Monterey

19-20 August 2016

Previous Next

Lot 133

1961 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster

  • Chassis no. 198.042.10.002756
  • Engine no. 198.980.10.002839
  • Body no. A198.042.10.00266

$1,250,000 - $1,500,000


Please note that Internet bidding is not available for this lot. Interested parties that are unable to attend the sale may register to bid by telephone or place a commission bid online at rmsothebys.com.

215 bhp (DIN), 240 hp (SAE), 2,996 cc SOHC inline six-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, coil-spring independent front suspension and coil-spring single-point swing axle rear suspension, and servo-assisted drum brakes. Wheelbase: 94.5 in.

  • Fully restored to concours specifications
  • One of just five 300 SL Roadsters originally finished in Fantasy Yellow
  • Upgraded with Rudge wheels and European-specification headlights


The introduction of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL was a hugely important moment for Mercedes-Benz and served to further cement the company’s position as the market leader in race-bred, performance automobiles. Massively ahead of its time, the 300 SL utilized an innovative space-frame chassis coupled with a highly advanced, fuel-injected engine, the first of its kind fitted to a production car. It was crowned the fastest performance car in the world upon its introduction and could handedly outrun any other car on sale at the time.

The car was conceived by American Mercedes-Benz importer Max Hoffman, who believed that a road-legal version of Mercedes-Benz’s successful W194 racer would be profitable and that the unique style and performance of such a car would resonate well with his American clients. Mercedes-Benz took Hoffman up on his idea, and so it was only natural that the new 300 SL would premiere at the New York Auto Show in 1954. The 300 SL coupe quickly earned the nickname “Gullwing” for its distinctive roof-hinged doors, and the public fell in love with the car, not only for its breathtaking design, but also for its earth-shattering performance.

Looking to expand upon his success with the Gullwing coupe, Hoffman thought that a convertible version of the 300 SL would also sell quite well, and the 300 SL Roadster was introduced in 1957. Of course, as the 300 SL would lose its top, engineers had to reinforce and modify the space-frame chassis to fit conventionally hinged doors. Through lowering the height of the chassis, this simultaneously allowed for greater ease of entry. Cosmetic changes were minor and included a smaller grille opening and dual chrome strips along the side sills, giving the car a more streamlined and glamorous look. At the rear, the spare tire was repositioned below the trunk floor, necessitating a smaller fuel tank but also maintaining reasonable luggage space. These revisions to the roadster added some 250 pounds to the total weight of the car, mostly due to the convertible top.

Looking to keep the speed and performance of the closed 300 SL for the new roadster despite its gain in weight, Mercedes-Benz fitted the more sporting NSL engine of the coupe to all roadsters as standard equipment. This made the roadster capable of top speeds that ranged from 133 to 155 mph, depending on the final drive ratio specified. However, the stunning performance and design of the 300 SL Roadster did not come cheap, at a list price of $11,000; but it was worth every penny. Ownership of a 300 SL implied an exquisite taste in engineering and aesthetics, and it was the ultimate automotive statement. Naturally, many found homes in the garages of celebrities, racing drivers, and other successful individuals with an appreciation for fine automobiles.

This particular 1961 300 SL Roadster was originally delivered in Fantasy Yellow (DB653), one of just five 300 SL Roadsters finished in this color, and a black leather interior. According to its factory build sheet, the car’s engine was changed at the factory prior to delivery, and it is still fitted with that engine today (number 002839). Allegedly retained by the factory when new for promotional purposes, the car was not sold to its first owner until 1963. At that time, it was purchased by David Jackson, who used the car at his residences in both Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Jackson kept the car for nine years before selling to Dr. R.L. Dunworth of Huntington, West Virginia. The car remained in his possession for six years before it was sold to John Walker, the principal of Mercedes-Benz of Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1975. Walker kept the car for two years and the car was bought shortly thereafter by Jack Hahn, who owned the car for the next 40 years. Purchased recently by its current California-based owner from Jim Gusweiler of Ohio in 2013, the car was sporting Signal Red paint and fitted with European-specification headlights at that time.

Shortly after purchasing the car, it was decided that 300 SL would be fully restored to its former glory and was entrusted to Legendary Classic Center of Costa Mesa, California. The car was completely stripped to bare metal and refinished in its original shade of Fantasy Yellow. All chrome parts were completely refinished, the drivetrain was fully rebuilt, and a new wiring harness was fitted. The interior and soft-top were refinished in dark green, creating a very unique color combination, and all-new rubber and seals were fitted. For a final touch, correct Rudge wheels were sourced and fitted. The consignor notes that the car was in very nice, driver-quality condition when the restoration began, and that no metal work was needed. The car is accompanied by photographs and receipts from the restoration, as well as a set of books, tools, and matching luggage.

Boasting wonderful performance and reliable enough to be used on a daily basis, the 300 SL Roadster is an enthusiast favorite for vintage rallies, long-distance touring, or even use as a regular driver at one’s summer home. A well-restored example is a requisite in any collection, and this example certainly will not disappoint. With the car’s restoration completed earlier this year, it remains ready for the road and concours events in every respect. Boasting a highly compelling and unique color combination of Fantasy Yellow over dark green, it will garner much attention wherever it travels.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more