1957 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL ROADSTER
Chassis no. 198.042-7500270
Engine no. 198.980.7500286
2,996cc SOHC Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
Bosch Mechanical Fuel Injection
225bhp at 5,800rpm
4-Speed Manual Transmission
4-Wheel Independent Suspension
4-Wheel Drum Brakes
*Original U.S. Delivered car
*Cover feature car for 'Mercedes-Benz 300SL' by Dennis Adler
*Former 'Best in Show Roadster' at Gullwing Group Convention
*Accompanied by both a soft top and rare and desirable hardtop
*Eligible for some of the finest tours and driving events
THE MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL ROADSTER
It's impossible to talk about the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster without first referring to the car that spawned it the legendary 300SL 'Gullwing' coupe. 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 the original, so the bodywork was still primarily crafted to reduce drag as much as possible (although rumor 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 cloaked a tubular chassis frame designed by Rudolf Uhlenhaut which weighed only 82kg.
The iconic doors of the coupe were a byproduct 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 a half years it proved a phenomenal success. 1,402 were sold, despite the colossal $11,000 asking price.
By 1957, however, SL (the initials stood for Sport Leicht; Sport Light) sales were on the slide, and with the roadster body style proving popular in America -- and feedback from customers suggesting they'd like more comfort and a larger trunk -- Maxi Hoffman helped convince Mercedes-Benz that a convertible version could take over where the coupe 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 developed 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-liter straight six, which featured fuel injection years ahead of its time, was boosted from 215bhp to 225bhp (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 liters to 100 liters, but arguably the biggest benefit the Roadster gained over the Gullwing was superior ventilation. Due at least in part to the coupe's small in/out side windows, the 300SL Gullwing was regarded by many as tough work on long trips due to heat buildup in the cabin. Even with its roof up, the Roadster's wind-up windows allowed much better airflow through the cockpit.
By no means a poor relation to the Gullwing, the later refinements added to the Roadster made it a compelling proposition for collectors and enthusiasts despite a list price of $10,950, a ten percent increase over the Gullwing. And while the coupe had a model-run of under three years, the Roadster stayed in production until early 1963, by which time 1,858 had been built.
THE MOTORCAR OFFERED
Verified by a copy of its original order kindly supplied by Mercedes-Benz Classic Center, in Irving, California, this 300 SL Roadster was ordered new by distributor Max Hoffmann in New York and was completed on September 27, 1957 as a standard production, USA/North American Market example. As such it is an extremely late production example from the end of the 1957, first year model, limited run. Noted on its order is its now ultra rare, Becker "Mexico" Signal Seeking, AM/FM radio. All told this luxury sports car would certainly have stood out even among its brethren and its guise was clearly well thought out by its original owner.
The Roadster's known history is charted with the Gullwing Group as having spent most of its life on the West Coast. They record an early owner as being K. Kischkel of Los Angeles, California, followed by a move up the Pacific Coast Highway to owners Gary Cadenhead of Santa Barbara in 1972 and Don Young in 1980. In the mid-1980s, the car was sold to Barry and Ellen Gruer of La Mesa, California, who commissioned a comprehensive restoration by respected 300SL specialists Hjeltness Restoration of Escondido. According to noted expert Frank Spellman, following its completion, the Gruer's took the car to the 1986 Gullwing Group Convention, where it won Best Roadster.
In this period, in keeping with its acknowledged excellence, the car was extensively documented and chosen to be the cover car for "Mercedes Benz 300 SL" by Dennis Adler. In 1997, for the first and only time the Mercedes left the U.S. selling to Yuko Hata of Kyoto, Japan by which point it had covered 85,531 miles from new. The car returned from the Far East in 2012 and into the present ownership of a prominent collector, where it has shared stable with numerous sporting automobiles and continued its tradition of fine maintenance and sympathetic use.
This is a well known and extremely fine example of this iconic model, ready for the next custodian to enjoy.