MERCEDES-BENZ 300 SL 1952 - 1963
conventionally hinged doors on the 300 SL Roadster were made possible by rotating the high
side members of the original space frame construction by 90 degrees and projecting them
under the floorpan. Of course this didn't help the rigidity of the construction, and
removing the roof reduced it even further. This made the 300 SL Roadster distinctively
unfit for competition racing and the dynamic capabilities of the roadster were only a mere
shade of that of the original 300 SL.
On the upside the reduced rigidity of the construction combined with slightly relaxed suspension stiffness made the car less hard on its passengers. Fillings remained put and a relaxed Sunday's drive along scenic routes became possible.
ventilation problem was drastically solved by removing the roof of the 300 SL Coupé, but
for places with changeable (or worse) weather a separate hardtop could be fitted on the
Roadster, like you see on this picture. The side widows could be wound down (as opposed to
those in the Gullwing-doors) to let in as much fresh air as needed. Luggage space was a
problem: the spare tire and the petrol tank still took up almost all the room in the trunk
while the Roadster cabin was smaller than that of the Coupé, leaving not much room for
suitcases of any kind.
The Roadster also
saw the introduction of combined headlight units that were to feature on all mid- and
top-range Mercedes models up to the seventies. The indicator lights and the traffic- and
main beam lights were fitted into one stylish vertical unit with one glass cover sealing
the complete unit. These units varied in composition depending on the local traffic
legislation of the countries the cars were sold in. The units in this picture reflect the
original German design; the Roadster in the picture at the top of this page has headlight
units designed for a specific export market.
As do most
convertibles the 300 SL Roadster looked best with its top down. The simple canvas top
wasn't very noteworthy and not particularly suited for daily driving conditions. It was
there to help you out at an occasional unexpected downpour.
Although the 300 SL Roadster wasn't a racecar anymore, it was still sporty enough: the familiar 3-litre unit was slightly tuned down to 240 hp @ 6100 rpm and by gearing the car differently the top speed was reduced to 225 kph, still quite enough for an open-top car. It was no lightweight at 1280 kg, where the 300 SL Coupé weighed 1160 kg.
The 300 SL Roadster was produced from 1957 to 1963, also 3 years longer
than its predecessor, but its success was a bit disappointing with just 1858 units sold.
If the 300 SL Coupé had been produced for just as long as the Roadster at same rate it
was in its time, it should have reached 2450 units. Is it fair to conclude that the 300 SL
Coupé was ultimately the more popular one? Not in its time, because the 1957 Roadster was
about 17% more expensive to buy than the 1956 Coupé, which already had a very formidable
price tag. It figures that such a price raise would reduce sales.
Nowadays its obvious that the extreme Gullwing Coupé has become an icon where the more comfortable Roadster is "only" a desirable classic, and this translates in a 18% lower value (in Europe) for a Roadster in mint condition compared to a Coupé in the same state. Roadsters in a regrettable condition could fetch about 50% less than comparable Coupés! And this only because restoring Roadsters is less profitable, that's why about 32% of the available Roadsters today are in desperate need of restoration. On the other hand 21% is still in mint condition and 36% is in a good state, so plenty of cars to go around for those affluent 300 SL lovers who don't want a Gullwing.
(added note: please remember that values depend on local market situation and standards, so the differences in values mentioned here may not be accurate for your situation)
In 1963 both the 190 SL
and the 300 SL were replaced by one model: the 230 SL. A completely new design that tried
to combine the best of its predecessors and further established the great Mercedes SL
convertible tradition. RitzSite
has also a segment about this model range for you, just click this link to go there.
Finish the tour by clicking the arrows pointing right....