Auctions and Brokerage
Crandall Condra, La Jolla, California (acquired by 1972)William Wagner, Newport Beach, California (acquired from the above in 1976)Ted Templeton, Los Angeles, California (acquired from the above in 1976)Del Mar Motors, Camarillo, CaliforniaLane Weitzman, Hidden Valley, CaliforniaThomas Taffet, Thousand Oaks, California (acquired circa 1994)Peter Schmid, Mountain View, California (acquired from the above in 1996)Gene Ponder, Marshall, Texas (acquired from the above in 1998)Scott Lustgarten, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania (acquired from the above in 2005)Current Owner (acquired from the above)
Developed from the 300 SL racing cars of 1952 – which successfully returned Mercedes-Benz to top-level international racing and that year scored a commanding 1–2 finish at Le Mans – the breathtaking 300 SL Coupe debuted at the 1954 New York Auto Show to widespread acclaim. A roadster variant was developed shortly after Gullwing production began, with German magazine Auto Motor und Sport reporting the first sighting of a modified open 300 SL at Stuttgart in 1956. As 300 SL Gullwing production wound down in mid-1957 with 1,400 built in all, sales of the comprehensively refined 300 SL Roadster commenced. Just 1,858 300 SL Roadsters were constructed through 1963, with the model largely hand built.
The process of creating an open 300 SL was complex; the roadsters were extensively re-engineered compared to their closed predecessor. Handling was improved with rear-suspension upgrades and standard Michelin X radial tires. Compensating for the 300 SL Roadster’s additional weight, its three-liter engine received a competition (NSL) camshaft and increased compression.
Predictably, the roadsters were popular among the top celebrities of the era, further raising the 300 SL’s image. Despite costing over $11,000 when new, the low-production 300 SL Roadster was never among the most profitable models for Mercedes-Benz. But the influence and halo effect that the cars had when new are stronger than ever today – no serious collection of the world’s great sports cars is considered truly complete without at least one high-quality example in residence.
Constructed at the Mercedes-Benz factory in Stuttgart during October 1961, this 300 SL Roadster is one of only 250 examples completed that year. It is significant to note that this particular car features four-wheel Dunlop disc brakes, a mechanical improvement introduced for the model earlier in 1961 at chassis 2780. Today, this car is referred to as a “disc-brake, iron-block” Roadster, and many knowledgeable enthusiasts regard this as the ideal arrangement for a 300 SL.
According to a copy of the factory data card, this 300 SL Roadster was originally equipped for delivery to the US, the most important market for Mercedes-Benz’s top-of-the-line sports car. When new, it was finished in an unusual color scheme – White (DB 050) with red leather upholstery and a blue canvas soft top – and outfitted with a Becker radio, fire extinguisher, and Continental whitewall tires.
As documented in the Gull Wing Group’s 300 SL Roadster Registry, this SL Roadster spent at least two decades with Southern California collectors, beginning with La Jolla resident Crandall Condra in the early 1970s. A note in the car’s file indicates that this 300 SL was fully restored by Mercedes-Benz specialist Scott Restorations during the 1990s and that it later participated in the California Mille.
In 1998, well-known Texas collector Gene Ponder acquired the 300 SL Roadster and retained it until 2005, when it was sold to Scott Lustgarten of Pennsylvania. During Mr. Lustgarten’s ownership, the 300 SL was professionally serviced by two of the foremost marque experts: Robert Platz’s Precision Autoworks in East Camden, New Jersey, and Paul Russell & Company in Essex, Massachusetts.
Between 2005 and 2009, Precision Autoworks serviced the car to ensure optimum performance and addressed myriad details, resulting in a more accurate presentation. Between 2012 and 2013, Paul Russell & Company continued to improve the car, re-trimming the interior and trunk with authentic materials, installing a new canvas soft top, and detailing the engine bay to a high standard.
Today, the 300 SL remains in impressive condition throughout and is equipped with the most desirable accessories available for the model – an optional factory hardtop, fitted luggage set, European headlights, and a Becker Grand Prix radio. Significantly, a copy of the Mercedes-Benz data card confirms that the chassis, engine, and body numbers found on the car match the factory records and, furthermore, a large file of invoices from Precision Autoworks and Paul Russell & Company are offered with the sale.
A matching-numbers example professionally restored and maintained by leading marque experts, this disc-brake Roadster is an ideal candidate for leading automotive events – from Gull Wing Group and Mercedes- Benz Club of America events to exclusive rallies such as the Colorado Grand. For the collector in search of a well-optioned and beautifully presented Mercedes-Benz sports car, a closer look at this outstanding 300 SL is strongly encouraged.