The Don Davis Collection

27 April 2013

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Lot 114

1961 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster

  • Chassis no.
  • Engine no. 198.980.10.002896
  • Body no.

Sold for $935,000

215 bhp (DIN), 240 bhp (SAE), 2,996 cc overhead-cam inline six-cylinder engine, Bosch mechanical fuel-injection, four-speed manual gearbox, independent front suspension with upper and lower A-arms and coil springs, independent rear suspension with coil springs and swing axles, and hydraulic front disc, rear drum brakes. Wheelbase: 94.5 in.

  • A highly desirable disc brake example
  • Upgraded with European “bubble” headlamps
  • Removable hardtop

With the original Mercedes-Benz 300SL “Gullwing” Coupe exiting stage left in 1957, its successor, the 300SL Roadster, debuted at that year’s Geneva Salon. The conversion of the 300SL to an open car meant dispensing with the famed upward-opening door and redesigning the chassis, which was strengthened significantly to compensate for the loss of the roof structure. Headlamps were changed, the grille was smaller, and a chrome molding was added below the doors. The famed racing-derived twin-cam six-cylinder engine produced some 215 brake horsepower, and the revised rear suspension now boasted a compensating spring, added to reduce the oversteering tendencies of the Gullwing’s single-jointed swing-axle arrangement.

Enthusiasts who may have worried about the 300SL going “soft” had absolutely nothing to concern themselves about. The Roadster remained among the fastest automobiles on the road, capable of 133–155 mph, depending upon the final drive ratio specified. Production continued into early-1963, and with 1,858 built, the Roadster proved even more popular than its “Gullwing” predecessor, while still remaining exclusive enough to be rarely seen. Like the earlier coupe, it was, in its day, the car in which to see and be seen, and it was favored by celebrities, racing drivers, and just anyone who appreciated fine machinery and had the bank account to acquire it.

Today, the 300SL Roadster still carries with it an indelible aura of speed, power, and sophisticated style. Fast enough for the sports car lover and comfortable enough for those who demand to luxuriate, it has remained for nearly 60 years as one of the most desirable automobiles in the world.

The 1961 model offered here is the later example of the “bookend” pair of 300SL Roadsters that Don Davis has acquired for his distinguished collection. Built in March 1961, it was built to United States specification, but it was later updated to the appearance of a European-delivery example with the desirable one-piece “bubble” headlamps, and it was restored in black with grey leather seats and a black cloth top. Desirably, it was also originally supplied with a hardtop, which has remained with the car, and it is finished in body color with a correct white-vented headliner, a much sought-after accessory for these cars. The trunk is in excellent condition, with correct dark grey carpeting, jack, and hidden spare wheel. Under the hood and underneath is well-presented, with evidence of careful use but not of wear, which only adds to the charming presentation of the car. However, most impressively, the example is a rare disc brake car and offers the added stopping power sought-after in the open sports car variant. The Mercedes presently records just over 50,000 kilometers, and it presents as a 300SL that has been driven and enjoyed as the factory intended, while also being lovingly maintained.

RM Auctions is told that the present air conditioning unit was fitted by a specialist from California; the unit reportedly works well, and the quality of workmanship is such that it could have been done by the factory itself. With the hardtop fitted, this upgrade makes this an ideal year-round touring and rallying car. It rides on black steel wheels with Mercedes-Benz hubcaps and polished trim rings, shod in Michelin XVS radials.

This is a 300SL that can be taken out, run, and enjoyed—and in a car with this much racing-bred performance, beautiful engineering, and stopping power behind it, why not?

Please be advised that this car has correct four-wheel disc brakes.


Please be advised that this car has correct four-wheel disc brakes.

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

Alain Squindo

Detroit, Michigan

Alain Squindo joined RM Auctions in 2007, after graduating from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., with a degree in History. R... read more

Alexander Weaver

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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

Annette Abaci

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With post-secondary degrees in Economic Science and Mechanical Engineering, Annette Abaci initially worked part-time at Mercedes-Benz ... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a senior car specialist, after more than a decade in the collector car hobby... read more

Barney Ruprecht

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Ontario, Canada

Barney Ruprecht graduated from Boston University in 2013 with a degree in Hospitality Administration. In ... read more

Dan Warrener

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Ontario, Canada

Possessing a degree in Economics from Brandon University, Dan Warrener spent the initial stages of his career working around the globe... read more

David Swig

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California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a car specialist in May 2015. He is a lifelong automobile enthusiast and g... read more

Don Rose

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Don Rose joined RM Auctions in 2006, after many years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputatio... read more

Donnie Gould

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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

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Ontario, Canada

Gord joined RM Sotheby's in 1998, initially responsible for the transportation and logistics of the company’s auction and re... read more

Ian Kelleher

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New York, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College, with a B.A. in Politica... read more

Jack Boxstrom

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Ontario, Canada

Jack Boxstrom joined RM Sotheby's in late-1996 to assist with the recently acquired, and subsequently record-breaking, auction in ... read more

Jake Auerbach

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Ontario, Canada

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

Jonathan Sierakowski

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Jonathan Sierakowski developed a passion for classic cars while working at a restoration shop as a teenag... read more

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Indiana, United States

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Mike Fairbairn

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Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby's, Mike Fairbairn has a longstanding interest in the classic car industry. Gra... read more

Pete Fisher

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Ontario, Canada

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

Peter Wallman

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United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007, following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, read more

Rob Myers

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Ontario, Canada

As chairman and founder of the RM Group of Companies, Rob Myers’s entire career has been devoted to the classic car industry. Ro... read more

Shelby Myers

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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

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Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a car specialist. A... read more