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The 300SL was born of the desire for Daimler-Benz to recover, post war, the glory racing victory. In 1952, Mercedes unveiled its prototype of the 300SL coupe, and after a fantastic year of racing, Mercedes was content to move on to other racing projects. Perceiving a market for the autos in the US, their North American importer ordered 1000 of the coups and at the 1954 New York Auto Show, the production version of the 300SL coupe was shown for the first time to an American market.The body was redesigned mostly in steel with cooling vents, chrome trim, a bold three-pointed star in its grill, and “eyebrow” protrusions over each wheel well.
Like the racecar, independent suspension and the huge ventilated drum brakes remained, but while the engine was still based on the 3.0-liter, SOHC straight six from the 300S sedan (and still sat at a 45-degree angle under the hood), it now sported a groundbreaking gasoline direct injection system. The injectors were mounted in the upper part of the cylinder wall where the spark plugs would be in a standard 300 engine, and the spark plugs were in turn moved to the side of the cylinder head. The 300SL roadster was the first true SL as we know it today.
Built atop the same basic frame, using the same basic drive train and having a body similar to the coupe, the roadster projects its own aura of dignity, elegance and power. To build the roadster, Mercedes strengthened the center tunnel portion of the chassis and the sides were revised to allow the fitment of conventional doors. The rear suspension was tamed somewhat by moving the pivot points for the swing axles lower in the chassis and by adding a supplementary spring mounted transversely above the differential and linked to the axles via vertical struts.
Also improving the handling were wider front and rear tracks and wider tires. The roadster also benefited from engine refinements, including a new camshaft and a higher (9.5 to 1) compression ratio, that bumped output to 235 horsepower. But it also weighed over 200 pounds more than the coupe, which meant performance was virtually identical. From the outside, the most readily apparent differences between the coupe and roadster were the adoption of a wraparound-style windshield and new bezels that grouped the headlights, side marker lights and turn signals into a single, very attractive unit. Less obvious was the incorporation of a real, usable trunk.
Mercedes built slightly more roadsters (a total of 1,858) than Gullwing coupes (1,400).This example benefiting from a recent cosmetic restoration is well sorted mechanically. This 300SL is also one of last fitted with drum brakes and complete with cast iron engine block. Hailing from Scottsdale, Arizona and having completed flawless participation in the Copperstate 1000 of 2003, this SL has been well maintained and carefully housed.