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Arthur Avignon, Washington, D.C. (acquired new in 1963)Harvey “Skip” Berg, Tiburon, California (acquired from the above in 1979)Current Owner (acquired from the above in 2012)
Between 1957 and 1963, a total of 1,858 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadsters were built, each a showcase of the marque’s exceptional engineering, styling, and build quality. Throughout production, the most notable upgrades included the addition of four-wheel disc brakes, beginning with chassis 2780 in 1961, as well as aluminum engine blocks, beginning with chassis 3049 in 1962.
During the final months of 300 SL production, the last 210 cars built received a newly developed alloy engine block, which offered a substantial weight savings over the conventional steel block. The new engine was about 50 pounds lighter; that decreased burden over the front axle, combined with the reduced unsprung weight of the disc brake system, improved steering and handling response. These final Roadsters represent the end of an era, as the last body-on-frame passenger cars to be constructed by the Mercedes-Benz factory.
The late-production Roadster presented here, featuring disc brakes and alloy block, was acquired new in 1963 by Arthur Avignon, who was then living in the Washington, D.C., area. In the late 1970s, nearby Mercedes-Benz specialist Bob Platz was contacted by Harvey “Skip” Berg of Northern California, who was looking for an exceptional Roadster to add to his collection – and an opportunity to recapture a fond memory of his younger years; in the early 1960s, he had been given an unforgettable ride in a new white over red 300 SL Roadster at the San Francisco Auto Show. Mr. Platz knew of Mr. Avignon’s car, and that it was a late-production example, retaining its original engine, with extremely low mileage after sitting idle for much of the previous decade. Mr. Platz recalled brokering the deal between the two enthusiasts, including the unexpected complication posed when Mr. Avignon demanded that the price be paid in cash. The then-princely sum of $29,000 required trips to numerous local banks to amass.
With the purchase complete, Mr. Berg retained Mr. Platz to refurbish the Roadster, which at that point had logged 4,711 miles. The work included a full refinish in White (DB 50) from the Roadster’s original Cream (DB 608), as well as re-chroming the bumpers and miscellaneous mechanical work. Mr. Berg would keep the 300 SL for the next 33 years, adding fewer than 10,000 miles in that span. During his ownership, Mr. Berg upgraded his Roadster with a set of Bosch European headlights as well as a three-spoke, wood-rimmed Nardi steering wheel. In 2012, the Roadster was acquired by the consignor, who added it to his collection of important postwar sports cars. At the time of cataloguing, less than 700 additional miles had been accrued during his six years with the car.
A coveted rarity among 300 SL Roadsters is this car’s two-piece set of color-matched fitted luggage. Unlike the Gullwing, which carried its luggage on a parcel shelf in the passenger compartment, the Roadster luggage set was designed for maximum volume within the confines of the trunk. The gently worn appearance of the red leather luggage complements the factory-original red interior superbly. Inside the luggage, the familiar tartan lining, white packing straps, and riveted aluminum Karl Baisch identification tag are wonderfully intact. Emblematic of their popularity with collectors, similar luggage sets have been reported to sell to 300 SL owners for as much as $50,000.
The prized aspects of this 300 SL place it among the ranks of the most important Roadsters in existence. Built in the final months of production, with the most desirable specifications, chassis 3228 is one of the lowest-mileage examples known. Its hardtop, fitted luggage, and beautifully preserved interior set it even further apart. This Roadster retains the rare characteristics of factory assembly, preserving its original build quality. In largely undisturbed condition, this is a 300 SL that can be enjoyed just as it presents today.
As the majority of the remaining original-engine, alloy-block Roadsters reside with veteran Gull Wing Group members and in private collections, where they are unlikely to come to market in the foreseeable future, this truly outstanding example represents a rare opportunity that is worthy of serious consideration.