You requested it and The Collectors Circle did it. On one of our recent Instagram story posts, we asked our readers about what kinds of cars they would love to read about. And as some of our followers requested to read an article about the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL…we had no other choice than to listen to you and write one. Here we go!
Although this masterpiece doesn’t need an introduction for most of you, we will still have a brief look into the history books. Introduced at the 1957 Geneva Motor Show, the 300 SL Roadster is the successor of the coupé version, mostly known as “Gullwing”. At that time, a roadster was an exotic car and for that reason there was a high demand for it, especially in countries with a large amount of sunny days. Again, it was Max Hofmann, a New York-based importer of luxury European automobiles into the United States, who asked the Mercedes-Benz Board of Management for a Mercedes luxury roadster sports car for his customers in the US. You might remember him from our post about the BMW 507 (read the full article here). Et viola, a superstar was born as Mercedes combined the thrill of open-top driving with a high-performance sports car. (By the way, the same trend of tailored manufacturing for market demand is currently is happening with SUV’s.)
Anyway, back to the Benz! The Roadster version of the 300 SL, also called the W 198 II series, weighs exactly 125 kg (1,420 kg) more than the legendary Gullwing version. From a performance perspective, the Roadster offers identical 215 hp (158 kW) from a water cooled 3.0 L; (2,996 cc) overhead cam straight-six engine with direct injection, which is good for a factory-claimed 260 km/h (160 mph) top speed. The consumption was determined by contemporary car testers with an average of 15 liters of petrol. Despite the added weight of chassis reinforcement required by an open model, the roadster was dead even in terms of performance to its Gullwing brother.
Maximilian Edwin Hoffman – Importer of luxury European automobiles into the United States
The roof of the 300 SL Roadster can be retracted back by a flap behind the seats and can be operated manually in just a few simple steps. The roadster had even some improvements to the Coupé version. Accessing the roadster was much easier thanks to the redesigned tube frame, which provided lower door sills. Additionally, the roadster allowed the driver to enjoy longer rides on a sunny day rather than sitting in the hot cabin of the coupé version.
From 1957 to 1963, a total number of 1,858 units of the roadster were produced. At the time, The German superstar cost around DM 34,000. The most desired 300 SL are the late-production roadsters equipped with both disc brakes and an alloy engine block. Only 210 of these ultimate 300 SL roadster were built, making them the most desired among collectors.
The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL was a success story from the day it was represented to the world and it is still today one of the most desired classic cars to have ever to hit the road. The list of famous owners of the 300 SL is endless, ranging from aristocrats like Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran (who, by the way, was also a big watch collector) to Jean Claude Biver, Paul Newman and Ralph Lauren etc. Arguably, for many car collectors the 300 SL (Roadster or Gullwing) is the definition of a classic car and a true icon of an era.
300 SL Roadster
Initially sold for around DM 34,000; the current market price easily hits the million-dollar mark for cars in good condition. For extremely well-maintained roadsters, the price can reach up to USD 1.5 million.
1,858 cars (roadster version) and 1,400 (coupé or “Gullwing” version)
When to drive:
Of course the answer is on a sunny day, probably when driving around the city to see your friends for a lunch or even better a nice curvy road on the countryside during sunset.
What we love about the car:
The 300 SL is the definition of a classic car and is one of Stuttgart’s most collectible models, if not the most well-known Mercedes-Benz.
Photography: Ryan Greger IG: @rmg.autos
*The car on the pictures is not the one we offer for sale.