1960 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster
$1,100,000 - $1,250,000
RM | Sotheby's - ARIZONA 2019 - Offered on: Thursday, January 17, 2019
- Finished in its stunning original colors of Graphite Grey over red leather
- Retains its original matching-numbers engine
- Restored by CB Restorations in 2009
- Sparingly driven since, though properly maintained and exercised
- Includes tool set and spare tire
◊ OWNERSHIP INTEREST: Lots with this symbol indicate that RM Sotheby's ("RMS") has an ownership interest in the lot in whole or in part.
The introduction of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL was a hugely important moment for Mercedes-Benz and served to further cement the company’s position as the market leader in race-bred, performance automobiles. Massively ahead of its time, the 300 SL utilized an innovative space-frame chassis coupled with a highly advanced, fuel-injected engine, the first of its kind fitted to a production car. It was crowned the fastest performance car in the world upon its introduction and could handedly outrun any other car on sale at the time.
The car was conceived by American Mercedes-Benz importer Max Hoffman, who believed that a road-legal version of Mercedes-Benz’s successful W194 racer would be profitable and that the unique style and performance of such a car would resonate well with his American clients. Mercedes-Benz took Hoffman up on his idea, and so it was only natural that the new 300 SL would premiere at the New York Auto Show in 1954. The 300 SL coupe quickly earned the nickname “Gullwing” for its distinctive roof-hinged doors, and the public fell in love with the car, not only for its breathtaking design, but also for its earth-shattering performance.
Looking to expand upon his success with the Gullwing coupe, Hoffman thought that a convertible version of the 300 SL would also sell quite well, and the 300 SL Roadster was introduced in 1957. Of course, as the 300 SL would lose its top, engineers had to reinforce and modify the space-frame chassis to fit conventionally hinged doors. Through lowering the height of the chassis, this simultaneously allowed for greater ease of entry. Cosmetic changes were minor and included a smaller grille opening and dual chrome strips along the side sills, giving the car a more streamlined and glamorous look. At the rear, the spare tire was repositioned below the trunk floor, necessitating a smaller fuel tank but also maintaining reasonable luggage space. These revisions to the roadster added some 250 lbs. to the total weight of the car, mostly due to the convertible top.
Looking to keep the speed and performance of the closed 300 SL for the new roadster despite its gain in weight, Mercedes-Benz fitted the more sporting NSL engine of the coupe to all roadsters as standard equipment. This made the roadster capable of top speeds that ranged from 133 to 155 mph, depending on the final drive ratio specified. However, the stunning performance and design of the 300 SL Roadster did not come cheap, at a list price of $11,000; but it was worth every penny. Ownership of a 300 SL implied an exquisite taste in engineering and aesthetics, and it was the ultimate automotive statement. Naturally, many found homes in the garages of celebrities, racing drivers, and other successful individuals with an appreciation for fine automobiles.
This beautiful roadster was originally finished in very desirable Graphite Grey over a red leather interior, the same combination it sports today. The Gull Wing Group’s Roadster Register notes the first owner as Donald J.G. Leek of Hammonton, North Dakota. In 1974, the 300 SL passed to Arthur S. Kleimer of Edison, New Jersey, at which point the roadster is noted as having been repainted blue. Kleimer retained the roadster for over two decades before selling it to Russell Moran in Wheatridge, Colorado, in 1998. Moran then sold the car shortly thereafter to John P. Herrlin in Mendham. At this time the car was noted as having been refinished in red. Herrlin maintained the 300 SL for approximately 10 years before it was acquired by CB Restorations, of Haverhill, Massachusetts, on behalf of the current owner. CB Restorations proceeded to completely restore the car, including refinishing the SL in its original and arresting color combination of Graphite Grey and red leather interior.
Since completion, the roadster has been sparingly used though routinely and properly maintained while stored in their private collection. The owner notes that they have driven their roadster for approximately 1,000 miles since acquiring it in 2009. However, it has always been maintained in a climate-controlled facility and properly serviced and exercised as needed. Included with the car is a correct reproduction tool set and spare wheel and tire.
The 300 SL Roadster has become every bit as desirable as its famous “Gullwing” sibling, and similarly to the Jaguar E-Type, no enthusiast’s stable is complete without one. This very early example, long treasured by enthusiasts and maintained as an excellent driver, would be an ideal acquisition for the lady or gentleman who thrills in the sport of driving.