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Automotive of the Week: This $2.6 Million Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster Is a Bellwether for the Collector Market

Automotive of the Week: This $2.6 Million Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster Is a Bellwether for the Collector Market

Those of you who regularly read our Car of the Week coverage may have noticed a bumper crop of Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadsters featured over the past year. The reason for the frequency is that this model and its sibling coupe are the canaries in the collector-car coal mine, and as such, they have begun chirping vociferously of late. Long an indicator of the market’s health, their prices have recently taken off, gaining altitude akin to a Rüppells Vulture (the world’s highest flyer, at 37,100 feet).

Since becoming first-tier collectibles in the 1970s, both the 300 SL Gullwing Coupé and 300 SL Roadster have been seen as blue-chip investments. Exactly 1,400 Gullwings were built from 1954 through 1957. The Roadster, with 1,858 examples made, underwent numerous production changes from 1957 through 1963, the late models being most desirable.

A 1962 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster restored by the Scott Grundfor Company.

Stephen Heraldo, courtesy of Scott Grundfor Company

The fully restored 1962 example featured here is one of the last 300 SL Roadsters, distinguished by having four-wheel disc brakes, which became standard only in mid-1961, and importantly, its aluminum-alloy engine, available from 1962 through 1963. Only the final 209 Roadsters were equipped with this alloy block and disc-brake configuration. Importantly, chassis No. 3099 is one of only about 100 examples retaining its original aluminum engine. In addition, the car is also showing original factory stampings on the chassis and body.

Many factors account for the rise of the 300 SL Roadster’s popularity over the past decade, not the least of which is the car’s practicality. Easier to drive, more modern, and without the blind spots of a Gullwing, it also doesn’t roast its occupants on a hot summer day in a cabin with limited ventilation and no air conditioning (modern A/C can be retrofitted to the horror of sweating purists).

A fully restored 1962 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster, shown with its removable roof.

This car, shown with its removable roof, is one of about 100 examples of the model that has its original aluminum engine, as well as original factory stampings on the chassis and body.

Stephen Heraldo, courtesy of Scott Grundfor Company

“The Gullwing is essentially a race car that Mercedes-Benz decided to sell to the public,” says Drew Grundfor of Scott Grundfor Company, a restoration house specializing in Mercedes-Benz projects. “It offers a much more visceral driving experience. Its transmission is louder, the rear end changes the way drivers go in and out of turns, and simply getting in and out of the car is less ease-of-use oriented,” he says, comparing it to the convertible variant.

According to Grundfor, the Roadster “was made as a creature-comfort version of the Gullwing. It’s a much easier to drive car . . . it’s a heavier car, with a different chassis and slightly more power, offset by the extra weight.”

A peek at the interior of a fully restored 1962 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster.

Since the 1970s, both the 300 SL Gullwing Coupé and 300 SL Roadster have been seen as blue-chip investments.

Stephen Heraldo, courtesy of Scott Grundfor Company

It’s instructive to look at the classic Ferrari market to put Mercedes-Benz’s 300 SL popularity—and values—in context. Unlike many cars of the era, the 300 SL is known for its reliability. “When they are properly set up,” says Grundfor, “there’s nothing collectors must do except change the oil and drive them occasionally. They’re built like tanks under the hood, and on the outside are beautifully designed.”

The original aluminum-alloy engine in a 1962 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster.

The aluminum-alloy engine was available for the Mercedes 300 SL from 1962 through 1963.

Stephen Heraldo, courtesy of Scott Grundfor Company

Steven Posner, CEO of Putnam Leasing and a Mercedes-Benz collector, is also a fan. “Collectors are seeing what has happened to vintage Ferrari values and investors are looking at Mercedes as an attractive alternative with plenty of room for growth.”

Today, the value gap between show-worthy and average examples of a 300 SL Gullwing or Roadster can be 50 percent, largely because taking a driver-quality car to concours level usually requires a nut-and-bolt, bare-metal restoration. As the price of labor and materials goes up, so do prices for the best cars. Collectors in the market for a 300 SL know that, currently, seven-figure projects are not unheard of. According to Grundfor, a good car that doesn’t have tons of rust or had accidents is a $750,000 to $800,000 restoration project.

Unlike many cars of the era, the 300 SL is known for its reliability.

Stephen Heraldo, courtesy of Scott Grundfor Company

It appears that $2 million-plus might be the new normal for the most desirable examples of Mercedes’ evergreen 300 SL Roadster. As evidence, the one here is being offered by Scott Grundfor Company for $2.6 million outright, though it can also be leased through Putnam for $32,250 per month.

Click here for more photos of this 1962 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster.

A fully restored 1962 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster.

The 1962 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster restored by Scott Grundfor Company.

Stephen Heraldo, courtesy of Scott Grundfor Company

Source: Robb Report

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