World class luxury auto mobile manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz, has had a long history, releasing some memorably top of the line cars over the ages. In all this time, however, only a few have truly become timeless classics, with the 300 SL Roadster in the lead. The timeless drop top celebrates its 60th birthday today.
The 300 SL Roadster was launched as a convertible version of the iconic Mercedes Gullwing that was launched in 1954. It made its first appearance at the Geneva Motor Show in 1957. Around six decades later, the company launched the new Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster, to carry on the 300 SL’s spirit.
According to Mercedes, they decided to take off the top of the 300 SL Roadster mainly due to the wants of the North American market. At the point, 1400 Gullwings had been manufactured, with around 800 being sent to and sold in the United States of America. Customers in the American market were craving a convertible version of the popular Gullwing. The parent company, Daimler, soon announced the launch of the 300 SL through Collier’s magazine, a then influential publication in America. This was in 1956, before the roadster had been revealed to the public eye.
It took quite a bit of extra bracing in order to transform the Gullwing coupe into a convertible, especially as it originally kept it stiff using high door sills. Due to this, the car came with upward swinging doors. With all of the changes made to the original design, the roadster weighed around a 120 kgs more than the Gullwing, although that barely affected the car’s sporting abilities.
Mercedes replaced the engine block that was made of cast iron, with an aluminium version in 1962, thereby reducing the weight by about 4-5 kilos. The engine was a 3.0 litre inline-six, and would produce 215 horsepower.
Mercedes kept adding more updates over the years, with a removable hardtop being added in 1958, barely 2 years after the launch. Disc brakes had also been added in 1961. The car discontinued production in 1963, with only 1858 ever being made. The 300 SL Roadster is highly in demand by collectors, with some of the best surviving pieces auctioning for over a million dollars each.