The Most Beautiful Cars Ever Built

1960 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster

Sold for $1,65,000

New York Mercedes distributor Max Hoffman, Daimler-Benz's official importer in the USA, suggested to Daimler-Benz AG management in Stuttgart that a street version of the 300SL would be a commercial success, especially in America.

The 300SL's engine, canted at a forty-five-degree angle to the left to allow for a lower hoodline, was the same 3.0 litre straight-6 as the regular four-door 300 tourer. Fitted with a Bosch mechanical Gasoline direct injection system it had almost double the power of the original 86 kW (115 hp) carbureted version.

While not the first fuel-injected car - Mercedes engineers who had developed the principle for the DB 601 fighter aircraft engine had used fuel injection in the tiny 2-stroke Gutbrod they had designed after the War - it was the first to inject fuel directly into the cylinders. This innovation allowed a top speed of up to 260 km/h (161 mph) depending on gear ratio and drag, making the 300SL the fastest production car of its time.

More than 80% of the vehicle's total production of approximately 1400 units were sold in the US, making the Gullwing the first Mercedes-Benz which sold in considerable numbers outside its home market and confirming the validity of Hoffman's suggestion. The 300SL is credited for changing the company's image in America from a manufacturer of solid, but staid, automobiles to that of a producer of sporty cars. The 300 SL Roadster version was improved performance to a degree and it was sold for 1957 to 1963.

Film director John Lasseter once said, “The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art.” If ever an automobile’s art was born from its technology, it was in the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL. The innovative space-frame chassis was literally wrapped in steel, with the aluminum doors, hood, and trunk lid providing lightness. Formed by the shape of its engineering, the 300 SL’s breathtaking good looks came naturally.

Like most closed cars, the 300 SL was only improved by being turned into an open car, resulting in the Roadster, which debuted in 1957. If the original Coupe had been a legend, the Roadster was a style symbol that appealed to everyone, young and old alike, as long as they had excellent taste and a spacious bank account. It has long been said that no 300 SL Roadster ever had a boring original owner. This particular 1960 model is no exception.

This Roadster was originally delivered to the legendary Mercedes-Benz dealership at 430 Park Avenue, which was a building that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright specifically for the American importer of European sports cars, Max Hoffman, and his New York salesroom. Prominently displayed on the showroom floor, businessman Elston J. Tribble and his daughter Marthé, a sophomore at Vassar College, were walking past the dealership when the Roadster’s svelte body caught their eye. In a letter written to the current owner, Marthé recalls that “both of us were transfixed by the racing lines and elegant beauty of the car.”