1961 Mercedes Benz 300 SL Roadster


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1961 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster
Sold For $962,500 Including Commission
RM | Sotheby's - AMELIA ISLAND, MARCH 2015
Chassis No.
Engine No.198.980.10.002817
Body No.
Offered proudly by its owner of 35 years
Reportedly only three owners from new
Retains its original matching-numbers engine
Equipped with both hardtop and soft-tops
A wonderful enthusiast-owned Roadster
215 bhp (DIN), 240 hp (SAE), 2,996 cc SOHC inline six-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, coil-spring independent front suspension and coil-spring single-point swing axle rear suspension, and servo-assisted drum brakes. Wheelbase: 94.5 in.
While the original Mercedes-Benz 300 SL “Gullwing” Coupe was exiting stage left in 1957, its successor, the 300 SL Roadster, was debuting at that year’s Geneva Salon. The conversion of the 300 SL to an open car meant redesigning the chassis, which was strengthened significantly to compensate for the loss of the roof structure. The headlamps were changed, the grille was smaller, and a chrome molding was added below the doors. The famed racing-derived twin-cam six-cylinder engine produced some 215 brake horsepower, and the revised rear suspension now boasted a compensating spring, which was added to reduce the oversteering tendencies of the Gullwing’s single-jointed swing axle arrangement.
Enthusiasts who may have worried about the 300 SL going “soft” had absolutely nothing to concern themselves about. The Roadster remained among the fastest automobiles on the road, as it was capable of 133–155 mph, depending on the final drive ratio specified. Production of the Roadster continued until early 1963, and with 1,858 built, it proved even more popular than its gullwinged predecessor, yet it still remained exclusive enough amongst the well-to-do. Like the earlier Coupe, it was, in its day, the car in which to see and be seen, and it was favored by celebrities, racing drivers, and just about anyone who appreciated fine machinery and who also had the bank account to acquire it.
Today, the 300 SL Roadster still carries with it an indelible aura of speed, power, and sophisticated style. It is fast enough for the sports car lover yet comfortable enough for those who demand luxury, and it has remained for nearly 60 years as one of the most desirable automobiles in the world.
The car offered here, chassis number, was purchased by its original owner from a gentleman in New Orleans in 1981; he recalls being told that the seller was the second owner. At that time, the car was finished in black, with the present black steering wheel and a black hardtop.
The owner proceeded to have the car refinished in its present color, Fire Engine Red (DB 534), with the hardtop refinished to match and a correct replacement black leather interior installed at the same time. The engine was also rebuilt by the Gullwing Service Company, of Essex, Massachusetts, the highly regarded predecessor to today’s famed Paul Russell & Company, and they also installed a stainless steel exhaust system. He notes that the car is presently equipped with the standard 3.89:1 gear set.
Today, the consignor notes that while the car had 43,000 miles on its odometer when purchased, he has since added 20,000 more, through use around town and occasionally on a long-distance tour to a Gull Wing Group Convention. Its last extended trip was to Virginia several years ago. The owner notes that while the car has largely remained in storage for the past two years, as other priorities have taken over, he has regularly changed the oil and driven it about 50 miles on the weekends, just to keep everything working as it should. Prior to sale, the owner and Automotive International of Charlotte have been sorting the car for the road, and it is expected to drive and operate well at the time of the auction. It wears standard steel wheels that are wrapped in whitewall Michelin tires that have been installed 5,000 miles ago, and it is equipped with a later Becker radio, which still plays.
This charming “enthusiast’s Roadster,” which has been used and enjoyed by a Gull Wing Group member for 35 proud years, would be a wonderful automobile for continued use in GWG activities and local touring, or it would be perfect for simply taking the family out to dinner, be it for oysters in New Orleans or barbecue in Charlotte!
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