1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
Chassis no. 198.042.7500081
Engine no. 198.980.7500097
2,996cc SOHC Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
Bosch Mechanical Fuel Injection
250bhp at 6,200rpm
4-Speed Manual Gearbox
4-Wheet Independent Suspension
4-Wheel Hydraulic Drum Brakes
*The first 300SL Roadster exported to the U.S. Market
*Fastidious 100-point restoration by marque specialist Mark Allin's Rare Drive
*50 years of single ownership by a dedicated enthusiast
*Features numerous rare early production details
*Fully documented matching-numbers example accompanied by detailed history file
THE MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL
Created to spearhead Mercedes-Benz's return to competition in the post-war era, the 300 SL debuted in the 1952 Mille Miglia, finishing 2nd and 4th overall. Wins in the Carrera Pan-Americana and at Le Mans followed, and the 300SL was on its way to becoming part of motor sporting legend. The Mercedes-Benz importer for North America, Max Hoffman, believed there would be a market for a road-going version, and managed to convince the factory that such a car would be a success.
Launched in 1954, the production 300SL retained the spaceframe chassis of the racer and was powered by a 2,996cc, overhead-camshaft, inline six canted at 45 degrees to achieve a lower, more aerodynamic bonnet line. Using innovative direct fuel injection, this state-of-the-art power unit produced 215bhp at 5,800rpm. A four-speed gearbox transmitted power to the hypoid bevel rear axle. Suspension was independent all round by wishbones and coil springs at the front, with swing axles and coil springs at the rear.
Tested by the highly respected American magazine Road & Track in 1955, the 300SL accelerated from 0-60mph in 7.4 seconds, going on to achieve a top speed of 140mph - outstanding figures for its day. Half expecting the long-awaited 300SL to provide an anti-climax, R&T were delighted to find the new car, 'far beyond our wildest expectations. In fact, we can state unequivocally that in our opinion the 300SL coupé is the ultimate in an all-round sportscar. It combines more desirable features in one streamlined package than we ever imagined or hoped would be possible. Performance? It accelerates from a dead start to 100mph in just over 17 seconds. Dual purpose? A production model 300SL can make a very acceptable showing in any type of sportscar competition. Yet the car is extremely tractable and easy to drive in traffic. Comfort? The fully enclosed 300SL is the most comfortable (and safe) high-speed 'cross-country' car built today.' Its racing parentage notwithstanding, the 300SL was and remains a thoroughly practical automobile, as civilized in city driving as it is exhilarating on the highway.
Clearly the 300SL Coupe would be a hard act to follow yet the Roadster version, introduced just three years later, succeeded in bettering its closed cousin's already exemplary road manners. Built with conventional doors, the 300SL Roadster was first exhibited at the Geneva Salon in May 1957 and was an immediate hit with the 1950s 'jet set' including royalty, actors and socialites. The production of an open 300SL involved altering the cockpit area, where the spaceframe was redesigned to permit lower sills for improved access. At the same time the rear suspension was changed to incorporate low-pivot swing axles. The 300SL Roadster sold well for a car that cost more than a Ferrari 250 GT California Spider, and would out-live the 300SL Coupe by several years.
THE MOTORCAR OFFERED
This meticulously restored 300SL is the fifth Roadster built, and is confirmed by the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center as the first example imported to the United States. Claiming more than 60 unique early production features that distinguish it from later examples, the Roadster also benefits from 50 years of care by a single owner, as well as a recent 100-point restoration by a highly awarded 300SL specialist.
According to the factory production record, chassis no. 198.042.7500081 was equipped with sealed-beam headlamps with separate marker lights, a rear-axle ratio of 3.89, and instruments in English. Finished in Fire Engine red paint with an interior upholstered in black leather, the 300SL was dispatched for the United States on June 4, 1957, exported through the port of Bremen to Miami, Florida.
It is fascinating to note all the unique early-production details that the Roadster was built with and retains to this day, many of which were hand-tooled by the factory. Some of these features are holdover components temporarily continued from the Gullwing model and soon phased out, such as the hood, grille mounts, gray hand-brake, trunk lock, and the knee-bar padding on the passenger-side dash over the footwell.
Other rare early-production details include a body-colored instrument panel, plastic heater bezels, longer anodized trim pieces on the rear bumper valance, unique front marker-light lenses, unique windshield wipers and wiper linkages, and unique door panels with chromed brass trim (rather than anodized aluminum). The soft top possesses structural bows made of 100% aluminum rather than the chromed steel and alloy units used on most subsequent cars, and the trunk displays unusual elements such as exposed tonneau hinge springs, matching carpets, and the lack of a factory tar-mat.
Mechanically, the Roadster possesses a unique oil tank in the engine bay, and an unusual washer hose routing. There are also a number of "missing" components that would appear on later cars but were not yet implemented as of this chassis' build, like door sill moldings, a reclining function on the passenger seat, and a passenger-door lock.
As listed by a handwritten note in the car's file by a former owner, the 300SL was titled in Virginia in 1961 to Howard Hurley Wills and his wife, Katherine. An original sales contract indisputably reveals that the car was sold in July 1962 by the Chesapeake Cadillac Company of Baltimore, Maryland, to local resident Dr. James Mozley. Mozley was a professor of nuclear medicine at Johns Hopkins who pioneered computer control of x-ray technology in medical imaging, obtaining several patents that remain in use today. He remarkably retained possession of the early Roadster for 50 years, moving to Camillus, New York, by the late 1960s, and steadily servicing the car as needed (as demonstrated by a substantive file of invoices). In 2006 the engine was rebuilt by Jacobs Automotive of East Syracuse, and Dr. Mozley continued to enjoy the Roadster, accruing some 35,000 miles in total during his ownership, which sadly ended upon his passing in 2012.
Offered for sale at Amelia Island in March 2013, the rare early Roadster was acquired by the consignor, a respected collector of exceptional European sportscars based in New Jersey. He soon retained Mark Allin's highly regarded Rare Drive, of East Kingston, New Hampshire, to perform a comprehensive restoration to factory standards. A noted 300SL specialist with three decades of experience, Mr. Allin has conducted numerous award-winning restorations, showcasing his fanatical adherence to original factory practices and details. He often goes to absurd lengths to replicate the techniques and results of the manufacturer's build process, so that every imaginable detail, seen and unseen, matches those produced by the factory in period.
Rare Drive comprehensively restored the Roadster, rebuilding all of the mechanical and cosmetic elements, and completely restoring the chassis and engine bay to original condition as assembled by the factory. The interior was correctly re-trimmed in proper black leather, while the exterior received a bare-metal finish in the period correct 300SL anthracite Glasurit paint, and the original softtop was rebuilt. Almost certain to garner recognition for sheer quality and correctness, the restoration also provided the research necessary to understand all of the intricate aforementioned details that are uniquely offered by this early example. Several hundred photos and receipts of this 100-point restoration are available in the substantial history file, the latter adding up to $460,000.
Accompanied by many original receipts and documents, a copy of the factory built sheet and an original owner's manual and toolkit in the proper roll, this sensational 300SL currently displays 55,889 miles on the odometer (believed to reflect actual mileage), and bears the singular provenance of being the first example exported to the United States, and just the fifth car in the build sequence. As confirmed by the experts at Mercedes-Benz Classic, the Roadster is equipped with numerous early-production features to be found in very few other examples, and this particular combination of features is quite likely unique to this chassis. Further bolstered by strong documentation of its 50-year single ownership, the supremely restored 300 SL offers distinction at premium concours d'elegance worldwide, or may be enjoyed on tours and marque events. Few Roadsters boast such importance as chassis no. 7500081, and the unique car would undoubtedly make an important addition to any major collection.
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