Created to spearhead Mercedes-Benz's return to competition in the post-war era, the 300SL 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 first racers were open-topped, but before the '52 season's end the distinctive gull-wing doored Coupé had appeared.
Unusually high sills were a feature of the multi-tubular spaceframe chassis, and while access was not a problem of the open car, the adoption of coupé bodywork required innovative thinking - hence the gull-wing doors.
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 Road & Track magazine 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.
It was, arguably, the world's first supercar. Clearly the 300SL Coupé 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 250GT California Spyder, and would out-live the 300SL Coupé by several years.
The Roadster's neutral steering characteristics received fulsome praise from Road & Track in its 1958 road test.
“With the low-pivot rear suspension and more adhesive tires, the car handles beautifully under all conditions. This is a tremendous improvement over the hardtop models, which had a tendency to oversteer rather violently if pressed too hard.”
A 0-60mph time of 7.0 seconds and a top speed of 130mph were recorded, making the 300SL Roadster one of the fastest convertibles of its time.
Road &Track concluded: “There is no doubt that the 300SL roadster is a truly great dual-purpose sportscar, equally at home in traffic and the open road, or on the track,” words that remain equally true today.
Roadster production ceased in 1963 after 1,858 cars had been built, and today the model is both rare and highly sought after.
About the car:
Born in 1960 Chassis 002543 is the kind of car suitable for the real connoisseur.
A rare European unrestored example that has been kept through all those years in breathtaking original condition.
It still retains its original stereo, original leather with a lovely patina, matching numbers engine and gearbox, original factory hardtop and luggage set.
Finding an example like this one is more than rare today.
German registered today and with a comprehensive history file we are proud to welcome to view this car to our new showroom in Padova, Italy.