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Lot 201

1959 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster

  • Chassis no.
  • Engine no. 198.980.10.002477
  • Body no.

Sold for $1,842,500

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: 94.5 in.

  • A matching-numbers example
  • Exquisitely restored by 300 SL specialist Mark Allin
  • Best in Class at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance
  • Formerly owned by Wiley Ballard and Steven Adler
  • One of the finest restored examples available

It goes without saying that Mercedes-Benz’s 300 SL was a hugely important automobile. It started as the brainchild of American Mercedes-Benz importer Max Hoffman, who was convinced that a road-legal version of the successful W194 racer would be profitable in the United States and that his clients would beg for the chance to own an automobile with such brilliant performance and styling.

After lobbying the top-brass at Mercedes-Benz to develop such a car, Hoffman’s wish was granted, and the car that resulted exceeded even his wildest dreams. The 300 SL utilized a chassis that had been developed from lessons learned in racing, and it was the first production automobile to use fuel injection as opposed to carburation, which was a technological advancement that allowed it to become the fastest street legal car of its day. The public fell in love with its styling at the 1954 New York Auto Show, where it premiered, and they were mesmerized by its use of roof-hinged “gullwing” doors. The car became such a design icon that it would even catch the eye of Andy Warhol in 1986, who featured it in a painting entitled Cars, which was commissioned by German art dealer Hans Meyer.

Hoffman, not keen on settling with a closed version of the 300 SL, also desired a convertible variant of the world’s most desirable sports car, and the Roadster was introduced in short order in 1957. 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 by lowering the height of the chassis at the door line. At the same time, the design team also made a handful of slight changes to the 300 SL’s body, including a smaller grille opening and dual chrome strips on the side sills, which gave the car a more streamlined and glamorous look.

Of course, Mercedes-Benz would not allow performance to be compromised due to the 300 SL’s lack of a roof, and all Roadsters were offered with the more sporting NSL engine of the Coupe as standard equipment. This made the Roadster capable of top speeds that ranged from 133 to 155 mph, depending on the final drive ratio specified.

This 1959 300 SL Roadster was originally built for the U.S. market, and it was one of just four examples originally finished in Linden Green (DB 218G). While its early history is unknown, the car’s first recorded owner was John DiGiorgio, of Sausalito, California. After DiGiorgio, the car’s next owner was Patrick Smiekel, of Santa Ana, California, who retained the Roadster until 1990, when it was purchased by James Clifford Jr., of Atlanta, Georgia.

Clifford retained the 300 SL Roadster for a short period of time before it was purchased by another gentleman from Atlanta, Wiley P. Ballard Jr. During World War II, Ballard was a flight officer and glider pilot in the Air Corp. Later on, he became an oil and gas producer with a penchant for German automobiles, even owning a Mercedes-Benz 600 Limousine. By the time Ballard purchased his 300 SL, it was finished entirely in red and noted as being a “well-used example.” This did not discourage Ballard from using the car in the slightest, and over the following decade, Mr. and Mrs. Ballard drove the car frequently and greatly enjoyed its performance and polite road manners.

When Mrs. Ballard passed away, Mr. Ballard decided that it was time for the 300 SL to be restored, as a tribute to the many years of fond memories he and his wife shared in the car. It was then entrusted to Mark Allin, of Precision Automotive Restoration Inc. (now Rare Drive) in Newburyport, Massachusetts, for a complete restoration. Allin, who had spent many years as the shop foreman at Paul Russell & Company, was intimately familiar with Mercedes-Benzes, 300 SLs in particular. Every aspect of the car was addressed during its two-year restoration, and the car was brought back to an exceptional standard. It retains the correctly applied factory inspection marks, clamps, hoses, and decals in the engine bay, and it is truly stunning in every respect.

Ballard decided to refinish the car in the factory-correct color of Anthracite Grey, which is a stunning shade that does an excellent job of showing off the Roadster’s delightful contours and shape. The interior was refinished in black leather, and with its correct chrome-plated wheels and Michelin X-stop tires, this 300 SL Roadster is truly in a class of its own. Attesting to the quality of its restoration, the car was shown at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in 2004, where it took home Best in Class honors. Afterwards, the car returned home to Georgia with Ballard, where he enjoyed it for several more years.

Ballard finally sold his prized 300 SL Roadster to Scott Lutgert after he was no longer able to comfortably drive it due to age. Lutgert in turn sold the car to renowned collector Steven Adler, of New Vernon, New Jersey, and shortly thereafter, in 2010, it was purchased for the Andrews Collection.

The 300 SL Roadster is known as the archetypical post-war Mercedes-Benz convertible, and it is an icon of engineering and design, as it was truly ahead of its time. The 300 SL has been cherished by enthusiasts since the day it was introduced, and no important collection is without one.

The Andrews’s 300 SL is in incredible condition and a wonderful example of its kind. It would surely please its next owner on such long-distance rallies as the Colorado Grand, and it would certainly hold its own on any concours lawn.

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

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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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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

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
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

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
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

+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