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The Amelia Island Auction / 1960 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster Chassis no. 198042.10.002576 Engine no. 189980.10.002627 (see text)

Lot 224
1960 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
3 March 2022, 13:00 EST
Fernandina Beach Golf Club

US$1,900,000 - US$2,300,000

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1960 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
Chassis no. 198042.10.002576
Engine no. 189980.10.002627 (see text)

2,996cc SOHC all-alloy Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
Bosch Mechanical Fuel Injection
225bhp at 5,800rpm
4-Speed Manual Transmission
4-Wheel Independent Suspension
4-Wheel Hydraulic Drum Brakes

*Delivered new to HRH Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, twin sister to the Shah of Iran
*Exceptional factory correct restoration by Hjeltness totaling over $600,000
*Finished in its as factory delivered, one-off color DB662G 'Uranium Yellow'
*Offered with both hard and soft tops, and fitted luggage



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, including 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 a better balance overall due to the significant weight savings of the lighter alloy engine.


THE MOTORCAR OFFERED

The 300SL is, if anything, a very luxurious and highly advanced sports car, even by today's standards. Not surprisingly, these superb machines came with a massive price tag back in the day, and the original owners were often celebrities, well-heeled international business moguls, or royals. This very example is known to have been delivered brand new to the Royal Palace of Iran - in its striking one-off color of DB662G 'Uranium Yellow' - where the new Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster was given to HRH Princess Ashraf Pahlave, the twin sister of HRH Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the late Shah of Iran.

According to a copy of the factory Mercedes-Benz build record on file, 300SL Roadster chassis number 198042.10.002576 was completed at the Stuttgart-based Works on June 20th, 1960, was finished in the aforementioned DB662G 'Uranium Yellow' color and trimmed in Black leather with matching black convertible top. Engine number 198980.10.002627 was installed, which would have been a steel block unit. According to a Statement of Facts written by the previous owner - Mercedes-Benz of Tehran proprietor Mr. Ali Fouladi who purchased the car directly from the royal family - Princess Pahlave had had engine trouble with her 300SL after a couple years of use while on a road trip to the Caspian Sea. The oil pan cracked, thereby losing oil and eventually seizing up the original engine. The non-running 300SL was then returned to Mr. Fouladi's Mercedes-Benz dealer of Tehran, where Mr. Fouladi soon after purchased the car from the Royal Court of Iran. As the fully evolved aluminum engine blocks were fitted into the 300SL Roadsters from Spring of 1962 production, one of these desirable 300SL alloy engines was sourced and airfreighted from Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart to Tehran and fitted into the car by Mr. Fouladi's dealership in Tehran. The new factory replacement 300SL alloy engine was subsequently stamped with the original engine's number, while accidently transposing two of the prefix digits.

The desirable 300SL Roadster would remain in Mr. Fouladi's personal collection for half a century, while used sparingly. A trip was done with the car in 1978, driving from Tehran, Iran to Paris, France, where Mr. Fouladi would then keep the car from then on. When Mr. Fouladi migrated to Southern California in the early 1980s, he brought the car with him, and it was here purchased from Mr. Fouladi by the consignor in 2012, with just over 20,000 kilometers recorded from new, a figure further confirmed by Mr. Fouladi to be the actual distanced travelled since new.

Once acquired by the consignor, a full nut and bolt restoration was carried out by the renowned 300SL experts at Hjeltness Restoration in Escondido, California. Full photo documentation is available from the exceptional and factory-correct restoration done between 2013 and 2018, and the invoices on file total over $600,000 in restoration costs, where both mechanical and cosmetic aspects of the car was fully restored and gone through. Photos are also available of the car before the restoration, showing a very complete and original 300SL. With the car's exciting and prominent royal history from new, and one-off exterior color, the choice was made to restore the car back to that exact specification as seen on the car today. Since the restoration, further sorting and routine maintenance has been performed by another Escondido-based Mercedes-Benz expert, Silver Star Mercedes Service.

Today this exciting 300SL Roadster presents in superb condition inside and out. The Uranium Yellow color is like no other on a 300SL, and really comes alive in person, where the heavy green tint really comes through the yellow. The factory optional black hard top has been fully restored as well, and an old Mercedes-Benz club of Tehran decal written in Arabic is affixed in the rear window. Two sets of hubcaps accompany the car, one black set and one in body color, and appropriate Michelin tires are fitted giving the car the right stance.

Inside the black interior is in excellent and perfectly fitted condition, neatly contrasted by the ivory steering wheel and gear knob. The original kilometer per hour speedometer and centigrade gauges remains in situ, and the 23,507 kilometers recorded are indeed the actual mileage according to long-term owner, Mr. Fouladi. A period Becker Biencia MW/UKW radio adorns the dashboard, and a color-coded fitted luggage set is located in the trunk.

Boasting an incredible history, a striking one-off color, and a superb, factory-correct restoration by renowned Mercedes-Benz specialist Hjeltness Restoration, this 1960 300SL Roadster is certainly one of the best and most exciting examples we have ever had the chance to offer. Ready to take on the most discerning judges at the most prominent Concours d'Elegance events around the World - or toured on a high-speed rally such as the Colorado Grand - this very special 300SL Roadster deserves serious consideration.

Footnotes

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