13-15 August 2015

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Lot 324

1960 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster

  • Chassis no.
  • Engine no. 198.980.10.002603
  • Body no. A198.042.00063

Sold for $1,210,000

215 bhp (DIN), 240 hp (SAE), 2,996 cc overhead-cam 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.

  • Just over 34,000 miles and four owners from new
  • Fully matching numbers; an excellent example of its kind
  • Full restoration by Mercedes-Benz specialists
  • Incredibly well maintained and preserved since new
  • Never before offered at public sale

To say that the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL was ahead of its time would be an understatement. The 300 SL heralded a new era for Mercedes-Benz road cars; it utilized an innovative space-frame chassis coupled with a race-bred, fuel-injected engine, the first of its kind fitted to a production car, and was clothed in breathtaking bodywork.

It was conceived by American Mercedes-Benz importer Max Hoffman, who believed that a road-legal version of the successful W194 racer would be profitable in the United States and that the power and styling of such a car would appeal to the American market. Mercedes-Benz took Hoffman up on his idea, and 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.

Of course, the best way to keep customers coming back to Mercedes-Benz was to create a drop-top version of the 300 SL. A prototype model of a convertible 300 SL was first spotted by the German magazine Auto, Motor und Sport in 1956, and the production version would first be shown at the Geneva Motor Show one year later. By the end of 1957, the final 300 SL Gullwings had left the production line and production began on the 300 SL Roadster.

The roadster offered a host of improvements over its gullwinged predecessor. In an effort to improve entrance and egress, Mercedes-Benz lowered the central section of its space-frame, crafted smaller sills and fitted larger doors to the car. Strength was maintained, nonetheless, with the addition of diagonal struts, which braced the lowered side sections to the rear tubular members. Engineers also revised the suspension to create a more comfortable ride and improve handling. 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. However, the car remained quite quick nevertheless and boasted a factory-claimed top speed of 137 mph.

Following the lead of the coupe, the 300 SL Roadster proved to be just as popular with the well-to-do as its predecessor. 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 financially successful individuals with an appreciation for fine automobiles. At an $11,000 list price, it was worth every penny.

Purchased new by Robert C. Borwell, of Chicago, Illinois, on April 20, 1960, this 300 SL Roadster was delivered new in Fire Brigade Red (DB 534) over a tan leather interior and was fitted with both a tan soft-top and black-painted hardtop. At that time, Borwell had just been promoted to senior vice president of Marsh & McLennan, an insurance brokerage firm that was, at that time, based in Chicago, and his new 300 SL was no doubt a prized acquisition and a fitting automobile for such a high-ranking individual in the firm.

Borwell would go on owning his 300 SL Roadster for the next 34 years, and by the time he sold it Eric Applebaum, of Spring Green, Wisconsin, in 1994, the car had only accumulated 30,000 miles and had never rusted or been hit. Shortly after purchasing the 300 SL, Applebaum decided to commission restoration work by a marque specialist. This restoration took no less than two years, and it goes without saying that the Roadster was exquisite by the time it returned to its second owner. Seeking to preserve and display the impeccable restoration, Applebaum allegedly constructed a custom-built tower to store the car in following the restoration!

In 2002, the 300 SL Roadster was purchased by a friend of Mr. Applebaum’s, Paul J. Roller, of Elmgrove, Wisconsin, who would own the car for the following nine years, continuing to improve the quality of the car before selling it to its fourth and current owner in 2011. Still in incredible condition, this Roadster is a truly wonderful example of its breed. It comes equipped with all five original wheels, fitted with correct Dunlop tires sourced through the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center; its original Becker-Mexico radio; original owner’s manuals; a copy of the factory build sheet; a complete tool set, including its original tire pressure gauge still in its original Mercedes-Benz branded box; and a full set of Bausch fitted luggage that beautifully matches the car’s color combination. It is further documented by invoices, receipts, and photos from the restoration, as well as its original books and records. Following completion, it has been maintained by marque experts without regard to cost and always kept in a climate-controlled garage.

An icon of German engineering, the 300 SL is perhaps the most memorable car ever produced by Mercedes-Benz. The open-top roadster that replaced the iconic Gullwing proved to be an improvement on an already incredible car. This example, after having spent the majority of its life within a 200-mile radius, is in incredible condition following a meticulous restoration and subsequent careful preservation. It has never before been offered at public sale, including at auction, marking this as a fresh “first-time offering.” It would surely garner much interest at any concours event and is a wonderful example of German engineering and design.

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

+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

+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

+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

+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

+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

+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

+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

+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

+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

+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

+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

+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

+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

+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

+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

+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

+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