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1958 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster

1958 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster

Editor’s Note: The Mercedes 300SL Gullwing and the 300SL Convertible are both epic vintage sports cars. Gullwings are worth a bit more, given their unique open-up, swing-open doors, but the 300SL ragtop would make a much better driver, we believe. This particular one will cross the block at the RM Auctions’ Amelia Island event on March 9, 2013. Good luck to the seller and to one lucky, skillful bidder. RM Auctions, thank you for the words and artful photos.

Photo Credit: Darin Schnabel ©2013 Courtesy of RM Auctions

Lot 119
1958 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
$800,000 – $1,000,000

Chassis no. 198.042-8500286
Engine no. 198.980.8500288

225 bhp (DIN), 240 bhp (SAE), 2,996 cc overhead-cam inline six-cylinder engine, Bosch mechanical fuel-injection, four-speed manual gearbox, independent front suspension with upper and lower A-arms and coil springs, independent rear suspension with coil springs and swing axles, and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 94.5 in.

Well-restored in desirable colors
Rudge wheels, fitted luggage, and factory hardtop
European headlights

The original Mercedes-Benz 300SL “Gullwing” Coupe made its exit in 1957, succeeded by an open Roadster model that debuted at that year’s Geneva Salon. Converting the famed racing-bred coupe to an open convertible meant dispensing with the famed upward-opening door and redesigning the chassis, which was strengthened significantly to compensate for the loss of the roof structure. Headlamps were changed, the grille was smaller, and a chrome molding was added below the doors. A new camshaft and higher compression boosted the famed, racing-derived, twin-cam six-cylinder engine’s output to 225 brake horsepower, and its revised rear suspension now boasted a compensating spring, which was added to reduce the over-steering tendencies of the Gullwing’s single-jointed swing-axle arrangement.

Enthusiasts who may have worried about the 300SL going “soft” had absolutely nothing to concern themselves about. The Roadster remained among the fastest automobiles on the road, capable of 133 to 155 mph, depending upon the final drive ratio specified. Production continued into early-1963, and with 1,858 built, the Roadster proved even more popular than its Gullwing predecessor, while still remaining exclusive enough to be rarely seen–and it was still incredibly powerful. Like the earlier coupe, it was, in its day, the car in which to see and be seen, and it was favored by celebrities, racing drivers, and just about anyone who appreciated fine machinery and had the bank account to acquire it. As with all great automobiles, it has retained that same persona to this day, and it remains among the world’s most desired cars.

The example offered here is documented by its original Mercedes-Benz data card, a copy of which accompanies it today. It is exactly what the knowledgeable buyer seeks in an early Roadster, a quality restoration in desirable colors, with all of the accessories that one could desire. Performed several years ago, the restoration saw the car finished in metallic silver-blue with tan leather upholstery, and with all interior components properly restored in the correct materials and finishes. A new dark blue soft top is fitted.

Importantly, this car is equipped with racing-style Rudge knock-off wheels. Something of an icon of 1950s Mercedes performance, these wheels were popular and desirable on the Gullwing, especially those examples that saw track use, but relatively few Roadsters were fitted with them–making the set on this car rare indeed. The car is also equipped with a full set of fitted luggage, ideal for touring in a Grand Tourer, especially one with, as on the 300SL Roadster, an unusually-shaped luggage compartment. The crowning touch is a removable hardtop in dark metallic blue, which contrasts nicely with the lighter body panels. The Roadster’s factory removable hardtop was designed “into” the car, so that unlike many removable tops, which appear awkward and out-of-place when installed, it appears right at home and produces a beautiful, snug closed coupe. In fact, it almost recalls the Gullwing.

As an original U.S.-delivery car with bumper guards, in addition to its “triple crown” of options, this car is equipped with a later upgrade to European-style single-lens headlamps. Many feel that this improves the overall appearance of a Roadster, and here, the lenses are fresh and beautiful. The original firewall data tag remains present on the car. The 300SL rides on sports racing tires with a period-correct appearance and shows 21,000 miles.

Today, the 300SL Roadster still carries with it an indelible aura of speed, power, and sophisticated style. Fast enough for the sports car lover, and comfortable enough for those who demand to luxuriate, it has remained one of the most desirable automobiles in the world for nearly 60 years. The car offered here presents with an unusual, desirable selection of options and accessories, which combined with a beautiful restoration in an outstanding choice of colors, makes it one of the most desirable examples still on the road.

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