This 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster comes straight from the racetrack. It was a class winner in the 1997 Carrera Panamericana. Inspired by the American driver Paul O’Shea from the 50s, who was a fan of the model, the 300 SL remains the finest production sports car of its day.
Paul O’Shea built two SLS models, specifically for motor racing. One of them was given an aluminium body to reduce the overall weight by 337 kilograms compared to the stock version. It was thus the perfect car for competition. O’Shea drove the 300 SL for 22 races and finished at the top in 18 of them, defeating more powerful rivals like Ford and Chevrolet-engined American sports cars. Maserati, Ferrari and Aston Martin were occasionally eating the dust as well. But from financial reasons, Mercedes-Benz stopped racing in the U.S.
Almost 30 years later, Munich-based entrepreneur Georg Distler owned an original 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL roadster. He had bought it in 1986 and was planning to take it to Carrera Panamericana. It was an over 2,000-mile border-to-border race along the Pan-American Highway in Mexico, a South American version of the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio in Italy. Back in the 50s, it was the event selected to showcase the Mercedes-Benz’s return to international motor racing in the post-war era.
Having worked as an engineer for Mercedes-Benz for over 50 years, Distler was well acquainted with the technology on which the SL was based. He researched the original plans of Paul O’Shea’s car in the archives of Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart and so they startd their project: a 1:1 copy of the original aliminium body. The plan was copied by Zagato in Italy and so Georg Distler saw his dream turn into reality. The car came with lightened seat frames, US-specification headlights, dual side exhaust system, Gertrag 5-speed gearbox, disc brakes, electric cooling fan, oil cooler and alternator electric. A modern safety fuel tank had been installed, cutting off the spare wheel space. It took them two years, but it was worth it.
In 1997, the car was good to go and Georg Distler set off from Carrera Panamericana starting line, on-board his 300 SLS, as a private driver. Seven days of pleasure and pain followed. 3,500 kilometers lay ahead of him. The organizers imposed on the competitors to fit in a roll-bar for the co-driver and so they did, at the last minute, but had to deal with a 5-minute time penalty, added to his finishing time. He returned home with extra luggage: the trophy for the class winner and 11th place overall. His spare parts box was brought back intact and unused.
The car ran dozens of races afterwards: Hockenheim, Nürburgring, Oschersleben, Salzburgring, A1-Ring, Gaisberg, Roßfeld, Tour de France and Tropheo Baleares. And it always finished among the leaders. That is all the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLS ever needed: an enthusiastic owner. And now it is in search of another. The racing automobile goes under hammer at the Chateau de Chantilly. Bonhams is hoping that it will fetch between €1,500,000 and 2,500,000.
Photo source: Bonhams.