Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster
The 300SL ‘Gullwing’ coupe was extraordinary in Mercedes-Benz history for a number of reasons, many related to the foresight and influence of the legendary Max Hoffman, Mercedes-Benz’s US importer in the ’50s. It was Hoffman who pushed the company to bring a street version of its sports racing coupe to market and, by guaranteeing to sell 1,000 of them, had it launched in New York City, the first time a Mercedes-Benz had ever been introduced outside Germany. Stateside sales proved Hoffman was right, and the car became a success on both the street and the track.
Hoffman saw even greater sales possibilities for an even more refined version of the coupe and saw to it that Mercedes created the 300SL roadster to replace the coupe in 1957. The 300SL roadster brought the best attributes of the Gullwing—its speed, handling prowess and solid build-quality—and carried them forward in a more practical package for everyday use. With the space frame chassis modified to provide deeper door openings for ease of entry and exit combined with the natural appeal to Americans of the open sports car, it was at once the car for both the sporting enthusiast and the boulevardier to embrace.
Slight styling changes distinguished the roadster from the coupe, including larger fenders, new headlights, a smaller grille opening and a chrome trim strip which now adorned the side sill. That they were closely related however remained obvious. Despite a weight penalty due to the chassis strengthening needed to compensate for the loss of the roof and the larger door openings, the roadster’s performance was maintained with an improvement in horsepower and increased compression ratio. While the roadster also cut a more turbulent path through the air than the Gullwing, it nevertheless was capable of nearly 155 mph depending on the final gear ratios chosen, making it one of the world’s fastest road cars.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in August 2009 at the Portola Hotel & Spa and Monterey Conference Center, Monterey, California, in January of 2011 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona and in March of 2012 at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida.
240 hp, 2,996 cc overhead cam six-cylinder engine, fuel injection, four-speed gearbox, four-wheel independent suspension and four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 94.5"
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel