Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster
The spectacular Mercedes-Benz 300SL “Gullwing” was in production for three years, during which time just 1,400 cars, not including racers and prototypes, were built largely by hand in Stuttgart’s finest tradition. Yet despite the low production volume, Daimler-Benz remained sufficiently convinced of the value of an expensive, image-leading sports car as part of its model line-up to develop an improved open version.
A modified 300SL Roadster chassis was first spotted in the summer of 1956 at Stuttgart by the German magazine Auto, Motor und Sport. The improved 300SL Roadster debuted in the spring of 1957 at the Geneva Motor Show. By the end of that year, the final 70 of the 1,400 Gullwing Coupés and the first 618 of 1,858 300SL Roadsters were assembled.
Among the Roadster’s many advancements was a lowered central section of the lightweight 300SL space-frame chassis to allow improved entrance and egress with smaller sills and enlarged doors. At the rear, the spare tyre was repositioned below the boot floor, with a smaller fuel tank providing useful luggage space. The suspension was fine-tuned by repositioning of the single-pivot swing-axle and the addition of a coil spring mounted transversely above the differential, allowing the use of softer rear springs and providing a more comfortable ride and improved handling. Coupled with wider tyres and wider front and rear tracks, the roadster banished the Gullwing’s tricky handling characteristics.
The hood retracted fully into a well behind the seats and was covered with a metal panel, making for a sleek body. The 300SL Roadster remained an excellent performer with a 137-mph top speed and was popular among the celebrity elite of the era, including such luminaries as Clark Gable and Elvis Presley.
Part of the RM Auctions event at The Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in January, 2009; The Portola Hotel & Spa in August, 2010; The Battersea Evolution in October, 2011; The Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in January, 2012; The Ritz-Carlton in March, 2012 and in London, October, 2012. This car was also part of the Gooding & Company event in Scottsdale in January, 2013.
250 bhp, 2,996 cc OHC inline six-cylinder engine, four-speed all-synchromesh manual gearbox, independent front suspension with twin wishbones, coil springs and anti-roll bar, single-pivot swing axle rear suspension with compensating spring and coil springs, hydraulic telescopic shock absorbers, and hydraulic, servo-assisted brakes. Wheelbase: 2,400 mm.
Source: RM Auctions; Image copyright and courtesy of Gooding & Company
Photo Credit: Darin Schnabel; Dave Teel; PMImage; Chip Riegel; Cymon Taylor