Auctions and Brokerage
Symbolic Motor Car, La Jolla, California (acquired from Japan in August 2005)Private Collector, Los Angeles, California (acquired from the above in December 2005)Current Owner (acquired from the above)
Nearly six decades after its landmark spring 1957 debut at Geneva, the Mercedes- Benz 300 SL Roadster continues to rank – along with the Gullwing coupe before it – among the finest and most influential sports cars ever conceived. Capable of truly electrifying performance, the 300 SL Roadster is further defined by such virtues as its legendary Mercedes-Benz construction quality and robust engineering, which match the purposeful beauty of its sensuous body lines. Its technical sophistication – including its SOHC, direct fuel-injected three-liter engine – was unsurpassed until many years after the last example rolled of the line in 1963. The 300 SL Roadster also marks the end of an era as the final Mercedes-Benz constructed with a separate body and frame.
Largely based on the W198 Gullwing – itself derived from the W194 300 SL racing car of the early 1950s – the 300 SL Roadster was internally designated W198 II and heralded myriad updates while maintaining the sleek design cues and race-bred performance credentials of the Gullwing.
Carefully refined from its incredibly lightweight yet strong tubular space frame, featuring lower sills allowing for conventional side-opening doors, the 300 SL Roadster was at once easier to enter and exit, and arguably more comfortable than its forebear. Handling was improved and made more predictable with a switch to somewhat softer spring rates. Most notably, the addition of a rear-compensating spring tamed the oversteering tendencies of the coupe’s sporting, yet sometimes tricky, rear swing-arm suspension.
The 300 SL Roadster did gain some 200 lbs., mostly a consequence of the new convertible top, its associated mechanisms, and additional structural bracing. However, a compression increase infused the three-liter straight six with 250 hp, offsetting the weight penalty. The snug-fitting convertible top retracted fully beneath a neat metal panel into a well behind the seats, enhancing the basic roadster’s sleek body lines. As buyers expected, the 300 SL Roadster was an outstanding performer with strong acceleration and a factory-claimed 137 mph top speed, depending upon the final-drive ratio selected.
Predictably, the 300 SL Roadster proved quite popular among members of the era’s entertainment, political, and social elite, including Elvis Presley and screen legends Clark Gable and Glenn Ford. Both luxurious and high-powered, 300 SL was the vehicular embodiment of the energy and promise of the late 1950s and 1960s.
According to a copy of its original Daimler-Benz Lieferschein (Delivery Notice), this original US-specification 300 SL Roadster is one of the 554 examples produced for 1957 and was originally finished in the rare Erdbeerrot or “Strawberry Red Metallic” (DB 543) paint. Other factory-original equipment included English instruments, sealed-beam headlamps with separate parking lamps, a Becker Mexico radio unit, and a 3.89:1 rear-axle ratio. While little is known of its early history, the 300 SL was eventually sold to Japan, where it is reported to have spent a number of years until it returned to the US in August 2005, as a solid overall example that had already received some restorative work earlier in its lifetime.
As offered, this 300 SL clearly benefits from the exacting two-year restoration performed by marque experts at the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center USA in Irvine, California, completed in mid-2014. The work included a restoration of the mechanical systems, including a complete rebuild of the engine and transmission, plus attention to the steering, suspension, and rear-axle assemblies. The body was refinished in its original color, complemented by all new tan leather upholstery, carpeting, and a brown soft top all installed by Jon Cumpton.
Stunningly presented with color-matched Rudge-type wheels, books, tools, and two-piece fitted luggage set, as well as desirable European-specification headlamps, this first-year 300 SL Roadster is extremely rare as one of about 30 examples originally finished in Strawberry Red Metallic (DB 543). As such, it simply “ticks all the boxes” for an early-production 300 SL Roadster. Best of all, with its race-bred DNA and prodigious capabilities, this iconic Mercedes-Benz will certainly provide a thrilling experience with every drive, whether on the scenic Colorado Grand or a beautiful coastal highway.