8 September 2014

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Lot 126

1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster

  • Chassis no. 198.042.8500289
  • Engine no. 198.980.8500292

Sold for £616,000

215 bhp (DIN), 240 hp (SAE), 2,996 cc overhead-camshaft 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: 2,400 mm

  • Matching-numbers engine
  • Delivered new to France
  • Equipped with a Becker radio and fitted luggage
  • Restored by the Mercedes-Benz of Barcelona dealer in iconic colours

To many, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL is an automobile that needs no introduction. American Mercedes-Benz importer Max Hoffman was convinced that a road-legal version of the successful W194 racer would be profitable in the United States. He knew that his clients would love the performance and styling of such a vehicle, so he lobbied the top brass at Mercedes-Benz to develop the car. Luckily for him, and us, Hoffman’s wish was granted.

The automobile that followed was nothing short of extraordinary. The 300 SL sported a chassis directly developed from lessons learned whilst campaigning the W194, and it was the first production automobile that used fuel injection as opposed to carburation, which was a technological advancement that allowed it to become the fastest street-legal car of its day. When it premiered at the 1954 New York Auto Show, the public fell in love with the car not only for its performance but also for its breath-taking good looks and proportions. The design of the 300 SL would even catch the eye of Andy Warhol in 1986, as it was featured in his painting entitled Cars, which was commissioned by German art dealer Hans Meyer.

Max Hoffman wanted an open version from the very beginning, and after the success of the coupé, a convertible version of the 300 SL was released, going on to attract even more buyers towards Mercedes-Benz’s most innovative sports car. Since the 300 SL would lose its top, engineers reinforced and modified the space-frame chassis to fit conventionally hinged doors, which simultaneously allowed for greater ease of entry as the height of the chassis was lowered on the door line, albeit it was a small forfeiture of the original model’s character. Designers used this opportunity to make several slight changes to the 300 SL’s body, and many installed new headlights and a smaller grille opening and fitted dual chrome strips on the side sills, to give the car a more streamlined and glamorous look. The roadster was introduced in 1957, and it offered the performance and style that the coupé was known for but with a dash of practicality and the thrill of open-air driving, making for a motoring experience that was second to none.

In order to keep performance on par with the coupé, all roadsters were offered with the more sporting NSL engine of the coupé as standard configuration. This made the roadster capable of top speeds that ranged from 133 to 155 mph, depending on the final drive ratio specified. Production of the roadster and the iconic W198 platform stopped in early 1963, with 1,858 examples being produced, making it even more popular than its gull-winged predecessor.

Also like the coupé, the roadster was certainly the item to have for the jet-set in the late ’50s and early ’60s. The 300 SL Roadster was favoured by celebrities for its style and racing drivers for its performance and brilliant engineering, and they often found homes with just about anyone who appreciated fine machinery, and those who had the bank account to acquire it. With a list price of $11,000 when new, the style and performance it provided certainly came at a price. As with all great and historically important automobiles, it has retained that same persona to this day, and it remains amongst the world’s most desired cars.

The Roadster offered here, chassis number 8500289, was originally delivered in France on 21 October 1958 and was finished in Ivory (DB 608). A Mercedes-Benz Classic Certificate, a copy of which is on file, records it as having been built with engine number 8500292, which is still present under the bonnet today. As the car was delivered new in Europe, it is equipped with all of the features common to European-specification roadsters. Most famous of those features is the one-piece “Euro” headlights, which this car has worn since new.

The car was later acquired by a Mr Porter, of Kensington, England, who was its owner as of 1991. In 1992, it was sold to Jose Beltran, the principal dealer of Mercedes-Benz in Barcelona, who retained ownership of the car for 19 years and displayed it at the Mercedes-Benz Classic Days at Brooklands in 2008.

At the time of its purchase by the current owner, the car had already been refinished in classic Mercedes-Benz Fire Engine Red and Parchment upholstery, with the work reportedly taking place around 2001, whilst in the ownership of the Barcelona dealer. Its restoration is said to have used only original Mercedes-Benz parts, and the car was equipped with the optional Becker Mexico radio. Additionally, the boot contains a set of correct fitted luggage with plaid liners, and the odometer records 90,597 kilometres.

This is an eminently enjoyable example of one of the most classic European sports cars of its era.

Alexander Weaver

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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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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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

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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

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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

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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

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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