1959 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster

by Charles Branch
16 April 2015 2 min read
1959 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster
The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster. Note the lowered door line, conventional doors and how the side styling blends in the door shape. (Courtesy RM)

The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL is one of the most outstanding motor cars of all time- a car that would look equally fitting driven by the likes of Gregory Peck or Lauren Bacall.  And if parked amongst a group of Ferraris and Rolls Royces, it would be the car that would attract a crowd. It was and is a car that epitomises design excellence, flawless engineering, and a style that puts it in the top echelons of cars with that elusive “coolness” factor; something it has a rather generous portion of.

The 300 SL was allegedly created on the suggestion of legendary US Mercedes sports car importer Max Hoffman, who believed that a stylish road car based on the Mercedes-Benz W194 racer would be a big hit in the US prestige sports car market. The management at Mercedes-Benz were convinced and the 300 SL was born, initially as a coupe with its trademark gull-wing doors.

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Introduced at the 1954 New York Auto Show, it became an overnight hit. People were drawn to its sleek and proportioned shape with lines that moved away from the Spartan austerity of the W194 to become a luxurious and desirable road car.

Soon demand was coming in for an open top roadster version of this desirable motor car. Mercedes-Benz set about the process of removing the roof and then re-engineering and strengthening the car’s structure to compensate for the loss of the roof and maintain rigidity. As gull-wing doors can’t be used on an open top convertible, the body was altered to accommodate conventional doors which also required lowering of the chassis at the door line. Beautiful though the gull-wing doors were, they made access to the vehicle difficult, something that the lowering of the chassis line amended. No doubt the ladies preferred the newer version.

The 300 SL Roadster underwent various design improvements over the years of its production and by 1959 the Roadster had moved to a low pivot swing axle rear suspension with a transverse  compensating spring and coil springs. The front suspension was double wishbones with coil springs and a stabilizer bar. The roadster was only offered with the more powerful NSL 2996cc fuel injected six-cylinder engine that was offered as an option on the coupe, and had a four-speed manual transmission.

The 1959 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster we are featuring is coming up for sale on 2nd May 2015 by RM Auctions/Sotheby’s. You will find the auction page at

This car has been painstakingly restored by Mark Allin, of Precision Automotive Restoration Inc. (now Rare Drive) in Newburyport, Massachusetts and won the Best in Class at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. The car has been re-finished in factory correct “Anthracite Grey” with a black leather interior; a combination that is at once restrained and elegant, and a combination that really enhances the car’s hint of “space age” styling.

This car was in the Andrews Collection for some time but its up-coming sale presents an opportunity for someone to acquire this example of one of the most iconic examples of the art of the automobile, and is estimated to sell for between £900,000 to £1.9m.

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