1960 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
Chassis no. 198-042-10-002619
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. 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. It was, arguably, the world's first supercar.
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. Built with conventional doors, the 300SL Roadster was first exhibited at the Geneva Salon in May 1957 and was an immediate hit with the 1950s 'jet set' including royalty, actors and socialites. 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 300SL Roadster sold well for a car that cost more than a Ferrari 250GT California Spyder, and would out-live the 300SL Coupé by several years.
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 tires, 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. Road &Track 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. Roadster production ceased in 1963 after 1,858 cars had been built, and today the model is both rare and highly sought after.
This 300SL Roadster has been pampered carefully since its rubber hit the road. Ten years after leaving the factory, it was taken back to Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart to be made 'like-new' once again. Enjoyed for a further nineteen years, during which time it crossed the Atlantic to Southern California, the car was restored again in 1989 by noted Mercedes-Benz 300SL specialists Scott Restorations of Panorama, California. Scott's work included a complete stripdown, repair of any suspect bodywork, a full repaint to concours standards, suspension and driveline and engine work as needed. An extensive folder of records, including bills from the factory's 1970 restoration and the 1989 restoration, are included, along with a photographic history of the vehicle.
Finished in a beautiful light blue with tan leather, this roadster presents itself very well as it is today. The brightwork of this beautifully presented car is superb, while the interior shows very well. Chromed Rudge wheels anchor the car while a matching hardtop and a set of fitted luggage complete the package. Most recently enjoyed in the U.K., it recently passed its MoT inspection there.
Whether cruising down a tree lined boulevard or completing a long road rally, there are few cars to compare with a 300SL Roadster. And few 300SLs would look better to do either of those two activities, or anything in between, than this beautiful example.