1963 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
Chassis no. 198042.10.003202
Engine no. 198982.10.000164
2,996cc SOHC Alloy Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
Bosch Mechanical Fuel Injection
225bhp at 5,800rpm
4-Speed Manual Transmission
4-Wheel Independent Suspension
4-Wheel Disc Brakes
*Desirable European delivery, alloy block, disc brake 300SL
*Matching numbers example
*Known ownership history since new
*Excellent restoration by Mike Passarelli
*Offered with both hard and soft tops, extensive history file, books and tools
The Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
Max Hoffman rarely missed an opportunity. The impresario of imported cars on New York's Park Avenue built the U.S. presence of most European brands after World War II - Jaguar, Allard, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Mercedes-Benz and more - and when Mercedes-Benz won the Carrera Panamericana in 1952 with a W194 300SL coupe driven by Karl Kling, Hoffman seized the moment.
He approached Mercedes with a radical idea: take the racing-derived tube frame W194, with its high performance 3-liter engine, and create a roadgoing sports car aimed at the upper-end of the aspiring US sports car market. it was an audacious move, but Hoffman had a highly developed sense of the U.S. market and backed up his suggestion with his checkbook. He placed an order for a thousand luxury high performance coupes based on a more civilized version of the W194. Mercedes-Benz, still valiantly trying to shake off the devastation of the war and the weak European market, took him up on it and the 300SL was born.
Hoffman had proposed a relatively direct transformation of the multi-tube framed W194, retaining its characteristic roof-hinged doors, 45° canted triple-carbureted single overhead camshaft inline six cylinder engine, but the innovative engineers at Mercedes-Benz weren't satisfied with such a simple transformation. Improvements to the 300SLs usability were made throughout the car, yet it was obvious that this car was derived from a racing car. As aerodynamics played an important role in the car's speed, the Mercedes-Benz engineers would place horizontal "eyebrows" over the wheel openings to reduce drag. With fully independent suspension, a close-ratio gearbox with straight cut gears and the first fuel injection system ever offered in a production automobile, the 300SL was a technological tour-de-force. When introduced in Coupe form to the US market at the February 1954 New York Auto Show, it became an instant sensation.
After selling some ~1400 300SL Coupes, Mercedes-Benz required a solution for customers desired an open sports car something more user-friendly on a hot summer day. Introduced in 1957, the 300SL Roadster would effectively replace the Coupe, or "Gullwing" as it was commonly known. At a price of $11,000, the new Roadster was more expansive than the outgoing Coupe, but nonetheless a great success.
Based on the same chassis as the Coupe, the Roadster incorporated differences included larger front fenders, larger headlights, a smaller grille and an attractive chrome spear down the side. To maintain rigidity, the Mercedes-Benz engineers strengthened the tube frame chassis. The rear suspension was revised with a single-point swing axle featuring an additional spring, for better stability during high-speed cornering. The top speed would remain at 150mph plus, truly staggering in its day.
Further improvements were made throughout the Roadster's production run, most importantly the upgrade to 4-wheel disc brakes for the 1960 model year, and ultimately the change to an all alloy engine near the very end of the production run. These final cars benefited from the much improved disc brakes and a better balance overall due to the significant weight savings of the lighter alloy engine. Today, these last of the breed 300SLs remain the rarest and most collectible iteration of this hugely successful sports car.
The Motorcar Offered
Offered here is a very fine example of one of these final 300SL Roadsters, incorporating all of the desirable improvements over the earlier models. One of just 26 300SLs built in 1963, this Roadster was completed at the Mercedes-Benz factory in March of that year. It was finished in DB050 (White) over red upholstery. It was fitted with a hardtop, supposedly painted red, and wore Dunlop white-wall tires. The car was destined for France, and invoiced by the French Mercedes-Benz importer, Royal-Elysees, S.A. to its first owner, Monsieur J. Dharma Teja on May 9, 1963. Monsieur Teja is believed to have been a frequent traveler and possibly a dual-citizen of both France and the US, as he paid for the car in US dollars, $6,700 cash, and had his residence at the upscale Parisian Hotel Price de Galles, just off the Champs-Élysées. The 300SL bore French registration no. 383 TTA 75. Monsieur Teja would keep the car until at least 1968, when it was purchased by Monsieur Edward Ennis, of Cannes, France. One can imagine the luxurious Roadster traveling the coastal roads of the Cote d'Azur in those years, surely something that would be nice to do again one day.
In 1977, with 37,000 kilometers on the odometer, the Roadster was exported to the US, and registered by Ennis's wife, Dorothy Ennis, in Lido Beach, Long Island, New York. The car passed to Boonton, New Jersey resident, Mark Derish later in 1977, before being purchased by Mission Hills, Kansas, resident Thomas Congleton in June 1978. Congleton would have the 300SL serviced at renowned Mercedes-Benz specialists Alex Dearborn in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Many receipts and correspondence from this period are retained in the car's accompanying history file. An early member of the Gullwing Group, Congleton eventually sold the 300SL in 1984, at which time it was still in its original white color. William Samples of Dallas, Texas, was the proud new owner, and wasted no time in contacting the Mercedes-Benz factory to receive copies of the factory build sheets. Samples clearly enjoyed the car; notes in the history file describe his trip to the September 1984 Gullwing Group Convention in Los Angeles, California. The 300SL remained in Mr. Samples ownership until the late 1990s, when it was purchased by Rancho Palos Verdes, California resident Egon Hageman. From here the car passed through the hands of Mercedes-Benz broker Peter Thomas before settling in Scottsdale, Arizona with John Wright.
During Wright's ownership, the aging 300SL was treated to a thorough restoration by noted Mercedes-Benz restorer Mark Passarelli of Cave Creek, Arizona. The exterior color chosen was the period correct Mercedes-Benz color Light Green Poly (DB274), with the factory hardtop painted a slightly darker shade of green. The soft top was finished in a dark green, also correct for a 300SL. The interior was redone in red leather, as this car was delivered when new, and with matching red carpets, seatbelts and luggage fitted in the trunk. The completed car was absolutely stunning, and Passarelli's attention to detail and historical correctness is quite evident.
Several years later, the 300SL was purchased by the consignor, a southern California collector with a taste for the best of the best. It has since resided in his climate controlled facility, benefiting form devoted in-house maintenance, and most importantly a scheduled driving program. Most recently, in 2013, the 300SL was thoroughly serviced by Hjeltness Restorations in Escondido, California to ensure that it performs and shows just as it should. Still intact with its kilometer per hour speedometer and European headlights, this fine last-of-the-breed 300SL is accompanied by an extensive history file containing copies of the Mercedes-Benz Wagenkarte (build sheet), copies of the first bill of sale from the French importer to its first owner, an abundance of correspondence through the years from previous owners, copies of old titles and registration cards, and an abundance of receipts. This exquisite alloy block and disc brake 300SL stands out for its rarity and outstanding presentation, and must be one of the finest ways to check 300SL ownership off one's bucket list.
- Please note, that even though this car was not dispatched from the factory until March of 1963, it is believed to have completed assembly in late 1962.