1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLRoadster
Year of manufacture1957
- A stunning example of Mercedes-Benz’s masterful mid-century sports car
- Recently reunited with its original engine
- Light Green Metallic over dark green interior; dark green convertible top
- Subtly updated with hidden power steering, concealed Bluetooth audio
- Fitted with reproduction Rudge wheels; accompanied by luggage, owner’s manual, tool kit, and copy of factory data card
Introduced in gullwing Coupe form for 1954, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL was a halo offering designed to showcase the very best of what the automaker could offer on the performance front; it stood at the pinnacle of the Mercedes-Benz lineup alongside the 300 “Adenauer” flagship, which aimed to demonstrate the marque’s luxury prowess. Incorporating lessons learned from the successful W194 race car, both the 300 SL Coupe and the 300 SL Roadster—which debuted for 1957—boasted competition-derived technology, including lightweight tube-frame construction and a powerful fuel-injected inline-six engine. Praised by drivers when new, the 300 SL Coupe and Roadster are celebrated today for their engaging performance and timeless style.
Yet while both 300 SL variants share an obvious resemblance, the Roadster, of which 1,858 were built between 1957 and 1963, is a somewhat different car beneath its skin—and one that incorporated the most advanced technology available to Mercedes-Benz at the time. To start, roadsters came standard with a 240-horsepower version of the Bosch mechanical fuel-injected M198 engine with a competition-derived camshaft; this higher-performance engine had previously been an option on the coupe. A revised rear suspension system featuring a lower-roll-center single-pivot trailing arm rear axle, meanwhile, made for more neutral and predictable handling. Finally, and most obviously, the Roadster did away with the Coupe’s statement-making (yet entry and egress-inhibiting) gullwing doors, lending the open-top version a somewhat higher degree of everyday livability.
Dating from the first year of Roadster production, this 1957 300 SL was originally finished in Elfenbein (Ivory) over a red leather interior; it was one of 554 completed that year. Besides the fact that it was apparently sold new through Los Angeles—sports car-crazy California proved, unsurprisingly, to be a popular market for these cars— little is presently known about this car’s first decades.
In the early 1990s, the Roadster was reportedly acquired by 300 SL enthusiast William Alff. Mr. Alff began the process of overhauling the car, but unfortunately, he died before it could be completed. In 2003, its next owner retained the services of respected San Francisco Bay-area restorer Jurgen Klockemann to execute a high-level cosmetic and mechanical restoration of the car. In the process, the car was refinished in the present factory-appropriate color of Light Green Metallic, which pairs wonderfully with the finely trimmed dark green leather interior and dark green cloth top.
At some point in its past, and for reasons unknown, the car traded its W198 engine and four-speed manual transmission for a non-300 SL powertrain. During its restoration, an appropriate 300 SL engine and transmission, which had initially been sourced and rebuilt at the behest of Mr. Alff, were installed. These components would remain in the car for over a decade.
Following its acquisition by the consignor in 2014, the Roadster’s original engine was located, overhauled, and reunited with the car; the fortuitous return of the correct, factory-installed heart only serves to make this already appealing Roadster even more desirable. Further upgrades performed at this time include the installation of electronic-assist power steering and Bluetooth-enabled audio; both enjoyment-enhancing systems are carefully concealed from view, and only become apparent after a close inspection of the under-dash area. Finally, reproduction Rudge knock-off wheels in body-color Light Green Metallic were installed at this time, reinforcing the Roadster’s already sporting appearance and character.
While 300 SL production ceased in 1963, the esteem in which the model is held has only grown as the decades have passed. It remains an integral and honored part of Mercedes-Benz’s heritage and an important point of reference for high-performance offerings from the marque, including, most recently, the high-performance Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG of 2010 (a model which, like the originals, was available as both a Roadster and a gullwing-equipped Coupe).
Far from a relic, however, the 300 SL’s masterful blend of exquisite style and remarkable engineering—and, when it comes to the Roadster in particular, its ease of use—make it an excellent, robust, and highly sought companion for long-distance touring at high speeds. For all these reasons and more, it is hard to imagine the appeal of the model fading for the foreseeable future.
Suitable for top-level tour events around the world and display on the concours field, this first-year 300 SL Roadster will also serve as an ideal point of entry to the engaging and active Mercedes-Benz 300 SL community. It is accompanied by color-matched fitted luggage, owner’s manual, tool kit, and a copy of the original factory data card.
To view this car and others currently consigned to this auction, please visit the RM website at rmsothebys.com/en/auctions/az21.