1963 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster  Chassis no. 198 042-10-003192

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Lot 1044
1963 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
Chassis no. 198 042-10-003192

US$ 390,000 - 440,000
£ 280,000 - 320,000
Amended
1963 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
Chassis no. 198 042-10-003192
Created to spearhead Mercedes-Benz’s return to competition in the post-war era, the 300SL debuted in the 1952 Mille Miglia, finishing second and fourth 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 gullwing-doored Coupe 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 coupe bodywork required innovative thinking - hence the gullwing 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 Coupe 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 out-live the coupe by several years. The production of an open 300SL involved altering the cockpit area, where the spaceframe was re-designed 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 roadtest. “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.”

The vendor searched long and hard to find this rare 1963 300SL Roadster built to the model’s ultimate - alloy engine and disc brakes - specification, and has spared no expense in restoring and maintaining it in beautiful condition.

Delivered to special order in June 1963, the car was shipped to Lebanon where its first owner was a wealthy merchant. Following his death in the late 1960s, it was sold to a collector in California, remaining there for years in a private collection. Thereafter it was sold to another collector/actor in Miami who shipped the car to one of his homes in Venezuela where it remained until 2003. The vendor purchased the car through a friend approximately two years ago for his private use and enjoyment. Last year, the car was driven to the Gull Wing Group convention in Newport, RH. Before doing so, it was serviced and sorted by former Gull Wing Service mechanic David Twitchell, of DTE Motor Werks. After the convention, the car was left with David Twitchell who completed numerous further improvements and maintenance work.

All numbers match the factory build sheet, including the alloy block engine which has undergone a major service that included taking it fully apart and replacing every gasket and seal. The ’rod and main bearings were replaced along with the timing chain, oil lines, water lines and numerous other mechanical parts, such as the clutch assembly which was balanced to the flywheel and crankshaft. The transmission was gone through and resealed to assure no leaks. The differential is the original and highly desirable 3.64:1 ratio unit. The ‘boot’ has been replaced with a ‘one-piece’ unit rather than the zipper type, which typically leaks. In total more than $40,000 dollars was invested in the drive train and other mechanicals.

Footnotes

  • The engine bay has been cleaned and detailed, the bodywork having been repainted a number of years ago to its original colour, ‘DB 534’ (red). It is reported as in very good condition with no dents, scratches or signs of accidents and rust whatsoever, as is the tubular frame. Most of the rubber seals have recently been replaced. The suspension is described as ‘tight’ and for the most part original, with the exception of the replacement shock absorbers. The hardtop is refinished in its original ivory color (DB 608) and the car has a new Hapich soft-top from Germany. It is a complementary tan color, rather than original black. The bright work has, for the most part, been re-plated to show standard, while the aluminium dashboard and threshold pieces have been polished and re-anodised. The interior has recently been professionally re-trimmed in Roser leather of original color (1068 ‘natural’), being correct in so far as grain, stitching and perforations are concerned. Instruments including the clock have been rebuilt or re-calibrated and cleaned, while the speedometer and tachometer cables have been replaced. All light bulbs have been replaced and every electronic component is in good working order. The odometer reads circa 66,000 kilometres (41,000 miles) and is thought to be original.

    Overall this car is a very original example, with the exception of the paintwork, interior and the new mechanical repairs and updates. The vendor - an enthusiast with 20-plus years experience of owning and restoring these cars as well as other classic Mercedes-Benz models - advises us that this example runs and drives better than any other 300SL he has driven in that time. The ‘personal’ car from his private collection, it is offered for sale due to health reasons.

    Its racing parentage notwithstanding, the 300SL was and remains a thoroughly practical automobile, as civilized in city driving as it is exhilarating on the highway. Roadster production ceased in 1963 after 1,858 cars had been built, and today the model is both rare and highly sought after by discerning collectors.

Saleroom notices

  • Lot 1044: Withdrawn - 1963 Mercedes-Benz 300SL
1963 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster  Chassis no. 198 042-10-003192
1963 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster  Chassis no. 198 042-10-003192
1963 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster  Chassis no. 198 042-10-003192
1963 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster  Chassis no. 198 042-10-003192
1963 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster  Chassis no. 198 042-10-003192
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