1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLRoadster avec hard-top
Year of manufacture1957
(Mercedes-Benz standard engine exchange)
- Sold new in France, has spent all its life in France
- Restored by Mercedes-Benz in 1983
- Same owner for 36 years
On 6 February 1954 Max Hoffman unveiled the pre-production 190 SL and 300 SL at the New York International Auto Show. These prototypes were to differ only slightly from the cars that followed. For the first time on a series-produced car, the engine - canted to the left as on race cars - had a direct injection system into the combustion chambers. The multitubular chassis was state-of-the-art and the drum brakes with cooling-fan were the same as those on the firm's racing cars. Some 29 vehicles, made entirely from aluminium, were constructed for speed-loving clients in 1955 and delivered with a 240 hp engine.
These cars performed with distinction in a series of races in both 1955 (4th in the Mille Miglia, 1st in the Swedish Rally, 1st in the Tulpenrallye, 1st in Liège-Rome-Liège) and 1956 (Rallye du Mont Ventoux, Liège-Rome-Liège, 2nd in Monte Carlo Rally). In 1956 a 300 SL driven by Stirling Moss and Georges Houel finished 2nd in the prestigious Tour de France Automobile. The 300 SL was the ideal sports car - perfect for owners who wanted to race on Sundays and go shopping during the week (those were the days!). Some 1400 Gullwing coupés were built in four years but, with demand dipping in the final year, a Roadster version was introduced at the 1957 Geneva Motor Show to boost sales. This car was 2 inches longer; the engine was equipped with the best available camshaft (only an option on the Coupé); and, above all, the rear axle was vastly improved. The chassis, naturally, was modified and reinforced.
Our Roadster 300 SL left the production lines on 16 October 1957. Royal Elysées of Paris promptly delivered it to its first owner: Georges Baud, head of Parfums Carven. It was registered two weeks later, on October 30, with the number-plate 3 GL 75. Baud kept the car for over a decade, until 1968; its new owner was also from Paris, and retained the same number-plates. On 26 December 1973 the car was bought by Gérard Lasserre du Rozel, a tradesman from Le Guilvinec in Brittany, and given the registration number 8719 QY 29. On 17 February 1979 it was sold to its current owner, a company director (now in his eighties), for FF50,000. The French title was made out in his name on 22 February 1979 at Celles-sur-Belle near Niort, with the registration number 3379 QK 79. The car was then in its original navy blue paintwork, black leather upholstery and hardtop. Its carte grise was replaced in 1995 to allow a change of number-plate to 300 SL 79. The sign of a true purist!
The owner chose this model in honour of the 300 SL Roadster his father had bought new from Royal Elysées in 1958, bearing the chassis number #1980428500296 and the number-plate 777 CU 79. It is amusing to note that Juan Manuel Fangio took possession of his own 300 SL Gullwing the very same day. After exchanging a few words with the legendary racing-driver, the current owner's father set off for Niort at the wheel of his new Roadster (coloured white, with black leather interior and hardtop). Much to the regret of his son, he sold it a few years later. His son vowed that he would one day find another and, on 17 February 1979, came across the car we are offering for auction. He snapped it up immediately and rushed back to his father - who was delighted to go for a spin and visit old friends!
In 1983 the car was sent to Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart for a thorough overhaul. The owner had the original blue livery changed to white, to make the Roadster more like his father's. The engine and gear-box were subject to a standard factory exchange (attested by certficate). Given the car's superb condition, we can but admire the excellent quality of the factory restoration, completed on 2 June 1983. The paintwork, bar a few tiny cracks, has not aged in the slightest. There are no signs of corrosion: the car has been meticulously maintained by the former head mechanic of the Mercedes Garage in Niort, who became a family friend. The black leather interior looks as good as new. As for the engine: the lengthy test-drive I carried out (hood down) on 24 December 2014 was exhilarating: the engine has powerful acceleration and the car handles beautifully, despite a slight looseness in the steering (easily fixed). Whether at low speed or 100mph, the car is wonderfully supple. This is an automobile in the rudest of health, with fine suspension and precise road-holding. I would happily have driven it all the way to Paris, however cold the weather!
The car comes with full records (copies of former French titles, bills, exchanges with the Club, former owners, original photographs); its original repair manuals; user's manual (in French); Mercedes-Benz certificates concerning the standard engine and gear-box exchange; and, of course, its original hardtop.
Few 300 SLs were sold as new in Paris and remained all their lives on French soil. Such is the case of this superb car. It has a well-charted history and has been in the same hands since 1979. It tells the moving story of a son keen to give his father the same pleasure that he had felt as a boy, when a new 300 SL purred into the family garage at the end of the 1950s.
This is a marvelous opportunity to acquire a wonderful Roadster, lovingly maintained in the delightful Marais Poitevin region since 1979. Need we add that this is one of the finest convertibles from the second half of the 20th century?