Car Of The Day: 1963 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster
It was no surprise that the competition-bred Mercedes Benz 300 SL Gullwing coupe set the world afire upon its debut, with its scintillating bodywork stretched over lightweight space-frame construction, a potent fuel-injected inline six-cylinder engine, and of course, the “gullwing” doors that made it instantly iconic. It was equally unsurprising that such a popular model would spawn a Roadster variant, one that, in particular, fed all the important North American market’s voracious appetite for open sports cars.
Unveiled at the Geneva Salon in May 1957, the 300 SL Roadster, distinguished by conventional doors, quickly gained popularity among the 1950s ‘jet set,’ including royalty, actors, and socialites. To adapt to the open configuration, changes were made to the cockpit area, redesigning the spaceframe for lower sills to enhance accessibility. Simultaneously, the rear suspension underwent modifications to incorporate low-pivot swing axles.
The Roadster not only maintained the allure of the original Gullwing but also elevated performance by making the previously optional 240-horsepower engine with a competition-derived camshaft standard. The rear suspension received an upgrade with a single-joint low-pivot swing axle for more predictable handling.
Despite its higher cost compared to a Ferrari 250 GT California Spider, the 300 SL Roadster sold well for the first year it was produced with 554 units worldwide and out-live the 300SL Coupe by several years.