Ultimate specification with disc brakes and alloy engine,1962 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster  Chassis no. 198.042-10-003111
Lot 20
Ultimate specification with disc brakes and alloy engine,1962 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster Chassis no. 198.042-10-003111
Sold for CHF 580,130 (US$ 602,576) inc. premium

Lot Details
Ultimate specification with disc brakes and alloy engine,1962 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster  Chassis no. 198.042-10-003111 Ultimate specification with disc brakes and alloy engine,1962 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster  Chassis no. 198.042-10-003111 Ultimate specification with disc brakes and alloy engine,1962 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster  Chassis no. 198.042-10-003111 Ultimate specification with disc brakes and alloy engine,1962 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster  Chassis no. 198.042-10-003111 Ultimate specification with disc brakes and alloy engine,1962 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster  Chassis no. 198.042-10-003111 Ultimate specification with disc brakes and alloy engine,1962 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster  Chassis no. 198.042-10-003111
Ultimate specification with disc brakes and alloy engine
1962 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
Chassis no. 198.042-10-003111

Footnotes

  • It's impossible to talk about the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster without first referring to the car that spawned it – the legendary 300SL 'Gullwing' coupé. Originally conceived as a racing car, the 300SL racked up victories throughout 1952, in the process capturing the imagination of America's official Mercedes-Benz importer Maximilian 'Maxi' Hoffman.

    Desperate for a car to sate the desires of his upmarket clients, he eventually persuaded the Daimler-Benz board to take the 300SL from racetrack to road. The designers and engineers refused to compromise on the purity of original, so the bodywork was still primarily crafted to reduce drag as much as possible (although rumour has it that the elegant strips over the wheelarches were no more than fashionable cosmetic touches to make the car appeal to its American audience), and the steel panels (aluminium, which saved 80kg, was an option) cloaked a tubular chassis frame designed by Rudolf Uhlenhaut which weighed only 82kg.

    The iconic doors of the coupé were a by-product of this chassis, which had much higher sides than usual, leaving limited vertical space for a conventional door. Production began at the Sindelfingen plant in August 1954 and over the next two and half years it proved a phenomenal success, with 1,402 sold despite the colossal 29,000DM asking price.

    By 1957, however, SL (the initials stood for Sport Leicht; Sport Light) sales were on the slide, and with the roadster bodystyle proving popular in America – and feedback from customers suggesting they'd like more comfort and a larger boot – Maxi Hoffman helped convince Mercedes-Benz that a convertible version could take over where the coupé left off.

    Introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in May that year, the 300SL Roadster wasn't the result of a quick fix to meet owner demands – Mercedes re-engineered the whole car, taking the opportunity to fix some niggles that afflicted the 300SL. First and foremost the suspension. Although the double wishbone front layout was famed for its precision, the rear swing arm axle, jointed at the differential, had long had a reputation for tricky handling and sensitivity to cambers. Lowering the pivot point helped calm the 300SL's predilection for oversteer.

    At the same time the fabulous 3.0-litre straight six, which featured fuel injection years ahead of its time, was boosted from 212bhp to 222bhp at 5,800rpm (torque output remained at 202lb ft at 4,600rpm) and the chassis was redesigned with lower sills to accommodate normal swing-opening doors – although additional strengthening was required in the lower half of the chassis which saw the SL's weight grow from 1,310kg to 1,420kg.

    Partially to increase load space, and partially to create room for the folding fabric roof, the fuel tank capacity was reduced from 130 litres to 100 litres, but arguably the biggest benefit the Roadster gained over the Gullwing was superior ventilation. Due at least in part to the coupé's small in/ out side windows, the hard top 300SL was regarded by many as tough work on long trips due to heat build up in the cabin. Even with the roof up the Roadster's wind-up windows allowed much better airflow through the cockpit.

    By no means the poor relation to the Gullwing, the later refinements added to the Roadster made it a compelling proposition for collectors and enthusiasts. And this despite a list price of 32,500DM – a ten per cent rise over the Gullwing. And while the coupé had a shelf-life of under three years, the Roadster stayed in production until early 1963, by which time 1,858 had been built.

    This 300SL has the ultimate and rarest specification. Dating from the end of 1962, it features 290mm disc brakes front and rear – a desirable addition that was fitted to all cars assembled after mid-1961, replacing 260mm drum brakes, and the ultra sought-after alloy engine fitted only to the last 209 cars built.

    Fascinatingly, although 75 per cent of all 300SLs were sold in America, this example was first delivered to Kuwait and registered on the last day of 1962. The Mercedes-Benz Classic Centre have kindly told us that the car's original specification was DB166 Blue Grey paintwork with code 209 cream leather, a black soft top and a boxed hard top. Disc brakes and the alloy engine were fitted. The Classic Centre have also confirmed that the current engine and body numbers are correct.

    Peter Baumberger purchased this 300SL Roadster from his good friend, Geneva resident car collector Hans Beukers, some 20 years ago. Hans recalls buying the car from a pair of dentists in Los Angeles following a tip-off from a friend in California. In the early 1980s Hans had the car restored by the Mercedes-Benz agency in Freiburg, Germany, with an engine rebuild by M-B in Stuttgart.

    The Gullwing Group register records that the car's mileage in 1994 was 83,329. Since then a further 23,000km (or miles?) have been added. For as long as anyone can remember the coachwork has been red with tan upholstery and matching soft top. The cabin is in fine condition and a tool roll sits in the boot. We are unsure if the hard top still exists; please check with us closer to the sale date.

    Peter and his good friend and co-driver on many motoring adventures, Jean Krucker, first met when Peter overtook Jean at the wheel of this car on the autoroute in the rain...with the top down. When Peter stopped for fuel shortly afterwards Jean was curious to meet its fast pedaling driver, and a lifelong friendship ensued.

    Jean recalls that the 300SL was consistently reliable and Hans-Ulli Brandt, whose Ledi Garage has maintained this car and many others in Peter's stable, tells us he overhauled the brakes circa three years ago before the car successfully completed the St Tropez-Gstaad rally in 2008.

    Although not quite as fast as the coupé due to the extra weight, independent road tests of the time recorded 0-60mph in seven seconds and a top speed of 130mph. What's more, the roadster is arguably the sweeter car to drive. The four-spoke 'SLR' style steering wheel fitted to this example provides not only great feel for the road, but guides a supremely precise and biddable front end that makes the 300SL feel far more modern than its age would suggest.

    A wand-like lever accesses the manual gearbox's four forward ratios and the 2,996cc engine thrives on revs. That may come as a surprise, but with torque not peaking until 4,600rpm, it pays to hold on to each gear and enjoy the rasping exhaust note.

    Road testing it in 1958, America's Road & Track magazine concluded that "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... There is no doubt that the 300SL roadster is a truly great dual-purpose sports car, equally at home in traffic and the open road, or on the track."

    The Baumberger Collection 300SL Roadster is offered with Swiss registration (cancelled).

Saleroom notices

  • Our customs agent CAR Logistics will be happy to apply for the importation of this motor car on behalf of the buyer into the EU via Holland at the preferential 6% rate if required. Additional item included with this Lot: jack
Auction information

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