A Beautiful 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Convertible

The 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Convertible featured in this article was the most sportiest Mercedes built to date. When this beautiful car was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 1957 the new model essentially meant the retirement of the famous James Bond movie Gullwing Mercedes. Most people wouldn't see those type of vertically opening car doors until the ex-General Motors engineer John DeLorean became an automaker.

1958 Mercedes Roadster

1958 Mercedes Roadster

Many people were of the opinion that the 300 SL actually changed the entire image of Mercedes-Benz from only a builder of conservative luxury vehicles to that of also a builder of streamlined designed sports cars with top performance. The first 300 SL in 1952 did exceptionally well at Le Mans and other racing venues.

An interesting fact about the 300 SL was that it had been a racing car from Mercedes. It was sold to racing customers, not the general public. The car's body was constructed with aerodynamic efficiency. The race car had little trim. Mercedes was not interested at the time for building the racing 300 SL as a road car.

Making a Racer Into a Road Car

350 SL Roadster

300 SL Roadster

A street version was not manufactured until Mercedes-Benz board of directors received a plea accompanied with a large order for a road version 300 SL  from American Mercedes importer Max Hoffman.

The argument for it and the subsequent order was placed to satisfy sports car buyers in the booming post war economy. That order changed the entire picture. Now Mercedes-Benz would start producing a race car for the street, a car that was originally designed for speed and performance. At the same time Mercedes-Benz announced another model, the smaller and lower priced 190 SL convertible.

The road version 300 SL did indeed incorporate many of the technological advancements made possible by auto racing. Some of the advancements had to do with body styling. The bulges over the wheel openings actually improved high-speed stability. Another advancement was the use of aluminum on the doors, hood and trunk lid.

Famous race driver Stirling Moss had very good luck with the SLR model at various venues. A Mercedes SLR was ahead in the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans when another car, careening into the crowd, killed 82 people resulting in the SLR withdrawing from the race.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Interior

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Interior

An interesting side note from this tragic loss of life in 1955 was that American automakers, through their industry association, later made a gentlemen's agreement to not be involved in any type of racing or motorsport competitions. Although there was not "official" factory sponsorships after this agreement, racing and endurance competitions were important for automakers, especially those selling performance based cars, and the automakers found indirect ways to stay involved in competitive motorsports.

A lot of the 300 SL's great performance was attributed to it's light weight tubular frame. Thus the "SL" designation..."Sport and Leicht". Leicht meaning light. Max Hoffman of New York might very well be the only reason why the road version 300 SL was built to begin with.

When the Mercedes 300 Sl road version was built and distributed it satisfied the demand of many Americans for small European sports cars. The new car price tag for the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL was easily north of $8,000. Quite a large amount of money for an automobile in 1958 but there was a waiting market.

1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster

1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster

The mechanics and engineering beneath the body was not all too different than the prior Gullwing Mercedes but some design changes were enacted. First of all, the 1958 Mercedes 300 SL had regular doors. In addition to that the sports car had larger front fenders, a smaller grille, a rounder windshield and a chrome accent stripe on the car's side.

The roadster version of the 300 SL lacked the strength of the roof that the coupe had. To compensate for that the chassis needed to be redesigned to add strength. This resulted with the roadster models having slightly more weight than the coupes.

1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Specifications

The 1958 300 SL engine was also not too different from the Gullwing power plant. What is important is that the car was said by some to be able to reach 155 MPH. Other speed claims rate the car a bit lower with a maximum of 130 MPH.The coupe models had better aerodynamics and could hit the higher maximum speeds. The 1958 300 SL was considered among the fastest cars of the decade.

The engine in the 1958 Mercedes 300 SL was a 180.0 cubic inch Inline six cylinder with direct fuel injection. The Zero to 60 MPH rating was an extremely impressive 7.1 seconds. The engine delivered 215 horsepower.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL

The transmission with the 1958 Mercedes was a four speed manual.

Front suspension was independent with A arms and coil springs. Rear suspension was a swing axle with coil springs.

The wheelbase was 94.5 inches,

The 1958 Mercedes 300 SL had a weight of about 3,100 lbs.

Reportedly about 1,800 of the 300 SL Roadsters were produced compared to about 1,400 Coupes. The coupe was built from ’1954 through 1957, and the roadster from 1957 through 1961.

Below are links to three additional AutoMuseumOnline photo articles you may enjoy...

The Gullwing Mercedes

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1955 AC Ace Sports Car

1958 Mercedes

1958 Mercedes

A Top Collector's Car

The 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL is one of the most popular collector cars out there. The 300 SL's combination of great design and performance turns heads wherever it's seen. Add to this the car's well known functionality and comfortable interior.

These are expensive collector cars. As of this writing, the 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL in mint condition can command prices of between $750,000 to $1,000,000. Selling prices for the past five years have been rising impressively for this particular Mercedes model.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 AutoMuseumOnline)

1971 Mercedes 280 SL

The classic car featured in this article, the 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL, a vehicle built on the W 113 chassis, was Mercedes' sports car of the 1960's. The 1971 model was the last model year in the series which spanned 1963 to 1971. This series of Mercedes cars replace the 300 SL and 190 SL as the company's sports car offering.

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL

If you were to have purchased the 1971 280 SL you would have had a choice of two different car tops.

You could have chose the "Robbins Auto Top" soft top or the removable hard top. The car without the soft top was picked up the nick name of the "California Model" or "California Coupe" . This name surely refers to California's non rainy season weather where you're not apt to be surprised by a rain shower. In place of where the soft top would have been is a small bench seat. This is between the front seats and the trunk. The 280 SL was built as a two seater but it would be possible to get two small riders on the bench seat if you needed to.

The only obvious issue with the removable hard top, such as on the model shown here, would have been rain. Take the hard top off and drive a bit too far from home and you might get unexpectedly rained on. Time to look for an overpass to park under.

Pagoda Roof Mercedes

Pagoda Roof Mercedes

Mercedes 280 SL Styling

During the 1963 to 1971 time span Mercedes-Benz produced the 230/250/280 SL models. All three of these models were built on the W 113 chassis which meant that body designing would be somewhat similar for each model.The W 113 chassis was noted as being relatively short and wide. It replaced the W 198 chassis and was replaced by the W 107 chassis in 1972. The "W": designation refers to the word "Wagen" which means car.

The W 113 chassis has the claim of being Mercedes first chassis built specifically with safety in mind. This included impact absorbing front and rear section and a strong passenger cell area plus a rounded interior.

The first thing you notice with the 280 SL are it's square cut lines. The car has an angular and sleek look to it.

Another you'll thing you'll notice right off is it's somewhat concave styled hard top. This is the hard top that was referred to as the "Pagoda Hard Top". The roof design was claimed to provide better head room while getting in and out of the vehicle and allowing for larger windows. Engineering wise, the concave roof is said to offer better support in case of a rollover. This was made possible by two thicker pillars. Today, these Mercedes W 113 models and their concave roofs are getting more and more popular with collector's.

Mercedes-Benz wheel covers

Mercedes-Benz wheel covers

1971 Merces-Benz 280 SL Specifications

The 1971 Mercedes_Benz 280 SL came with an Inline six cylinder 2.8 Liter M 130 engine. The engine could deliver 170 horsepower. The 2.8 liter replaced the previous 2.5 liter engine.

Transmission options were a four speed manual or four speed automatic. Zero to 60 MPH was said to take 10.0 seconds with the manual transmission and 11.0 seconds with the automatic. Top speed was said to be 124 MPH.

The Mercedes 280 SL front suspension consisted of independent, double wishbone, coil spring, anti-roll. the rear suspension was a low-pivot swing axle and coil spring.

The car has four disc brakes as opposed to the two disc/ two drum brakes with the Mercedes 250 model.

The 280 SL had a total length of 168.8 inches. Width was 69.2 inches and the height was 51.4 inches. The car's wheelbase was 94.5 inches.

1971 Mercedes 280 SL square line styling

1971 Mercedes 280 SL square line styling

The roadster model (soft top) had a weight of 2,948 lbs. The coupe or hard top model weighed 3,124 lbs with the top on.

Fuel efficiency was stated to be about 19 MPG.

New car price in the U.S. ranged between $7,000 and $8,000.

From 1967 to 1971 when the Mercedes 280 SL's were built, the total number produced were 23,885 units.

An excellent book on the Mercedes-Benz 280 SL as well as all of the W 113 models is The Essential Buyers Guide: Mercedes-Benz Pagoda 230,250 & 280 SL.

The Mercedes-Benz 280 SL remains a good car collector's vehicle. The body style is popular, Mercedes-Benz engineering is considered excellent and parts, although not inexpensive, are relatively easy to find.

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1957 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL removable hardtop coupe

1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL removable hardtop coupe

Mercedes-Benz Classic Center USA

Mercedes has opened the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center USA in Irvine, California. The Classic Center is a museum housing examples of the company's 400 car collection of vintage Mercedes-Benz vehicle. The museum is similar to the Mercedes facility opened in 1993 just outside Stuttgart Germany. The address for the facility opened in 2006 in the Los Angeles Calfornia area is 9 Whatney, Irvine CA.

As of this writing, prices being asked for the 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL, in fine condition, show figures like $49,000, $45,000. $75,000. Prices look to have steadily rose since the financial troubles of 2008.

A 1971 Mercedes 280 SL in mint museum condition reportedly sold at auction for $99,000.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 AutoMuseumOnline)



1957 Mercedes-Benz SL190


The car shown in this article is the 1957 Mercedes-Benz SL190 which was an is a popular vintage sports car. The 1957 Mercedes was the automaker's first widely sold sports car. The S represented "Sports" and the L meant "Light". The SL190 was sold at the same time buyers could purchase the more costly but faster 300SL.

1957 Mercedes-Benz 190SL

1957 Mercedes-Benz 190SL

Both cars were very similar in overall design. Some referred to the 190SL as being the "Little Brother" to the 300SL. In fact, the beginning of the Mercedes-Benz SL's go back to the Mercedes Gullwing model with it's two doors that would swing open to the roof line. The car was seen in a James Bond movie and is considered quite rare. Only about 1,400 were ever built.

This car shown, the 1957 Mercedes-Benz 190SL, was imported into the United States by Austrian businessman Max Hoffman who directly distributed the automobiles to U.S. dealers. He began with his Hoffman Motor Company in 1947.

During the 1950's Hoffman also distributed Volkswagen, Porsche and BMW's into the U.S. Hoffman was credited with bringing many European sports cars to America. He was the man who helped make these names and more household words in the United States. Hoffman also had an automobile showroom designed for him by well known architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

The 1954 Prototype

1957 Mercedes-Benz

1957 Mercedes-Benz

After first being introduced as a prototype in 1954 at the New York Auto Show, the Mercedes-Benz SL190's were in production from 1955 through 1963.

Several modifications were made between the introduction of the prototype in New York  and the beginning of production. After 1963 the 190SL and the 300SL were replaced by the Mercedes 230SL.  The Mercedes 190 SL could be bought as a Roadster with a soft top convertible or with a removable hardtop roof.

 Mercedes-Benz After the War

The Mercedes-Benz factories were essentially destroyed during World War Two. Some were totally destroyed and others heavily damaged. The company was essentially put out of business. The fact that Mercedes-Benz were a big part of Germany's industrial complex it was a prime target for Allied bombers in World War II.

When the war ended in 1945, Mercedes-Benz had to rebuild under tough circumstances and going into production with just about any type car was essential to bringing in badly needed funds.

Mercedes 190SL

Mercedes 190SL

The 1950's Sports Car Market

Sports cars were quite popular with the general public beginning about the middle of the 1950's. When World War Two ended the market was right for sports cars and the automakers jumped into designing. The economy was growing rapidly and car buyers were in the sports car mood. After going through the Great Depression and then the war, Americans were looking to indulge and owning a new sports car fit the bill. With good employment numbers and rising wages there were many more potential sports car buyers.

During the 1950's Ford Motor Company came out with their Thunderbird models and Chevrolet was having good success with their Corvettes. On the higher end there were Morgan or Aston Martin.

Mercedes-Benz 190SL Little Brother

Mercedes-Benz 190SL Little Brother

1957 Mercedes-Benz 190SL Specs

This car was produced with a 1.9L straight four cylinder engine capable of delivering 104 horsepower. The engine block was a smaller duplicate of the 300SL six cylinder engine.

The 1957 190SL came with a four speed manual transmission and a weight of 2,734 lbs.

The Mercedes 190SL was initially priced at around $4,000.

Links to two additional AutoMuseumOnline photo articles you'll enjoy include;

1958 Mercedes Ponton Sedan

The Gullwing Mercedes-Benz

1955 Packard 400 Hardtop

The Mercedes-Benz 190 SL as a Collector's Car

The Mercedes-Benz 190 SL’s make terrific collector automobiles and the cars are relatively inexpensive when compared to some other vintage sports cars. As of this writing, prices for 1957 Mercedes 190SL's in excellent condition are strong and can be in the $100,000 range.

Merdes-Benz enthusiasts will also enjoy the book Mercedes-Benz (First Gear) by author Dennis Adler.

(Photos are from author's collection)