1958 MERCEDES BENZ 300sl ROADSTER
Reg No. SSU 766
Chassis No. 300SL/198.042
Engine No. 198.980
Silver with red leather seats and interior trim.
Engine: Six cylinders in-line single overhead camshaft, 2,996cc, fuel injection producing 250bhp at 6,200rpm; Gearbox: four-speed manual; Suspension: independent front with unequal length wishbones, coil-springs and telescopic shock-absorbers, rear low-pivot swing axles, coil springs and telescopic shock-absorbers; Brakes: four wheel hydraulic drum. Left hand drive.
As the memories of wartime privations receded, the Daimler Benz factory was able to get back into motor car production with basic rugged saloon models, but by the early 1950s it was realised that the reliablity and strength of the '300' engine was capable of greater development and so that by 1951 a daring venture utilising this power-plant installed in a completely new streamlined fixed-head coupe was conceived by the brains behind the design team including the brilliant engineer Rudi Uhlenhaut, backed by Fritz Nallinger's management support. The whole concept was initially aimed purely at returning to the racing scene with the aerodynamic sports coupe and prototypes were constructed in 1951 and proved excellent in testing so that in 1952 the racing department contested the World Sportscar Championship events and won five major events outright, demolishing the opposition with Lang and Reiss winning the Le Mans 24 hours race and the sister team car finishing second. In addition they won the gruelling Carrera Panamericana Road Race as well, to show just how durable the new cars were. This had all been likened to an aperitif in order for the racing team to resume Grand Prix competition and there was no plan to continue sports car racing. However with the unparalleled success achieved in such a short time, it was decided to put the cars into limited production, as the achievements had fuelled a more obvious demand for road-going sports cars.
The bodies were redesigned and strengthened and featured the revolutionary top-hinged doors giving rise to the immortal "Gull-wing" style of coachwork. Stunningly beautiful, they appeared so advanced for their day with their streamlined functionality and the first examples for sale were introduced from the New York Salon in 1954. Incorporated into the new designs were several ground-breaking innovations including canting the engine over at an amazing angle to lower the overall height and lower the centre of gravity, whilst the motor was the first full production model to utilise fuel injection as standard, which was a direct result following aero-engine design and development during the war. The tubular chassis design was based on racing principles with many lessons learned from the 1930s Grand Prix racing cars, independent suspension all-round and large finned brake-drums on the early production cars. The engine was a direct development of the 300 saloon, but mounted into the chassis at an angle of some 45 degrees to the vertical, a specially redesigned sump which remained in the vertical plane and a new cylinder head with increased compression to 8.5:1 which was up-rated to 9.5:1 on the Roadster versions, which were also given the 'competition' camshaft profiling the same as the sports-racers in order to give improved performance, in order to balance the slightly heavier bodywork on the open cars, necessitated by the extra metal going into the reinforcing of the structure without the innate strength of the enveloping coupe bodies.
The Roadster versions were introduced at Geneva in 1957, so this is one of the first batch of the 325 production models sold in the second year's output.
The early history of this car is not known but it appears to be extremely original and unspoilt. The red leather interior is original and whilst it shows some minor signs of wear, yet retains a good depth of colour and gentle ageing commensurate with the years. The silver paintwork is very good and has been resprayed at some period. Latterly the car has had little road-usage and rather more storage, but has a recent MoT test certificate and would benefit from more regular exercise in future ownership perhaps.