Mercedes-Benz rolled out the oh-so-spectacular 300 SL Gullwing coupe in 1955. One year later, they came up with something that would not turn every head in the parking lot or at the gas station once the doors spring open: the Roadster.
It was mid-1956 when the sales of the insane-lloking 300 SL Gullwing seemed to slow down. It seemed like the right time for the Mercedes-Benz board to bring a convertible into the spotlight. They chose the Geneva Motor Show for it. By May 1957, the Roadster was already on sale in California.
The market was waiting for it. It was ready for it. Those Gullwing doors had turned the coupe into a forbidden fruit for customers who wanted a sports car yet wanted to keep a low profile. There was no way they could do that in the Gullwing with those doors opening like that. The production of the Roadster involved the redesign of the cockpit, fitting lower and thinner sills for easier access. This version no longer needed the wide ones.
Because Mercedes-Benz had to come up with a stiffer chassis, the roadster weighed 276 pounds (125 kilograms) more than the coupe, going all the way to 3,131 pounds (1,420 kilograms). But it came with more power to compensate: the 3.0-liter straight-six generated 240 horsepower (243 PS), taking the car to a top speed of 260 kph (162 mph).
The 3.0-liter engine was the reason why the car was called ‘300.’ Mercedes never explained the ‘SL’ lettering. But the S stood for both ‘super’ and ‘sport,’ while the L stood for ‘leicht,’ which was German for either ‘sport light’ or ‘super light.’ In 2017, the company decided on the latter and decided to stick with it.
Once the Roadster was out, the spare tire was relocated to a position under the boot. The carmaker also came up with a smaller fuel tank to make room for the custom-made factory-fitted luggage. In September 1958, Mercedes also offered a hardtop for extra money.
1,858 Roadsters saw the light of day between 1957 and 1963. And almost seven decades later, we have one of them right here. It was first registered in July 1957 and delivered to a customer in its native Germany. The model was originally finished in Silver Grey Metallic (coded DB 180G). Not much is known about where this car has been over the years. But by 1990, it was still in Germany, in the possession of Erik Schwanke of Wachterg. In 1993, the automobile went through a thorough restoration procedure. Photographs from the era show the car finished in Silver Grey over Red leather.
Michael Eschmann of Gummersbach bought the Roadster right after restoration. Later on, he sold it to Peter Aaray, who kept it until 1998. He was the one who chose to perform a mechanical fix, which also targeted the rear axle, a new clutch, and an engine rebuild.
Wolfgang Schleinitz of Wildeshausen had the 300 SL Roadster in his garage between 1998 and 2008. He was the one who requested a gearbox rebuild in 2006. Two years later, he sold the car to Nikkolas Benopoulos from Greece, owner of several 300 SLs. Thus, the car was shipped to and registered in Greece. He sold it to the current owner in 2013, and the car set wheels on the soil of the United Kingdom. He entrusted it to respected restorer Hilton & Moss.
When they inspected the car, they realized that the rear section featured improper damage repairs. Other minor flaws showed up every here and there. So they stripped it to bare metal and restored it from scratch. The final touch was painting it in the period-correct color scheme of Anthracite Grey (DB 172) over a contrasting Red leather interior.
It was that time when they realized that the 300 SL Roadster had a replacement engine of the correct type. In 2016, 3,500 hours of labor and 500 miles (806 kilometers) of shakedown testing later, the restoration was completed. Shown at the Salon Prive in 2017, it left home with the second-in-class award.
The owner decided to do a detailing in 2017 and 2018, while the SL’s last service was carried out by 300 SL specialist Martin Cushy Engineering in March 2020. Since that moment, the Roadster only drove below 250 miles (402 kilometers).
The model is now going under the hammer with RM Sotheby’s in a private sale that will take place in Chobham, United Kingdom. The price is offered upon request. But some very well maintained examples have gone for over $3 million. Keep in mind that this was an automobile that sold for DM 32,500 in Germany or $10,950 in the US back in the 1950s, which made it 10% more expensive than the Gullwing in Europe and 70% more expensive in the US (DM 29,000 / $6,820).