When we think of an automotive brand closely associated with elegance and luxury, Mercedes-Benz might be one of the names that pop up in our minds. And for a good reason – the brand is renowned for producing machines with excellent quality and refined styling. Today, I’d like to take a trip to the past and tell you more about the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster.
After World War Two, the first brand-new racing car that Mercedes announced was the 300 SL, with the SL standing for Super Light – the car was breathtaking, both aesthetically and mechanically. But what helped it become even more famous was its top-hinged doors that swung upwards, giving it the name Gullwing. After enjoying success in motorsport, Mercedes set out to create a more refined version of the machine.
And so, at the 1957 Geneva Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz revealed a convertible version of the 300 SL “Gullwing” Coupe: the 300 SL Roadster. It showcased the brand’s increasing focus on luxury cars with competition-bred specs, premium build quality, and striking looks.
The vehicle featured several upgrades from the standard 300 SL – for instance, the Roadster boasted an updated six-cylinder engine with the competition camshaft used in preceding racing coupes, which meant it had an extra 25 hp. However, the upgrades weren’t limited to power.
Handling was also improved via a revised rear suspension with a lower axle pivot point, reducing the tendency for oversteering. Since it was an open-top vehicle, its chassis had to be reinforced, adding more weight to the car. Despite that, it still managed to keep up with its predecessor and even surpass it.
Even though the 300 SL Coupe exhumed elegance and luxury, it still had some practical issues. For instance, its cabin could get unbearably hot on summer days. Furthermore, even though its doors were its signature element, they also made access to the vehicle slightly uncomfortable. The Roadster variant solved these issues – the convertible top allowed for proper airflow, and the door sills were lowered, making the car more practical than its predecessor. Moreover, the gas tank size was reduced to create more trunk space.
With the creation of the Roadster, Mercedes-Benz succeeded in improving the Gullwing in many aspects. What’s more, the Roadster model has evolved into one of the brand’s most collectible models. However, perhaps the best part is that a close-knit community of enthusiasts has formed around the Super Light models, both the closed and open-air variants.
Consequently, when a 300 SL pops up for sale, especially one in good condition, it won’t take long to find a new owner. While browsing vehicle auctions, I stumbled upon this stunning 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster – let me tell you more about its story.
This car was part of the last batch of units produced for the 1958 model year, which were 324 in total. This specific example was ordered in September 1958 by His Majesty King Hussein bin Talal of Jordan. Back then, the 22-year-old king was only six years into his reign, but he was renowned for his interest in motorized transport, especially helicopters. He was already familiar with the 300 SL, as he owned and raced a 1955 Gullwing Coupe, which to this day can be found at Jordan’s Royal Automobile Museum.
The initial order sheet shows that the car was ordered with a livery of Ivory paint over red leather. However, it was delivered in White-Grey over black leather. After spending some years in King Hussein’s ownership, the car ended up in the United States.
Around 2005, this Mercedes-Benz was gifted with a multi-year, all-inclusive restoration by famed marque specialist Rudi Koniczek. Eight years later, Skip Barber, three-time SSCA (Sports Car Club of America), former F1 driver, and founder of the renowned racing school bearing his name, purchased the vehicle.
During Barber’s ownership, the car enjoyed excellent maintenance – it was treated with $50,000 (€46,177) worth of continued care by marque specialists at Mark Allen’s Rare Drive, Inc. Of Kingston, New Hampshire. All upgrades and restorations are attested by the work order accompanying the vehicle. Technicians refreshed the machine’s suspension, braking, steering, and engine cooling systems and performed a valve adjustment and engine-timing service.
Some parts needed replacement, such as the gaskets, bushings, bearings, lines, clamps, mounts, boots, and consumables. The list continues, as the restoration also included rebuilding several parts: the ignition distributor, radiator, rear brake shoes, steering box, and the famously complicated fuel injection pump. Amazingly, the deluxe automobile retains its factory-correct drum brakes, interior appointments, and the 3.89:1 rear axle. A single modern touch was added to the car: an electric backup fuel pump.
The car is finished in a distinctive factory color of Medium Blue over a striking gray leather – the cabin features correct square-weave grey carpeting and Medium Blue dashboard insert, which is protected by a black canvas cloth top. Other notable interior elements are a Becker Mexico radio, Baisch-style seat belts, and a matching set of fitted luggage trimmed in grey leather that you’ll find in the trunk. The exterior boasts a single driver’s side mirror and European-market headlights.
This 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster is now looking for its next owner, as it’s going for sale at an auction on March 4 in Amelia Island, Florida. The Roadster remains a vital piece of Mercedes-Benz’s history, showcasing the brand’s timeless and deluxe design and attention to detail.