1963 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL ROADSTER
Chassis no. 198042.10.003174
Engine no. 198982.10.000137 (see text)
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 late production, alloy block and disc brake 300SL
*Exceptional restoration totaling over $325,000 in restoration receipts
*Exquisite condition in and out
*Presented in striking, period-correct livery
*Offered with both hard and soft tops, 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 road-going 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
The 300SL is, if anything, a driver's car and few examples live up to this mantra more than this one. Built in the latter part of 1962, it was fitted from the factory with disc brakes, which had been introduced on the model in 1961, and an alloy block motor, which would only appear in the late 1962 and 1963 models. This would be the ultimate specification for the 300SL, continuing in this guise with greater stopping power and better balance than its older brethren, until the end of production in 1963.
Originally delivered in Dove Grey (DB158G) over Red leather, its earliest history is not known at press time but by 1968 it had entered the collection of Ray Colcord, Jr. who split time between New York City and Florida. Mr. Colcord, whose son Ray Colcord III is a successful film and television producer who would go on to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song, kept the Roadster until his death in 1971. It was sold from his estate two years later to Clinton Bush, also of New York City. Bush maintained the car for another five years before selling it to Tuscon, Arizona based plastic surgeon and advisor to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Dr. Boyd R. Burkhardt. An enthusiastic caretaker of the 300SL, Dr. Burkhardt would own the car for 11 years using it as a daily driver before selling it to noted 300SL collector and historian Dr. Frank Spellman in late 1989 or early 1990.
Showing over 101,000 original miles at the time of Dr. Spellman's purchase, the car was complete but well used with a dry, worn interior and a repaint in ivory that showed evidence of prior body damage. Acquired with an eye toward restoration, Dr. Spellman sourced an original hardtop and set of factory luggage to accompany the car. The restoration would never take place however, as the 300SL was sold six months after acquisition. Over the course of the next ten years the car would spend some time in Europe before returning to the U.S. and finding its way into the garage of Peter Thomas in 1999.
A well enjoyed driver by the 1990s, a ground-up restoration was begun at Ageless Automobile Restoration in Deerfield Beach, Florida and finished in 2002 by the 300SL experts at Hjeltness Restorations in Escondido, California with some $325,000 in receipts documenting the extensive work completed. At some point in time, the 300SL's engine block was replaced with a factory, unstamped unit, which was re-stamped and tagged with the original engine number. In 2002 it came into its most recent private ownership from Southern California.
Understood to have been driven less than 1,000 miles since its restoration, the 300SL still shows extremely well. Now finished in a stunning combination of dark blue over grey hides with a dark blue top, it is reported to be in fine mechanical order and a pleasure to drive. Fitted with air conditioning at a stated cost of $25,000 and complete with its luggage, jack, toolkit, and yet-to-be restored hardtop, it is certainly one of the finest 300SLs one could purchase for use on a 1000-mile tour like the Colorado Grand or New England 1000.
- Please note that the title for this vehicle is in transit.