Auctions and Brokerage
Robert Schultz, Portsmouth, New Hampshire (acquired new in 1958)William Swope, Billerica, Massachusetts (acquired in 1971)Lurz Wallem, Topsfield, MassachusettsWilliam Clapp, Seattle, Washington (acquired circa 1976)Keith Howell, Seattle, WashingtonPrivate Collector, Seattle, Washington (acquired in 1981)Current Owner (acquired from the above)
By 1951, Mercedes-Benz had produced its first postwar luxury model, the 300 series, which was the fastest car available in Germany. Successful within its home country, the 300 series also attracted notable international clients such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Gary Cooper, and the Shah of Iran.
Mercedes-Benz then sought to increase sales further through international racing efforts. Engineers were asked to create a competition car using available passenger car parts, and the W194 300 SL race car was born. The W194 used the 300 series’ inline six-cylinder engine, but with three carburetors, a freer-flowing intake and exhaust, and a more aggressive cam to increase horsepower from 125 to 175. Most important, the design was based around an advanced tubular space frame, yielding a very light weight and prompting the initials SL, for SportLeicht. This design, in its initial form, also necessitated the use of the now-iconic gullwing doors.
The W194 made its racing debut at the 1952 Mille Miglia, with one car finishing 2nd with Karl Kling and another placing 4th with Rudolf Caracciola. Later that year, the 300 SLs came in 1st and 2nd at Le Mans and swept the first four positions at the Nürburgring. At the Carrera Panamericana that year, only 39 of the 91 cars that entered would complete the race, but all three Mercedes-Benz team cars finished, with the 300 SLs of Karl Kling and Hermann Lang coming in 1st and 2nd.
Developed from these racing cars, the production 300 SL Coupe debuted at the 1954 New York International Auto Show to widespread acclaim. In mid-1957, as Gullwing production wound down, sales of the comprehensively refined 300 SL Roadster commenced. Compared to their closed predecessor, the roadsters were extensively re-engineered, with handling improved by rear-suspension upgrades and a revision of the space frame that allowed for conventionally hinged doors. Compensating for the roadsters’ additional weight, their three-liter engines received a competition (NSL) camshaft and increased compression.
This 300 SL Roadster was constructed at the Mercedes-Benz factory during June 1958, according to a copy of the factory data card, finished in the sporting color combination of White (DB 50) over black upholstery, fitted with special-order interior door panels without the standard armrests. Offered with an optional accessory hardtop, the Roadster spent most of its first two decades in the northeastern US. According to the Gull Wing Group’s historical roster, 8500232 was originally delivered to Robert Schultz of New Hampshire; then the Roadster was relocated to Massachusetts, with its second and third recorded owners, beginning in 1971.
By 1976, the white Roadster was sold to William Clapp of Seattle, eventually making its way, in 1981, to a private enthusiast who would retain the 300 SL for almost 40 years. His regard for the car is quite evident in its well-maintained, naturally patinated cosmetic appearance. At some point, the exterior has been refinished in its original white, but the seats and doorsills appear to retain their original black Roser hides, having been re-dyed in the past. In the trunk, the original spare wheel still displays the proper olive green paint on the inner side, and a period Michelin X tire enhances its authenticity.
Over the last 10 years, following a move to Arizona, the Roadster has been maintained by Robert Webster of Werkstatt LLC in Cave Creek. Webster recently reported that this Roadster is the best driving example of a 300 SL he has ever experienced, and that it feels particularly smooth and solid on the road. Displaying its welcoming level of gentle patina throughout, the Roadster showed a total of 77,788 miles on its odometer when catalogued.
Offered here is a well-loved 300 SL Roadster, complete with its hardtop, that is poised to be enjoyed as its engineers originally intended, on the open road. Capable in modern traffic, and built with time-honored, old-school methods and materials, a 300 SL Roadster offers the best of both worlds, regardless of the position of the top. A fantastic event car, this affable Mercedes-Benz is ready to reward its next owner with many miles of history-steeped adventure.