1961 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL

Summary

  • Year of manufacture 
    1961
  • Car type 
    Other
  • Lot number 
    115
  • Drive 
    LHD
  • Condition 
    Used
  • Location
  • Exterior colour 
    Other

Description

PROVENANCE
Original Owner, Germany (acquired new in 1961)
Alan B. Cherito, Culver City, California (acquired in 1977)
Joseph A. Bucci, Norristown, Pennsylvania (acquired in 1984)
Roger Saxton, Phoenix, Arizona (acquired from the above in 1999)
John O’Quinn, Houston, Texas (acquired in 2005)
Current Owner (acquired from the above in 2009)

Mercedes-Benz garnered accolades and posted years of racing success with its W194 300 SL race cars, proving the concept of their lightweight space frame. The now-legendary 198-series 300 SL Coupe was a thinly disguised, fuel-injected, chrome-and-leather-bedecked version for public consumption that made its debut at the 1954 New York International Auto Show. By mid-1957, as gullwing production wound down, sales of the further refined 300 SL Roadster commenced. Compared to their closed predecessor, the Roadsters were extensively re-engineered, with handling improved by rear-suspension upgrades and a revision of the space frame that allowed for conventionally hinged doors. Compensating for the Roadster’s nominally increased weight, their three-liter engines received a competition NSL camshaft and higher compression, raising output to 250 hp. A total of 1,858 300 SL Roadsters were constructed over a seven-year period before being replaced by the all-new, mass-produced unibody 230 SL Pagoda. With this momentous shift in manufacturing methods, the 300 SLs were destined to become some of the most coveted cars ever built.

This European-specification 300 SL Roadster is an outstanding example of these magnificent German sports cars. Built in the final months of 1960 as a 1961 model, it is among the last Roadsters fitted with both drum brakes and a cast-iron engine block, which some SL owners have preferred for long-distance tours. This specification makes this Roadster an ideal entry for one of the many annual vintage driving events around the country, where its comfort, performance, and advanced engineering can be fully enjoyed.

The Mercedes-Benz factory build record states that this Roadster was originally finished in nonmetallic Arabian Grey (DB 124) with a natural leather interior; and notations in the Gull Wing Group roster show that it was delivered to its first owner in Germany, later making its way to the US. By 1977, the 300 SL was in the possession of Southern California resident Alan Cherito. Then, in 1984, it was owned by Joseph Bucci in Norristown, Pennsylvania. In 1999, respected restorer Tony Ritz of Tempe, Arizona, acquired the Roadster – which was by then painted black – from Mr. Bucci, for his friend and client Roger Saxton of Phoenix, and then managed its cosmetic restoration. Prior to Mr. Saxton’s acquisition of the Roadster, its engine was replaced with its current unit, no. 2534. Squeeg’s Kustoms of nearby Chandler, Arizona, did the body prep and bare-metal refinish in the beautiful and appropriate shade of Mittelrot (Medium Red, DB 516), and the parchment leather interior was re-trimmed by Frank Torres of Rancho Cucamonga, California, with brightwork by Jon Wright’s CustomChrome Plating, of Grafton, Ohio.

An enthusiast who appreciated driving his Roadster, Mr. Saxton kept the 300 SL in top mechanical condition with servicing at Tony Ritz’s Sports Car Service Center in Arizona. Driven by Saxton and Ritz, the car was entered in the 2003 Copperstate 1000, where it was reported to have performed flawlessly throughout the long journey across the deserts of the Southwest. Following Mr. Saxton’s passing in 2005, the 300 SL joined the voluminous collection of famed collector John O’Quinn, and it saw limited use. In 2009, it was acquired by the current Southern California–based owner, becoming the centerpiece of his collection of iconic sports cars of the 1950s and 1960s. Though it has been only sparingly driven during its tenure with the consignor, it has always been a favorite.

Today, this dashing Mercedes-Benz still retains its elegantly sculpted Bosch European headlights as well as its speedometer in kilometers. An accessory wood-rimmed Nardi steering wheel, f itted luggage, and a Mercedes-Benz tool kit further distinguish the Roadster. This 300 SL is impressively presented both inside and out, and it is evident that a great amount of care and attention was lavished on it during its restoration. Chassis 002707 is a wonderful example of these legendary cars, and with the rising popularity of long-distance tours and rallies in recent years, it would make an excellent choice. To this day, a well-prepared 300 SL Roadster remains a stylish and exciting open sports car, and will continue to be one of the most sought-after cars of its era.