By the early 1950s, Mercedes’ motorsport performance was almost back to its pre-war form, despite the impact of the Second World War. Finishing a respectable second and fourth in the 1952 Millie Miglia race and with wins in the Carrera Pan Americana and Le Mans, the Mercedes W194 was undoubtedly the marque’s champion of the post-war period.
With success on the racetrack, it was largely down to the encouragement of Max Hoffman, the New York-based, Australian-born importer of luxury European cars, which ensured the W194 eventually took to the roads in the form of the 300 SL in 1954. Initially sold as a Coupe before the release of the Roadster in 1957, the 300 SL was credited with elevating the image of Mercedes to that of a high-performance manufacturer of GT cars.
As was expected from a car spawning from the racetrack, the Coupe and Roadster were praised by the motoring media for their handling and all-round performance. Logging a 0-60mph time of 7.0seconds and a top speed of 130mph, the Roadster was faster accelerating by 0.4 of a second than its hardtop sister. Designed under the watchful eye of Rudolf Uhlenhaut, Mercedes’ design chief at the time, aerodynamics played a large part in the car's styling. The distinctive horizontal ‘eyebrows’ over the wheel arches reduced drag while the Coupe is best known for its iconic gull-wing opening doors.
This particular model was first imported to Indiana, USA in 1957. Finished in Hellblau (light blue) with white leather interior and a beige hood, the car was specified with other original features such as sealed-beam headlights and a Becker Mexico radio. Returning to Germany in 1989, the car was re-trimmed in cognac leather and a black soft-top by German classic car restoration specialist Kaesmacher. In 2012, the car underwent a full bare-metal repaint in Anthracite Grey – its current colour.
This car will be offered at auction at the Bond Street Sale, London by Bonhams on Sunday 4 December.
Estimate: £1,000,000 - £1,200,000