The Don Davis Collection

27 April 2013

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Lot 114

1961 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster

  • Chassis no.
  • Engine no. 198.980.10.002896
  • Body no.

Sold for $935,000

215 bhp (DIN), 240 bhp (SAE), 2,996 cc overhead-cam inline six-cylinder engine, Bosch mechanical fuel-injection, four-speed manual gearbox, independent front suspension with upper and lower A-arms and coil springs, independent rear suspension with coil springs and swing axles, and hydraulic front disc, rear drum brakes. Wheelbase: 94.5 in.

  • A highly desirable disc brake example
  • Upgraded with European “bubble” headlamps
  • Removable hardtop

With the original Mercedes-Benz 300SL “Gullwing” Coupe exiting stage left in 1957, its successor, the 300SL Roadster, debuted at that year’s Geneva Salon. The conversion of the 300SL to an open car meant dispensing with the famed upward-opening door and redesigning the chassis, which was strengthened significantly to compensate for the loss of the roof structure. 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, added to reduce the oversteering tendencies of the Gullwing’s single-jointed swing-axle arrangement.

Enthusiasts who may have worried about the 300SL going “soft” had absolutely nothing to concern themselves about. The Roadster remained among the fastest automobiles on the road, capable of 133–155 mph, depending upon the final drive ratio specified. Production continued into early-1963, and with 1,858 built, the Roadster proved even more popular than its “Gullwing” predecessor, while still remaining exclusive enough to be rarely seen. 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 anyone who appreciated fine machinery and had the bank account to acquire it.

Today, the 300SL Roadster still carries with it an indelible aura of speed, power, and sophisticated style. Fast enough for the sports car lover and comfortable enough for those who demand to luxuriate, it has remained for nearly 60 years as one of the most desirable automobiles in the world.

The 1961 model offered here is the later example of the “bookend” pair of 300SL Roadsters that Don Davis has acquired for his distinguished collection. Built in March 1961, it was built to United States specification, but it was later updated to the appearance of a European-delivery example with the desirable one-piece “bubble” headlamps, and it was restored in black with grey leather seats and a black cloth top. Desirably, it was also originally supplied with a hardtop, which has remained with the car, and it is finished in body color with a correct white-vented headliner, a much sought-after accessory for these cars. The trunk is in excellent condition, with correct dark grey carpeting, jack, and hidden spare wheel. Under the hood and underneath is well-presented, with evidence of careful use but not of wear, which only adds to the charming presentation of the car. However, most impressively, the example is a rare disc brake car and offers the added stopping power sought-after in the open sports car variant. The Mercedes presently records just over 50,000 kilometers, and it presents as a 300SL that has been driven and enjoyed as the factory intended, while also being lovingly maintained.

RM Auctions is told that the present air conditioning unit was fitted by a specialist from California; the unit reportedly works well, and the quality of workmanship is such that it could have been done by the factory itself. With the hardtop fitted, this upgrade makes this an ideal year-round touring and rallying car. It rides on black steel wheels with Mercedes-Benz hubcaps and polished trim rings, shod in Michelin XVS radials.

This is a 300SL that can be taken out, run, and enjoyed—and in a car with this much racing-bred performance, beautiful engineering, and stopping power behind it, why not?

Please be advised that this car has correct four-wheel disc brakes.


Please be advised that this car has correct four-wheel disc brakes.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

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California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

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California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

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California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more