Created to spearhead Mercedes-Benz’s return to competition in the post-war era, the 300 SL’s progenitor – designated ‘W194’ in factory parlance – debuted in the 1952 Mille Miglia, finishing 2nd and 4th overall. Wins in the Carrera Pan-Americana and at Le Mans followed, and the 300 SL family was on its way to becoming part of motor sporting legend, the first racers were open-topped but before the ‘52 season’s end the distinctive gull-wing doored Coupé had appeared. Unusually high sills were a feature of the multi-tubular spaceframe chassis, and while access was not a problem of the open car, the adoption of coupé bodywork required innovative thinking – hence the gull-wing doors.
At the Geneva Motor Show of March 1957, Daimler-Benz unveiled a successor to its popular 300 SL coupé that showcased a host of technical developments engineered since the “Gullwing” entered production in August 1954. Most obviously, the new roadster differed from its predecessor with an open-top configuration, which had proven to be immensely popular in the 190 SL. While the roofless layout necessitated elimination of the namesake doors, the opportunity to redesign the platform allowed for a deepening of the doorways for easier entry and exit.
More importantly, the roadster’s chassis was designed to accommodate a new rear suspension with a lower pivot point. First seen on the W196 race cars and later implemented in the 190 SL, the new suspension vastly improved handling and was now finally being integrated into the company’s flagship sports car.
Other mechanical refinements included the integration of the competition camshaft used in the NSL Gullwing race cars, which made the roadster’s engine more powerful than the standard motor in the 300 SL coupé.
Despite these improvements in performance, the roadster was also more luxurious than the Gullwing, as it was standard-equipped with leather upholstery and offered with fitted luggage (the spare wheel was relocated to under the trunk), climate control, and a Becker radio.
In a road test of one of the first 300 SL Roadsters to reach the United States, the editors of Sports Cars Illustrated (the nascent Car and Driver) marvelled at the model’s convincing dual identity in their December 1957 issue. As writer Stephen F. Wilder opined, “With this car, the Germans have again managed to mix successfully the gracefully sleek tautness of Italian lines with the hard purposefulness of contemporary German styling . . . . This new 300 SL encompasses a racy blend of luxurious comfort, exuberant power, and especially nimble handling . . . . Perhaps it’s no longer amazing that a 3,000-pound luxury car should have such a surfeit of power, but to couple this with a lightness of control that amounts to delicacy is truly an astonishing engineering feat.”
Projecting that the roadster “may well be 1958’s big threat in Class D ‘Production’ SCCA racing”, Wilder concluded that the model was destined to be “a sure-fire classic.”
This beautiful example presented in DB 180 Mercedes-Benz Silver with 1079 rot leder (red Leather) interior was delivered new on 27th of June 1960, to the first owner who is thought to be Mrs. Ernestina Winkler of Monaco, who passed ownership of the 300SL in 1973 with 53,000 kilometres recorded.
At this point ownership transferred to Dr. Alfred Wiederkehr of Zurich, who owned the 300SL for some 28 years until selling to the current owner. During Dr. Wiederkehr’s ownership the SL covered a mere 2800 kilometres, enjoying maintenance at the hands of Mercedes Benz Schlieren-Zurich.
Upon purchase in 2001 our vendor arranged for a major mechanical overall by marquee specialists Pichler GFG, who have maintained the SL ever since.
Now showing just over 70,000 kilometres recorded from new, chassis 2609 is supplied with a comprehensive history file detailing works completed over the years and many photographs of the car both in period and during more recent restoration works.
Every significant collection really must contain a 300SL, such is scale of this model’s significance in the classic car world. This stunning 300SL Roadster, being offered for the first time in over 16 years and from the third owner, is one of the best we have seen.