1961 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster
Lot 865 | Passion for the Drive: The Cars of Jim Taylor | Estimate: $1,200,000 - $1,400,000
Chassis No. 198.042.10.002745
Engine No. 198.980.10.002804
Body No. A198.042.10.00256
Mercedes-Benz's superb 300 SL Roadster was developed from its predecessor, the famed “Gullwing.” It maintained the coupe's stunning good looks, while adopting conventional doors and a convertible top, making it considerably more comfortable for summer driving. Like many powerful European convertibles of this era, it had been spurred into being by the powerful New York Mercedes-Benz distributor, Max Hoffman of Hoffman Motors, who held tremendous sway with the factory in Stuttgart. Hoffman had insisted upon an open 300 SL for his American customers, and as usual, his eye for what his clients sought was right on the money.
Between 1957 and 1963, the 300 SL Roadster was sold to a “who's who” of the world's wealthiest, most fascinating, and important individuals. It has never stopped being desirable and has never been 'just a used car,' with many of the surviving examples being treasured by their devoted owners for decades. Most importantly, the Roadster continues to be regarded as one of the finest driver's automobiles of its era, and, accordingly, many remain well-sorted for the road; they are probably the most frequently chosen automobile for rallying worldwide, and for good reason. In other words, every collection of fine cars, regardless of its focus elsewhere, demands one, for the sheer enjoyment of the experience.
Both its original trim tag and the Gull Wing Group Roadster Register note that this especially satisfying 300 SL Roadster was originally delivered in Fire Brigade Red (DB 534) with black leather interior. According to information on file from former owner Bob Platz, which coincides with the Register, the Roadster was originally delivered to Martin C. 'Marty' Keenan, owner of the early and longtime Mercedes-Benz dealership Keenan Motors on North Broad Street in Philadelphia. It subsequently passed from Mr. Keenan to Harrison Kalbach of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, then to a doctor at the Abington Hospital, Barry Glaser, from whom Mr. Platz acquired it in 1969. A great enthusiast and connoisseur of the 300 SL, Mr. Platz sorted the car for driving and enjoyed it as such for many years, although in 1986 it did achieve both a Junior and Senior First Prize in AACA competition, testament to its quality. The Register indicates that Mr. Platz owned the 300 SL until 1999. Afterward it came into the possession of the noted collectors Joseph and Margie Cassini, well-known for the outstanding show record of their many superb automobiles.
Jim Taylor acquired the 300 SL from the Cassinis in early 2005. He subsequently had the car extensively sorted both mechanically and cosmetically by the noted 300 SL specialist, Mark Allin of Rare Drive in East Kingston, New Hampshire, invoices for which are on file and record the fine level of the work, which took place over several years in the process of thoroughly prepping the 300 SL to run and drive perfectly.
The car retains a wonderful, charming overall patina of use, exactly as Mr. Taylor enjoys his cars; in Donnie Gould's words, “you can see it was a great car all its life.” While the interior has been fitted with new, correct black leather seat covers by Allin's craftsmen, the door panels and dashboard still retain their original leather trim, and the dashboard is believed to still retain original paint. An original jack and the soft top's hard boot are both in the trunk alongside an original set of fitted luggage which is of notably higher quality than the reproductions which are more often found. Other desirable touches include both a canvas soft top and factory black hardtop, 'Euro' headlights, period-correct Nardi steering wheel and seatbelts, original Becker Grand Prix short-wave radio with proper antenna, day/night mirror, and a Talbot Berlin fender mirror. The steel wheels are chrome-plated and polished, for a distinctive, very attractive look similar to the Rudge 'knock-offs' available only on the early 300 SL Roadsters.
Under the hood, all is properly detailed and tidy, and all stampings and tags are correct and original, furthering the 300 SL's pleasingly honest appearance; it retains its original, numbers-matching engine. The engine, of course, runs like a top, and in typical Taylor fashion the car drives very strongly, yearning to add to the 60,622 miles recorded at the time of cataloging. The car is accompanied by its original loose leather seat coverings and German square-weave carpets.
This is an ideal example of the 300 SL, one of the most important yet user-friendly, easy-to-love sports cars ever produced – properly set up to drive, run, and enjoy, in beautiful but not overly shiny order, and sure to delight its new owner as it has Mr. Taylor for the last 17 years.