One unique car is going to be auctioned at the Grandes Marque du Monde auction at the Grand Palais near Paris next February. It is a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster with a competition pedigree and SLS perspectives. The automobile raced in Carrera Panamericana and was inspired by American racing driver Paul O’Shea.
With the chassis number 1980427500220, the 300 SL roadster takes inspiration from the amazing career of Paul O’Shea, who found success behind its steering wheel in the 1950s and who was a huge fan of this particular model. He built two SLS models for motor racing. One of them received an aluminium body, reducing the weight of the original by 337 kilograms. It turned out to be the perfect car for racing.
In 1957, Paul O’Shea dueled with the great rivals of the time, Ford and Chevrolet-engined sports cars or European-made like Maserati, Ferrari and Aston Martin. He drove the 300 SLS for 22 races, ending up as one of the top finishers in 18 of them. The constant great results turned his SLS into an icon of reliability and stability in the roughest racing conditions. But for cost reasons, Mercedes-Benz put an end to motor racing in the US.
Yet, the legend lived on. Almost 3 decades later, an entrepreneur from Munich, Germany, George Distler, an owner of the original 300 SL roadster, bought this very car in 1986. He had one purpose in his mind. To revive Paul O’Shea’s idea and recreate a race-worthy 300 SLS, which he would take to the toughest of the rallies: the Carrera Panamericana itself.
The over 2,000-mile legendary race was organized from 1950 to 1954 and it ran from one border to another, along the Pan-American Highway in Mexico. Georg Distler would stop at nothing. He even involved, in his project, Albrech Lorenz, known as the “Godfather of the 300 SL”. He knew the car by heart, every mechanism, every part, after having been working for Mercedes-Benz for over 50 years. Together they researched archives, looking for Paul O’Shea’s car. The 1:1 plans of the aluminium body were copied manually by Zagato, in Italy. A team of gifted engineers, under the command of Gabriele Artom, managed the technical details.
The project was completed in 1997 and the top quality of the construction was certified by the Classic Data report. And so, history was resumed. In 1997, Georg Distler set off from the Carrera Panamericana starting grid in his 300 SLS. He was a private driver with no supporting service vehicle. He had a tool kit and a box of spare parts with him, but took them back unused. Seven days and 3,500 kilometers lay ahead of him. He had to overcome a 5-minute penalty, due to the fact his car was missing the roll-bar for the co-driver and it had to be upgraded immediately. And this did not stop him either: he won his class and finished 11th overall.
Hockenheim, Nurburgring and many famous racing venues. Georg Distler took his Mercedes-Benz 300 SLS everywhere. His car always took him among the leaders. The car now is looking for a new owner, willing to carry on the story of success.
Photo source: Bonhams.