13 March, 2013: Classic Investments transfers ownership of Mercedes 300SL at the Amelia Island Auctions!

Stephen Bell just returned from the Gooding and Co. Amelia Island auctions after making another collector of fine European sports cars very happy, indeed. This particular vehicle came to us with an incredible back story. A very rare example, this was the 81st roadster version to be produced by Mercedes out of a total of 1,858. It came to us in excellent condition and ran beautifully on the very first try!

The Mercedes 300SL is simply an icon. A true feat of automotive engineering excellence in every way. Originally, Mercedes came up with the racing version, known as the W194, to compete in the most prestigious GT races of the day. Simply looking at the figures, the W194 seemed to be at a severe disadvantage against the more powerful British and Italian competition. But Mercedes stunned the world by breaking out of the gates with overall wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in Bern-Bremgarten, in the sportscar race of the Eifelrennen at the Nürburgring, and in Mexico’s Carrera Panamericana. It also managed second and fourth places at its first outing, the Mille Miglia in 1952. All this with a production 3.0L, carbureted I-6 (tuned to produce 175BHP). It wouldn’t be long until the world found out how Mercedes had managed to pull off such a feat, however, as the public was so impressed that Mercedes set into motion a production version of the car that changed the face of motoring history.

Particularly impressed were the affluent American sporting enthusiasts, and in kind, Mercedes decided to debut the new road model (W198) at the New York Auto Show in 1954. The Americans liked this very much, and when the 300SL line shut down in 1963 for the new 230SL the numbers were staggering: Over 80% of orders were exported to the U.S. market.

Now, of course, Mercedes had to make some changes for the road going version of the champion W194 and so they did… Modifications such as an upgrade in power (212-222BHP), thanks to the first ever production direct fuel injection system designed by Bosch; the iconic “Gull Wing” doors (which ran from 1954-1957 when the roadster was introduced); a simply shocking curb weight of just 2,410lbs (thanks to the first ever tubular steel “space frame”) and the 300SL now stood as the world record holder of top speed in a production car at 161MPH… all this for the street version!

Essentially, the 300SL is not simply a sports car but an archetype. The technological advances made during the 1950’s were proudly displayed in this one of a kind machine… the original “Super Car.” Its success on the track and in production all lead back to the same roots–and one should hope they do! A dedication to sophisticated aerodynamics engineering, new powertrain technology, extremely low weight (even in the production versions) and awe inspiring styling were all principal in making this car the legend it is. To this day, one need merely glance at a modern Mercedes (notably the SLS AMG) and see a line, a vent, gaping mouth or another engineering first to suggest the timeless influence of this incredible racer. But don’t be fooled, as these cars are not all sitting lonely in museums just yet!


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