£900,000 - £1,100,000
Motorcars from the Collection of Gerhard Schnuerer 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster Chassis no. 198.042.8500284 Engine no. 198.980.8500283 Body no. A198.042.8500282 2,996cc SOHC Inline 6-Cylinder Engine Bosch Mechanical Fuel Injection 250bhp at 6,200rpm 4-Speed Manual Transmission 4-Wheel Independent Suspension 4-Wheel Hydraulic Drum Brakes *Used in the 2011 Mercedes-Benz commercial, "Welcome" *Driven by Sir Stirling Moss to lead the 2015 Pebble Beach Tour d'Elegance *European-delivery example in iconic Fire Engine Red over Tan livery *Equipped with its original numbers-matching engine *Ideal choice for the Colorado Grand and other vintage rallies THE MERCEDES-BENZ 300 SL ROADSTER Mercedes-Benz's racing-bred 300 SL coupe was a considerable worldwide success from the moment of its introduction, accruing a list of owners that read like a "who's who" of motorsport, royalty, and Hollywood. Its innovative "Gullwing" design, more than just a party trick, represented one of the first times in the modern era that competition engineering and construction had been translated virtually verbatim for the street. Not just world-beating, it actually led the world, by demonstrating the latest in technology and engineering from an automaker that had been famous for it before the war and was now, firmly, ahead of the pack once again. The Gullwing's space-frame chassis was unlike anything else used on a production car at the time, and was fitted with a highly advanced, overhead-cam six-cylinder engine, fitted with fuel injection – the first of its kind on a production car – and installed at an unusual 45-degree angle, permitting a low hoodline. Suspension was independent at all four corners, and a hypoid rear axle served both to lower the car and improve its handling. Within, the passengers were cradled in individual bucket seats, deep within the car, in a cockpit that felt nearly like a jet fighter. The result was a roadgoing version of the Le Mans-running 300 SLR that lost virtually nothing in performance and zest and provided an exhilarating driving experience unequaled by anything else on the market. It was, without exaggeration, the fastest production automobile in the world. Nothing on a public highway could beat it. Today many consider the 300 SL to have been the first true supercar, in terms of its superb, virtually unbeatable performance and high cost. Perhaps it was unsurprising that development of an open version would soon follow. After all, the all-important U.S. market, with a booming postwar economy, had an almost bottomless appetite for roadsters, as importer Max Hoffman was frequently reminding Stuttgart. The top-of-the-line 300 SL, Hoffman's sporting baby, required an open model, too, to tempt the wealthy motoring crowd. The eventual 300 SL Roadster was developed from a prototype road-tested by David Douglas Duncan for an article in Collier's magazine. It adopted as standard equipment the hotter engine with "NSL" camshaft ("Special Parts for Sporty Driving") that had been optionally available on the Gullwing. Styling changes were overall minor, limited mainly to a smaller grille opening and chrome trim below the side sills, serving to catch the sunlight brilliantly. The new model still utilized the same essential state-of-the-art space-frame construction of its sibling, but was thoroughly re-engineered with conventional doors that made for easier entry and egress, thanks to a cockpit area altered to permit lower door sills. The spare tire was relocated below the floor, to maintain reasonable luggage space with the top lowered. Further, the rear suspension was modified to incorporate low-pivot swing axles, further improving the car's roadability. Altogether the result was a new, greatly improved 300 SL, representing not just merely "an open version of the Gullwing," but the latest evolution of the platform and Mercedes-Benz's newest high-tech engineering prowess. Mercedes-Benz introduced the Roadster at the Geneva Salon in May of 1957, and those who had earlier owned a Gullwing now rushed to acquire this latest offering to savor its 133 mph top speed. However the Roadster would, in the end, win even more fans than the coupe and actually had a considerably longer production lifespan – testament to both the enduring appeal of an open model and to Max Hoffman's genius in recognizing that appeal. The Roadster remained in the offering until 1963, nearly ten years after the original Gullwing's debut, and sold well until the end, when it was still considered to be an advanced and brilliant sporting machine. Its popularity with motoring enthusiasts is no small achievement when one considers an oft-forgotten but significant fact: that the 300 SL Roadster, at a cost of $11,000, was actually more expensive, new, than a Ferrari 250 GT California Spider. Like its predecessor it had exceeded, in cost, performance, and brilliance, everything else in the world. THE MOTORCAR OFFERED The Schnuerer Collection's 300 SL Roadster is accompanied by its Mercedes-Benz Classic Certificate, noting that it was delivered to Italy on October 16, 1958, equipped with the desirable single-piece European-specification headlamps, removable hardtop (no longer present) and folding soft top, Becker Mexico radio, and front and rear license plate brackets. Subsequent ownership is noted as Herman R. Messner of Acton, California, after which the car was acquired by the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center USA and dealt to Mr. Schnuerer in December 2007. By this time the car was finished in the present livery, Fire Brigade Red over Tan, a very popular combination and understandably so – it both flatters the 300 SL's lines and is appropriately sporting and rakish. In 2010 the 300 SL was borrowed by Mercedes-Benz North America to participate in the filming of a commercial, titled "Welcome," serving to introduce the 2011 model line during that year's Super Bowl. It appears fairly prominently in the final result, standing out in many scenes for its bright red color, and helping to "welcome" the newest Mercedes-Benzes to the family. The history file includes numerous pieces of correspondence relating to the filming of the commercial, during which the car was carefully chaperoned by Classic Center USA officials, ensuring that no damage would befall it. In its time in the collection the car received regularly maintenance, including at the Classic Center USA and subsequently from specialist Steve Marx. In 2014 Mr. Marx undertook an engine-out service, fitting new stainless Borla exhaust and U-joints; the original engine and the transmission were both rebuilt in 2015, including the fitment of new pistons, and the radiator was recored. Around the same time a complete new wiring harness was fitted, and the brakes and radiator were rebuilt. Today the car is offered with invoices for this work, as well as reproduction power brake and fuel injection manuals. In 2015 the car enjoyed a further turn in the spotlight with an appearance literally at the head of the pack for the Pebble Beach Tour d'Elegance. It led the Tour that year, driven by none other than Sir Stirling Moss, with his wife, Lady Susie, as the co-pilot. Sir Stirling and Mr. Schnuerer were great friends, commemorated by the racing great's signature on the car's glovebox – a wonderful and very fitting touch! The 300 SL Roadster remains one of the world's favorite sports cars, over six decades after it was introduced, and to drive one is to understand why. This example, benefitting from good care and enjoyment by a passionate collector, is a superb choice for any number of tours and rallies worldwide. Mr. Schnuerer, who knew the car best, also perhaps described it best, however, and should be given the last word. When interviewed for the Sisters, Oregon, newspaper, The Nugget , in 2012, he simply described the machine as "one of my favorite cars. It has the rare combination of high performance and timeless design."