30.000kms from new
1958 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
Chassis no. 198.042-8500212
Engine no. 198.042-8500219
Created to spearhead Mercedes-Benz's return to competition in the post-war era, the 300SL debuted in the 1952 Mille Miglia, finishing 2nd and 4th 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 season's 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 world's 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 cousin's 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 redesigned to permit lower sills for improved access. At the same time the rear suspension was changed to incorporate low-pivot swing axles.
The Roadster's neutral steering characteristics received fulsome praise from Road & Track in its 1958 road test. '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,' words that remain equally true today.
A letter on file from Gerry Porter (the well-known dealer and 300SL marque specialist) reveals that he sold this Roadster to the previous owner and well-known Mercedes-Benz collector, José Antonio Ferreira de Magalhaes of Vizela, Portugal in 1981. An excellent example when sold, the car was registered in the UK at that time as 'WLP 258M'. The 300SL remained in its owner's fine collection until purchased by the current vendor in 2004, since when it has been kept in his motor house. At time of purchase the odometer reading was noted to be a little under 30,000 kilometres, and the vendor was told that the car had seen little use while in the collection and the total was correct. The current reading is 34,500 kilometres and we are advised that the engine has never been apart.
While in the current ownership the 300SL has seen sparing but regular use, taking part in the Tour of Spain and several 'local' rallies. It has been maintained by the highly respected Lisbon-based classic car ecialist Freixo Classics regardless of cost and has just been serviced by them prior to sale. They re-trimmed the interior several years ago and fitted a new hood in dark red. It is noted that disc brakes have been fitted.
Presented in excellent condition, the car comes complete with Becker Mexico radio (working); fitted luggage by Karl Baisch; the desirable factory hardtop; tonneau cover; tools and jack; and copy owner's manual and parts list. Accompanying documentation consists of a FIVA Identity Card, copy build sheets and Portuguese registration papers.