8 March 2014
1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster
- Chassis no. 198.042.7500569
- Engine no. 198.980.7500545
- Body no. 198.042.7500493
Sold for $1,842,500
- One of only 25 original Rudge wheel Roadsters
- Originally owned by Natalie Wood
- Restored by 300 SL specialist Rudi Koniczek
- Winner of Best in Class at the 2012 Amelia Island Concours
- Desirably equipped and beautifully finished, with Hollywood provenance
There was no doubt that Mercedes-Benz had a hit on their hands with their spectacular 300 SL Gulling. The car’s looks, performance, and brilliant engineering captivated the automotive world, and it proved to be a runaway success for Mercedes-Benz. After production ended on the iconic Gullwing Coupe, the marque was eager to add a convertible version to its lineup.
A prototype of this new model was first spotted in the summer of 1956 at Stuttgart, by the German magazine Auto, Motor und Sport, while the production model would later debut at the 1957 Geneva Motor Show. By the end of that year, the final 70 of the 1,400 Coupes and the first 618 of the 300 SL Roadsters were assembled.
Along with a convertible top, the 300 SL brought a host of advancements to the already state-of-the-art 300 SL platform. The central section of the 300 SL’s space-frame chassis was lowered, the sills were smaller, and the doors were enlarged, in order to allow improved entrance and egress. Strength was maintained, nonetheless, with the addition of diagonal struts, which braced the lowered side sections to the rear tubular members. The suspension was also revised to allow for a more comfortable ride and improved handling. At the rear, the spare tire was repositioned below the trunk floor, necessitating a smaller fuel tank but also maintaining reasonable luggage space. While these revisions added some 250 pounds, with the majority of the weight being associated with the convertible top and its mechanisms, the car remained an excellent performer, with a factory-claimed 137 mph top speed.
Just like the Coupe, the 300 SL Roadster proved to be the vehicle of choice for those with brilliant taste in aesthetics and cutting-edge engineering. As such, many wound up in the garages of celebrities, racing drivers, and other financially successful individuals. With a list price of $11,000, ownership of a 300 SL Roadster was a dream to most when the car was new, but to those with the funds to spare, the car was worth every penny. To those looking to make a statement with the purchase of a new car, there was simply no better option available for purchase in 1957.
This 300 SL Roadster was one of only about twenty-five fitted by the factory with the extremely desirable Rudge wheels, as they were more often seen on the Gullwing. In January 1958, it was purchased new by none other than legendary actress Natalie Wood. Wood’s starring role in the classic film Miracle on 34th Street propelled her to A-list status at the age of 9, and by 1955, she had been nominated for an Academy Award, for her performance as Judy in Rebel Without a Cause. She purchased her Roadster at the age of 19, a month after marrying fellow actor Robert Wagner. It was the perfect automobile for Natalie Wood, as both car and driver were young, fashionable, beautiful, and brimming with talent.
Even though her new Roadster was clothed in a gorgeous shade of Mercedes-Benz Silver (DB 180) with a Red (641) leather interior, Wood had the car repainted bright pink, but she retained the red leather interior. It could be argued that no other car in Hollywood attracted more attention, especially with a gorgeous young actress behind the wheel. The 300 SL clearly had quite an impact on Wood, and even after parting ways with her pink Roadster in the 1960s, she was often seen in other vehicles adorned with the three-pointed star.
The Roadster was later owned in 1978 by Don McColl, an enthusiast in Ontario, and it was reported to have been returned to the original color combination at that time. In 2000, it was fully restored by the noted 300 SL expert Rudi Koniczek, of Rudi & Company in Victoria, British Colombia.
The car was refinished in a brilliant shade of Silver Blue (353 G), with a red leather interior and dark blue convertible top, and interestingly, the paint seems to change in different settings, as it appears silver in most conditions, but a subtle hint of blue will emerge when under bright sunlight. Mechanical authenticity was a top priority in restoring the car, and as such, it is factory correct in every detail, down to the correct hose clamps in the engine bay. The original Rudge wheels are also fitted with modern limited-production Dunlop tires that were specially designed for the 300 SL. The car is also offered with a complete set of books and tools, an original spare Rudge wheel, and a period-correct Becker radio, and it is fitted with the more desirable European headlights.
In 2010, under the stewardship of its current owner, the 300 SL Roadster participated in the Colorado Grand, where it performed effortlessly for the entirety of the rally, proving to be a comfortable and competent high-speed tourer.
Then, in 2012, it had the honor of returning to Hollywood, where it was displayed by Mercedes-Benz U.S.A. in the exclusive SL@Hollywood - Celebrating 60 Years of a Living Legend exhibition, which took place at the Warner Brothers Studios in Los Angeles, California. This exhibition served to show the connection of the SL family of cars to Hollywood’s elite. This particular Roadster was used to represent the model for the 1950s, and it was displayed amongst examples of other generations of Mercedes-Benz SLs, right up to the current model. Celebrating Natalie Wood’s career, it was put on display with other items owned and often associated with the actress. Later that year, the Roadster would remain in the limelight, as it made an appearance at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. This was a special year for the SL at Amelia Island, as the concours was celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL and its win at Le Mans in 1952. It was also a special event for this example, as it was awarded with Best in Class honors amidst an excellent field.
Having put nearly 3,000 miles on the car since the completion of its restoration, the consignor notes that everything on the 300 SL works perfectly, down to the original clock. It has proven its worth as both a touring and concours-level machine, as it is as comfortable at speed as it is parked on a concours lawn. Combined with the added bonus of its celebrity provenance, the most desirable factory option of Rudge wheels, and an utterly ravishing color combination, this is one of the finest 300 SL Roadsters available for sale today.
Titles as 1958.
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