<b>1959 Mercedes-Benz  300SL Roadster</b><br />Chassis no. 198.042.8500297
Lot 170
1959 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
Sold for US$ 895,000 inc. premium

Lot Details
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1959 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
Chassis no. 198.042.8500297

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

*Acquired by the present owner nearly 50 years ago
*One of only 1,858 300SL Roadsters produced
*Offered with both its Hard and Soft Top
*Original and unrestored
*Complete with service history since new


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 wheel arches 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 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 hard top 300SL 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 the 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. 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

A carefully maintained and lovingly preserved example, this unrestored 300SL has been in the care of a single enthusiast since 1970. With records documenting its history back to its original delivery, it is a rare opportunity to acquire one of the world's most legendary cars in such remarkably untouched condition—as if it had only just come off the Daimler-Benz line.

The original and regularly completed service book documents this car as leaving the Stuttgart factory on July 28, 1959. Finished in the classic color scheme of DB50G Cream/Ivory White over DB1663 Black leather, the 300SL arrived at Falvey Autos, Inc in Ferndale, Michigan less than a month later on August 24th. Not ultimately bound for the Mitten, the car ended up in the Denver, Colorado where it would enjoy active use. Maintained regularly by Buckley Bros. Motors, Inc, the 7,600 mile service was completed on February 20, 1960 (although the mechanic incorrectly recorded the year as 1959) followed by the 11,400 mile service on October 19 of the same year. This Mercedes-Benz is recorded as having done the 19,000 miles service with 19,850 miles on the ticker on June 30, 1961. Service remarks continue through May 11, 1964 when the 41,800 mile service was completed with 42,284 miles indicated on the car. From there, receipts and invoices carry the story through the end of the groovy 1960s and into the 1970s.

Around 1970 the car headed east, with service receipts indicating around 77,000 miles in June of 1970. It was around this time, while the car was in Nashville, Tennessee, that the Roadster was spotted by a cousin of the current owner. The cousin, then a student at Vanderbilt, knew his uncle was a car enthusiast and alerted him to the pretty, white 300SL that was for sale near his campus. Acting swiftly on his cousin's tip, he came down to find the car and purchased it on the spot.

Driven on rare occasions, the 300SL was the one car that received pride of place in his garage. Regularly serviced by local marque experts, the odometer now reads under 92,500 original miles. The constant maintenance of the car is evident both its cosmetic and mechanical condition. The paint shows well after nearly six decades and the interior has a lovely but only lightly worn patina. Since acquiring the car, a matching hardtop has been purchased and fitted to the car.

On a recent drive, the car started and ran well even though it had not received much active use in some time. Demonstrating the ample power, good handling, and capable brakes for which 300SLs are known, it felt alive and ready for action.

Complete with all of its original books—including owner's manual, service book, catalog, Becker radio instruction book, sales brochure, and even a map of Germany (should you have wished for European delivery), in addition to the jack, spare, a selection of tools, and loads of receipts, this beautifully presented and unrestored 300SL beckons its first new keeper in nearly half a century.

An excellent vehicle for anything from a Sunday drive to a proper tour, it is a welcome ticket to any number of highly coveted events such as the Colorado Grand, California Mille, Copperstate 1000, and Going to the Sun Rally. And, of course, come this fall, a 300SL will be the only way to get into the premier Gullwing Group Rally in Arizona.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note, the engine in the car is unstamped and believed to be a factory replacement.
Activities
Auction information

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Buyers' Premium and Charges

Please Note: The Buyer's Premium for this auction is as follows:

The final bid (hammer) price of each lot will be subject to a buyer's premium.

For MOTOR VEHICLE property the premium is 12% on the first $250,000 of the bid price and 10% on any amount of the bid price exceeding $250,000. Buyers are required to pay any applicable import duty, sales or use tax, as the case may be.

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For the CHARITY lots 22 through 26, no buyer's premium will be charged.

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