The open-top sports car superseded the successful "gull-wing" 300 SL Coupé, which was built from 1954. The North American market in particular provided considerable impetus for an open-top version of the 300 SL. In technical terms the roadster differed from the coupé in numerous details, the latter being derived from the successful 300 SL racing car.
Readers of the North American "Colliers Magazine" were the first to hear about the new Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster 60 years ago. For the Stuttgart brand gave top photographer David Douglas Duncan the opportunity to showcase a pre-series roadster for the October issue of the magazine in 1956. It was a media coup, and a well considered one. Because in the United States demand for an open-top variant of the 300 SL was very high. The market was an important one for the segment of luxurious sports cars: since 1954 Mercedes-Benz had already exported a large proportion of its coupés to North America, a good 800 of a total of 1400 vehicles built. The final series version was then unveiled by Mercedes-Benz in March 1957 at the Geneva Motor Show. By 1963 a total of 1858 units of the roadster were built, and from 1958 it was also available with a hardtop.
Today the 300 SL Roadster is one of the most sought-after and valuable Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Cars which are kept in top condition and are above all original achieve market prices significantly worth of a million euros.
Sportiness in the genes
The tradition of the sporty Mercedes-Benz SL started in 1952 with the 300 SL racing car (W 194) was systematically continued by the 300 SL Roadster: two vehicles known as the 300 SLS were created for the 1957 season on the basis of the open-top sports car, for entering the North American Sports Car Championship. The specially produced models were 337 kilograms lighter respectively than the series version and had an uprated engine with 173 kW (235 hp). Paul O'Shea, who had already won the championship in category D with the "gull-wing" in 1955 and 1956, took the title for the third time in succession with the 300 SLS.
The series version, which was available in various transmission configurations, also demonstrated sporty performance. In November 1958 a 300 SL Roadster with the longest available ratio of i=3.25 achieved an average speed of 242.5 km/h on the Munich-Ingolstadt motorway with a racing windshield and covered co-driver's seat. The time was measured by the Main Sports Department of the German automobile club the ADAC.
Today the 300 SL Roadster is one of the most sought-after and valuable Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Cars which are kept in top condition and are above all original achieve market prices significantly worth of a million euros. This market situation reflects the popularity and at the same time the rarity of the 300 SL Roadster. Nevertheless, ALL TIME STARS, the Mercedes-Benz Museum's marketplace, does have outstanding specimens to offer from time to time. An alternative is factory restoration of an existing 300 SL Roadster by Mercedes-Benz Classic: exactly in accordance with the original specification – it does not get any better than that.
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