Arizona

15-16 January 2015

Previous Next

Lot 111

1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster

  • Chassis no. 198.042.7500552
  • Engine no. 198.980.7500661
  • Body no. 198.042.7500476

Sold for $1,210,000


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.

  • Proudly offered by its owner of 40 years
  • Driven and enjoyed over 100,000 happy miles
  • Extensively documented, with its original engine
  • One of a handful originally finished in Strawberry
  • The beloved possession of an enthusiast


Certain cars and their owners do not need a writer to tell their story. They tell it themselves, better than anyone else, as they know one another better than anyone else could. It is the symbiotic relationship between man and machine, in which each is taught and learns to love the other’s idiosyncrasies over decades spent together on twisting roads and wide-open highways.

On the lakeside roads in the industrial town of Sarnia, Ontario, a lifelong enthusiast can be found behind the wheel of his 300 SL Roadster. It is one of the few original 300 SLs to be found “north of the border,” and it is perhaps the last that is still regularly used and enjoyed. For nearly 40 years, through two restorations and over 100,000 miles, Bill Martin and his Roadster have always been on the road to some new adventure.

In the fifties, I used to go to Elkhart Lake to the races, and of course I saw people racing Gullwings and Roadsters, but I didn’t have any money in those days. I sold my business in 1975, and in 1976, I went sort-of looking for a car. I had called Gullwing Service in Boston, and they had a Roadster but said it wasn’t very good. One of the classic mistakes of my life was when they said they had an aluminum Gullwing there, with the NSL engine and all that, and they wanted a grand less than $30,000. I had the money but said no. I figured that if I paid $30,000, I’d have to buy my wife a new kitchen!

Shortly thereafter, I went to Carlisle with a friend of mine, and this car was there. The guy wanted $11,000 and turned down my offer of $9,000. When I got home the phone was ringing, and they had accepted the offer. I went down to Baltimore, Maryland, and picked it up on the side of the road. Even though it had a blown head gasket, I drove it home to Sarnia and soon began taking it apart. It took me about 10 years to get it all back together.

I researched the car’s history and know it back to the time it was purchased by Rooster Bush, who was the largest Oldsmobile dealer in the United States, operating out of a town called Lenore in North Carolina. He was a great guy. He had seen the car at an auction sale for a Studebaker dealership in Charlotte and bought it out of their basement for, I think, $2,000. His daughter, who now runs the family dealership selling Buicks, wanted a Corvette instead, so he kept the car for about 10 years before he sold it. I have never been able to find out the original owner, but the rumor was that it had been owned by a general and titled in a woman’s name.

At the time I restored it the first time, I had a great friend in Detroit, Lynn Yakel, who was one of the earliest members of the Gull Wing Group and had a barn full of cars and parts. His wife, Roberta, was an engineer at Ford and had her own white Gullwing. I could call Lynn and he would know every part on the car by part number, and he hardly had to look in the book!

Myself, the Yakels, Mark Dutton with his Roadster, and Gordon Black with his Gullwing from Ohio, once headed for California. You know, you kind of observe the speed limit until you get to St. Louis, and then you get the urge to go a little faster. We got to a place called Tucumcari, west of Oklahoma City, where we stopped for lunch and then headed for the Gull Wing Group’s convention, which was being held north of Albuquerque.

We were running at about 110 mph when we got behind an ambulance and he wouldn’t move over. Two semis passed by, also going about 110 mph! We thought, what the hell, we’ll pass on the right! The ambulance driver was furious. We wound up doing about 170 miles in two hours and figured we would at least have a lot of company if we went to jail. Now that I think about it, we did 170 miles in two hours a few more times! We once ran into a state trooper who saw us coming over a hill, and then, when we saw him later at a gas station, the attendant told us, “He’s unhappy because he can’t catch you. They took away his big engine!”

They were great trips, every one of them. My wife preferred to fly, and that’s okay, because when you travel like that, we would go for an hour or two without a break, running at 100 to 110 mph, it was great to be with people who all thought along the same lines, and you don’t need to be with someone who’s not happy with the way that you’re driving—it just destroys the whole trip. Far, far better to go alone.

I have driven the car at least 100,000 miles. I do most of the repair work myself, good or bad. I’ve driven to California two times in the last 10 years, and both times the speedometer cable broke on the return trip. But I have tools, and I have spares, so I am not afraid to hit the road. There are likely 3,000 Gullwings and Roadsters, but I doubt if over 100 of them are still driven on a regular basis, and I am probably one of the last owners who does his own maintenance, so this is sort of the end of an era.

I feel that I’ve been there, done that, and at 78, the time has come to sell it. It’s been enjoyable; in fact, it’s been amazing.

Here is an opportunity to acquire an incredible 300 SL Roadster that is important not for its awards or its laurels but for the man who has owned and loved it for most of its life. Its history is engrained in every one of those 100,000 amazing miles.

Addendum

Please note that this car is matching numbers and the title is in transit.

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