2024 |Amelia Island Auctions
1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL RoadsterRegister to Bid
$2,200,000 - $2,800,000
One of Fewer than 30 Factory Rudge-Wheel Roadsters Built; One of the Finest, Most Original 300 SLs Gooding & Company Has Ever Offered
Believed to Retain Original Paint, Interior and Soft Top
Just Three Owners from New and Kept by Its Second Owner for 54 Years
Meticulous Work Performed in 2019 by HK-Engineering
Matching-Numbers Engine, Body, Chassis, Steering Box, Rear End, and Front Axle Carriers per Copy of Factory Build Record
Accompanied by Authentic Hepco Fitted Luggage, Manuals, Jack, Tool Roll, Second Set of Date-Stamped Rudge Wheels, and Onboard Spares Kit
2,996 CC SOHC Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
Bosch Mechanical Fuel Injection
240 BHP at 6,200 RPM
4-Speed Manual Gearbox
4-Wheel Hydraulic Drum Brakes
Front Independent Double-Wishbone Suspension with Coil Springs
Rear Swing-Axle Suspension with Coil Springs
Original Owner, Wenatchee, Washington (acquired new via Mercedes-Benz Distributors Western Ltd. of Vancouver, British Columbia in 1957)
Merle Solland and Family, Vancouver, Washington (acquired from the above in 1964)
Current Owner (acquired from the above in 2018)
In March 1957, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the 300 SL Roadster, employing a host of mechanical advancements and stylistic revisions to create a new, open version of the successful Gullwing. Chief among these were a new rear-axle design and a modified space-frame chassis that allowed for conventionally hinged doors. The Roadster offered easier ingress, roll-up windows, a useful trunk, and the thrill of high-performance, open-air motoring.
According to a copy of its factory build record, this exquisite 300 SL Roadster was originally delivered via Mercedes-Benz Distributors Western Ltd. of Vancouver in 1957. It was finished in Silbergrau Metallic (Silver-Grey Metallic) with a Rot (Red) leather interior and a Schwarz (Black) top. Further specifications included English-language instrumentation, sealed-beam headlights, 3.89:1 rear-axle ratio, Becker Mexico radio, luggage set, and, most notably, Rudge knock-off wheels. These racing-derived wheels, far more frequently seen on Gullwings, were available on the Roadster only in 1957 and fewer than 30 factory Rudge-wheel Roadsters were built, making them one of the rarest and most sought-after 300 SL variants.
According to the 300 SL’s second owner, Merle Solland, who recorded his recollections in a history book compiled by the owner on file, the car’s first owner was a successful commercial apple farmer from Wenatchee, Washington. His daughter came to love the Mercedes-Benz and, as a teenager, she would drive it on the family’s orchard. However, as she approached legal driving age, her father decided a less powerful automobile would be a better choice and he decided to sell it.
Mr. Solland, a larger-than-life figure and world-record-holding hydroplane racer, learned of the 300 SL’s availability through a racing acquaintance in early 1964, and also heard that the owner was looking for a more subdued car for his daughter. So, when he went to the orchard to look at the Roadster, he purposely drove his humble Ford. The farmer explained to Mr. Solland that “I can’t tell her no, so give me a little money, leave the Ford here, and take home the Mercedes.” Mr. Solland did just that, driving home in his extraordinary Mercedes-Benz.
Mr. Solland would retain the 300 SL in his family for the next 54 years, until it was acquired by the consignor in 2018. Kurt Solland recalled that when his father purchased the car, it had covered approximately 36,000 miles and it remained original except for an off-yellow paint job, which he believed was applied by the Roadster’s original owner. Impressively, historical 1960s registration documents as well as the car’s 1963 Washington license plates accompany the sale.
When the consignor, an astute collector of preservation-class sports cars, purchased this remarkable 300 SL in 2018, he became just its third owner. With a keen eye for original finishes and an interest in cars of exceptional originality, he was ecstatic to acquire this sensational example. In 2019, he retained 300 SL specialists HK-Engineering in Germany to go through the car mechanically as well as carefully remove its layer of yellow paint. The firm did so by hand using razor blades, a process that is documented with photographs on file. A testament to HK-Engineering’s dedication, the company stopped counting its time at 1,000 hours for this prolonged, laborious work. The consignor notes that extensive paint meter readings indicate that the car retains its original paint finish, except for a blend on the right front fender and several small spots.
The consignor also notes that the 300 SL’s original factory upholstery remains in beautiful condition, and that even its rubber floor mats, trunk mat, headlights, taillights, and chrome are in original condition. He further points out that the 300 SL retains its original factory soft top and rear window, among countless other fascinating details, and that the period-correct Continental tires fitted to the car’s 1957 date-stamped Rudge wheels may even be the originals.
As with the Roadster’s exterior, an incredible attention to detail is evident in HK-Engineering’s approach to the car’s mechanical restoration, with original finishes retained on as many engine and ancillary components as possible. The undercarriage, which was carefully cleaned with dry ice, can also be seen in beautiful original condition.
The firm performed overhauls of the 300 SL’s engine, gearbox, suspension, rear end, brakes, and injection pump, then balanced and blueprinted the engine to make it as vibration-free as possible.
This 300 SL distinguishes itself even further by its incredible array of original documentation and accompanying items. The Roadster is presented with a factory tool roll, jack, manuals, sales brochure, workshop manual, and spare parts book. It is also accompanied by the rarely seen factory 300 SL Bord Ersatzteile Sortiment (On-Board Spare Parts Collection). The trunk is fitted with a set of Hepco luggage manufactured in 1957 with two keys that retain their original tag. The 300 SL is also documented with a beautifully made, large-format volume that recounts its history and restoration, another book put together by HK-Engineering, a spare injection pump in its original box, and a spare set of original Rudge wheels, which the consignor notes came from Clark Gable’s Roadster.
Most notably, as per a copy of its factory build record, this Mercedes-Benz retains its matching-numbers engine, body, chassis, steering box, rear end, and front axles. The build record lists the 300 SL’s gearbox number as 216, while the unit itself is stamped with no. 7500276. The consignor believes this may be a typographical error between the 7 and the 1 and thus it is possible, if not likely, that the car’s gearbox may be the original as well.
Put simply, this is certainly one of the finest original Mercedes-Benz 300 SLs of any type in existence. Its level of preservation is astonishing, with countless original details and finishes throughout. In addition, the Mercedes-Benz has had just three owners, having been cared for by its second owner for 54 years. The SL also retains an impressive number of matching-numbers components, has a known history back to new, and has received a mechanical restoration by one of the world’s foremost specialists. The fact that this 300 SL is one of fewer than 30 original Rudge wheel-optioned roadsters, along with its significant cache of accompanying items and documents, cements its status as an automobile of true historic import and extreme rarity.
Those fortunate enough to view this singular 300 SL Roadster in person will be highly rewarded, and those placing a bid may have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire an automotive treasure the likes of which may never be seen again.