Created to spearhead Mercedes-Benz's return to competition in the post-war era, the 300SL debuted in the 1952 Mille Miglia, finishing 2nd and 4th overall. Wins in the Carrera Pan-Americana and at Le Mans followed, and the 300SL 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.
Launched in 1954, the production 300SL retained the spaceframe chassis of the racer and was powered by a 2,996cc, overhead-camshaft, inline six canted at 45 degrees to achieve a lower, more aerodynamic bonnet line. Using innovative direct fuel injection, this state-of-the-art power unit produced 215bhp at 5,800rpm. A four-speed gearbox transmitted power to the hypoid bevel rear axle. Suspension was independent all round by wishbones and coil springs at the front, with swing axles and coil springs at the rear. Tested by the highly respected American magazine Road & Track in 1955, the 300SL accelerated from 0-60mph in 7.4 seconds, going on to achieve a top speed of 140mph: outstanding figures for its day. It was, arguably, the world's first supercar.
Clearly the 300SL Coupé would be a hard act to follow yet the Roadster version, introduced just three years later, succeeded in bettering its closed cousin's already exemplary road manners. Built with conventional doors, the 300SL Roadster was first exhibited at the Geneva Salon in May 1957 and was an immediate hit with the 1950s 'jet set' including royalty, actors and socialites. The production of an open 300SL involved altering the cockpit area, where the spaceframe was redesigned to permit lower sills for improved access. At the same time the rear suspension was changed to incorporate low-pivot swing axles. The 300SL Roadster sold well for a car that cost more than a Ferrari 250GT California Spyder, and would out-live the 300SL Coupé by several years.
The iconic 300SL roadster on offer here is an extremely eye-catching example that originally supplied to the USA has been in the UK for a number of years. It has been well maintained and improved with regular servicing and maintenance carried out by such notable specialists as O'Keefe Restorations and Gordon Dale.
Very rare and highly desirable, this 300SL is offered today in beautiful order, having been the subject of a light restoration in 2012. In addition, the rear axle was rebuilt along with the injection pump and injectors, while a new high-capacity aluminium radiator was installed and the gearbox rebuilt with new bearings and to complete the job a bare metal repaint. Beautifully presented with its fresh Anthracite Grey paintwork and black leather upholstery, black hood and painted factory hardtop, this 300SL starts easily and drives like it should with impressive performance and strong brakes.
The car is supplied with a thick history file containing bills and receipts, and a UK V5 registration document. Often more highly regarded than Gullwing Coupe the 300 SL roadster is a true motoring Icon, styling and sophisticated and a pleasure to drive.
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