing doors.
Launched in 1954, the production 300SL retained the spaceframe chassis of the racer and was powered by a 2,996cc, overhead-camshaft, inline six canted at 45 degrees to achieve a lower, more aerodynamic bonnet line. Using innovative direct fuel injection, this state-of-the-art power unit produced 215bhp at 5,800rpm. A four-speed gearbox transmitted power to the hypoid bevel rear axle. Suspension was independent all round by wishbones and coil springs at the front, with swing axles and coil springs at the rear. It was arguably the worlds first supercar.
Tested by Road & Track magazine in 1955, the 300SL accelerated from 0-60mph in 7.4 seconds, going on to achieve a top speed of 140mph - outstanding figures for its day. Clearly the 300SL Coupé would be a hard act to follow, yet the Roadster version, introduced just three years later, succeeded in bettering its closed cousins already exemplary road manners. Conventionally doored, the 300SL Roadster was first exhibited at the Geneva Salon in May 1957 and would outlive the Coupé by several years. The production of an open 300SL involved altering the cockpit area, where the spaceframe was re-designed to permit lower sills for improved access. At the same time the rear suspension was changed to incorporate low-pivot swing axles.
The Roadsters neutral steering characteristics received fulsome praise from Road & Track in its 1958 roadtest. With the low-pivot rear suspension and more adhesive tyres, the car handles beautifully under all conditions. This is a tremendous improvement over the hardtop models, which had a tendency to oversteer rather violently if pressed too hard. A 0-60mph time of 7.0 seconds and a top speed of 130mph were recorded, making the 300SL Roadster one of the fastest convertibles of its time. R&T concluded: There is no doubt that the 300SL roadster is a truly great dual-purpose sportscar, equally at home in traffic and the open road, or on the track.
The current owner purchased this left-hand drive 300SL Roadster in the summer of 2002 at the sale of a prominent London-based private collection, which had acquired it from California in the mid-1980s. Since acquisition the car has undergone a complete last nut and bolt restoration; Andrew Britten of BPA carrying out the transmission reconditioning while David Wedge of DIM Consultants undertook the engine rebuild. David Russell painstakingly dismantled and photographed every nut, bolt and component, and Hightone Restoration in Enstone, Oxfordshire reassembled the car, which was then re-sprayed in a 1959 Mercedes Mittle Blue metallic colour. Full details, photographs and costs of the rebuild, which was finished in June 2005, are available to prospective purchasers. The vehicle comes complete with factory hardtop (unrestored), current MoT/road fund licence and Swansea V5 registration document.
- The unrestored hard-top is presently with the vendor in Oxfordshire and is available for collection following the sale at the buyers expense.