1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL
Handsomely Restored Matching-Numbers 300SL Roadster. A Great Event Car with Build Card and Luggage.
1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadsters/n 198.042.7500532, engine no. 198.980-7500431Silver with Red Leather
The Mercedes-Benz 300SL remains one of the most important and iconic vehicles ever constructed. A car that redefined motorsports performance when new, the 300SL in both gullwing and roadster configuration continues to inspire enthusiasts all over the world today. Released in 1954 with production concluding in 1957, the gullwing arrived first as a triumph of engineering and design. Delivered with production fuel-injection (first of its kind), and achieving the world's fastest top speed, the 300 SL (S-Sport, L-Light) confirmed Max Hoffman’s challenge to Mercedes-Benz engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut – to build a Gran-Prix car, tailored for road use.
Demand for the gullwing was surprisingly strong considering the price, but the growing US market, in particular the west coast, was seeking cars of unique distinction and open configuration, Hoffman insisted that a roadster version also be developed. Far more than a topless 300SL, the roadster was significantly re-engineered to address some of the shortcomings of the earlier 300SL platform. To begin with, the roadster was fortified with additional structural frame members and the side structure improved for traditionally hinged doors with larger openings. Further structural improvements resulted in greater torsional rigidity and better handling via single-pivot swing-axle rear suspension which vastly improved bump oversteer experienced in the gullwing. Other improvements such as roll up side glass, increased horsepower, and softer coil springs made for a much more enjoyable ride without compromising the sporting nature of the race-bred original. A total of 1,858 roadsters were built from 1957-1963 with just 554 constructed in its inaugural year.
This particular example has recently emerged from the estate of a long term California collection where it remained for twenty years under thoughtful ownership. The former owner enjoyed several outings with the car including participation in the Grand Prix Monaco Formula One event in 2011, 2012, and 2013 confirmed by the windshield decals still in place today. A copy of the original Mercedes-Benz build sheet indicates the car still retains the original matching numbers engine exactly as it was assembled on December 17, 1957. The build sheet further indicates the car was ordered for delivery to the US with sealed beam headlights, Becker radio, column mounted turn signal indicator, reverse lights (integrated into the main taillight lenses), and fitted luggage. Originally painted bright red, the car was fitted with cream leather interior and beige convertible top. Delivery was consigned from Meyer Sohn, Bremen, Germany through Studebaker/Packard (then the authorized US importer for Mercedes-Benz) with a final destination of New Orleans.
With 77,947 miles showing on the odometer, this 300SL has had a recent service by 300SL experts Burlingame Motors. After a careful mechanical overview, new sway bar bushings and new motor mounts were installed and the brakes were serviced, cleaned and adjusted. During the brake inspection, it was noted that there were no leaks and correct materials were used during restoration. The fuel gauge was rebuilt, the hand brake adjusted, and the engine oil and filter were renewed.
Today this rare and beautiful matching numbers 300SL roadster presents as a very handsome glossy restoration with delightful cosmetics and excellent mechanical continuity. The silver paint was mixed with the correct metallic flake and was uniformly applied. The finish remains glossy and smooth with attractive presentation, representing enjoyable use in some areas but overall well maintained and properly detailed. The doors, hood and trunk gaps are tidy and even throughout with mild evidence of use visible in a few closure surfaces. The hood and trunk open and shut smoothly and the doors have properly finished jambs, opening and shutting tightly with distinctive German precision. The exterior emblems and lenses are all in very good to excellent condition, while the chrome shows only minor areas of light surface hazing. The wheels and wheel covers are beautifully finished with matching silver painted rims and chrome plated wheel trim and hubcaps. The low fender line, sculpted hood bulges, and racecar inspired side vents all accent the perfect stance of this SL.
The interior of the car has a very fresh look and feel. The recently finished leather surfaces have been properly stitched and applied. The workmanship throughout the interior is of high quality with excellent feel to the seating surfaces and a beautifully fitted leather topped dash. The red color is consistent throughout the majority of leather surfaces with just a hint of vermillion that brightens the hue in more direct sunlight. The red canvas top smoothly disappears into the hinged rear deck and latches into the windshield header with tight closure including a clear, taut rear window. The dashboard is beautiful, with vivid instruments, all functioning as expected. The various detailed interior switches, levers, and knobs are all beautifully finished including the wood rimmed Nardi steering wheel. Inside the trunk, a set of finely crafted red leather covered luggage has been trimmed with grey leather edging and grab handles, accented by chrome hardware. The overall visual impact of the interior is quite nice, exhibiting uniform finishes and minimal use since being restored.
Under the hood, the matching numbers fuel-injected 300SL engine is a stunning combination of sculptural artistry and mechanical refinement. Proper fittings and attention to detail are evident throughout the engine compartment. The correct air cleaner housing and fittings are also in place. Although the finishes are showing some evidence of use since the restoration was completed, the overall cohesive presentation is very satisfying. The engine compartment is clean and well presented down to the correct engine number stamping and ID plate, correct serial number plate, and correct body code plate. While not restored with only concours show judging in mind, the engine compartment is properly prepared, ready for enjoyment.
As one might expect from a car that has been sorted and well-maintained, mechanical performance and driving manners are consistent with the cosmetic condition. The car starts easily and settles into a smooth idle when warm, while the cold idle is typical for these injected engines and easily managed with the driver-operated fuel enrichening mechanism. The engine is well tuned with no fuel-injection issues, with fuss-free and linear operation throughout the rev range. The gearbox engages easily and shifting is smooth with good synchromesh and a pleasing, high-quality mechanical feel to the action. Suspension is very nice on the highway with easy handling and surprisingly light steering even at slower speeds. Braking is effective and symmetrical with good bite. The chassis and underside components are in very good condition overall with no significant issues and no visible signs of structural compromise. The integrity of the restoration on all upper surfaces is reflected diligently in the underside, though not to top tier concours level.
This matching numbers 300SL Roadster comes with fitted luggage, spare tire, and a copy of the original build sheet verifying the matching numbers engine and supporting the original equipment as delivered.
One of the most exotic cars available when new, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster was brimming with innovative features, many of them hallmarks of superlative automotive engineering. Today these fast, beautiful, and exclusive cars continue to appeal to collectors and enthusiasts in part due to their inherent beauty but also for their exceptional build quality and ease of use. This matching numbers example is ready for enjoyable driving, events, or fun excursions, just as originally intended when delivered new.