A race car for the street, the Mercedes 300 SL Roadster was a beacon in the post-war American boom. It was a toned-down Grand Prix for the performance enthusiast first suggested by luxury automotive importer Max Hoffman — and it was a hit.
And today, one of Mercedes most memorable cars is celebrating its 60th anniversary, the drop-top 300 SL Roadster.
60s Merc (7 images)
The hardtop iteration, with its unforgettable gullwing doors, first debuted at the Geneva Motor Show. By then, 800 of 1,400 produced were already circulating in the States. But the U.S. market was ripe for the devil-may-care wind-in-the-hair ride, and it was no surprise when Mercedes lobbed off the top in ‘57.
With the extra bracing in place, the Roadster weighed in at an extra 265 pounds over the gullwing version, but with minimal compromise to the sportiness. And in ‘62, the Roadster dropped ten pounds by switching to an aluminum version 3.0-liter inline-six and churned out 215 ponies.
Other tweaks along the way would include a removable hardtop in ‘58 and disc brakes in ‘61. All in all 1,858 rolled off the line. A bellwether of automotive design and one of the most iconic post-war rides, the coveted cherry Roadsters fetch for around $1m today.