The Don Davis Collection
27 April 2013
1961 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
Sold for $935,000
- Chassis no. 198.042.10.002839
- Engine no. 198.980.10.002896
- Body no. 198.042.10.00101
- A highly desirable disc brake example
- Upgraded with European “bubble” headlamps
- Removable hardtop
With the original Mercedes-Benz 300SL “Gullwing” Coupe exiting stage left in 1957, its successor, the 300SL Roadster, debuted at that year’s Geneva Salon. The conversion of the 300SL to an open car meant dispensing with the famed upward-opening door and redesigning the chassis, which was strengthened significantly to compensate for the loss of the roof structure. Headlamps were changed, the grille was smaller, and a chrome molding was added below the doors. The famed racing-derived twin-cam six-cylinder engine produced some 215 brake horsepower, and the revised rear suspension now boasted a compensating spring, added to reduce the oversteering tendencies of the Gullwing’s single-jointed swing-axle arrangement.
Enthusiasts who may have worried about the 300SL going “soft” had absolutely nothing to concern themselves about. The Roadster remained among the fastest automobiles on the road, capable of 133–155 mph, depending upon the final drive ratio specified. Production continued into early-1963, and with 1,858 built, the Roadster proved even more popular than its “Gullwing” predecessor, while still remaining exclusive enough to be rarely seen. Like the earlier coupe, it was, in its day, the car in which to see and be seen, and it was favored by celebrities, racing drivers, and just anyone who appreciated fine machinery and had the bank account to acquire it.
Today, the 300SL Roadster still carries with it an indelible aura of speed, power, and sophisticated style. Fast enough for the sports car lover and comfortable enough for those who demand to luxuriate, it has remained for nearly 60 years as one of the most desirable automobiles in the world.
The 1961 model offered here is the later example of the “bookend” pair of 300SL Roadsters that Don Davis has acquired for his distinguished collection. Built in March 1961, it was built to United States specification, but it was later updated to the appearance of a European-delivery example with the desirable one-piece “bubble” headlamps, and it was restored in black with grey leather seats and a black cloth top. Desirably, it was also originally supplied with a hardtop, which has remained with the car, and it is finished in body color with a correct white-vented headliner, a much sought-after accessory for these cars. The trunk is in excellent condition, with correct dark grey carpeting, jack, and hidden spare wheel. Under the hood and underneath is well-presented, with evidence of careful use but not of wear, which only adds to the charming presentation of the car. However, most impressively, the example is a rare disc brake car and offers the added stopping power sought-after in the open sports car variant. The Mercedes presently records just over 50,000 kilometers, and it presents as a 300SL that has been driven and enjoyed as the factory intended, while also being lovingly maintained.
RM Auctions is told that the present air conditioning unit was fitted by a specialist from California; the unit reportedly works well, and the quality of workmanship is such that it could have been done by the factory itself. With the hardtop fitted, this upgrade makes this an ideal year-round touring and rallying car. It rides on black steel wheels with Mercedes-Benz hubcaps and polished trim rings, shod in Michelin XVS radials.
This is a 300SL that can be taken out, run, and enjoyed—and in a car with this much racing-bred performance, beautiful engineering, and stopping power behind it, why not?
Please be advised that this car has correct four-wheel disc brakes.
AddendumPlease be advised that this car has correct four-wheel disc brakes.
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