Mercedes-Benz 300SL (1954 – 1963) Review

Mercedes-Benz 300SL (1954 – 1963) At A Glance


+Beautiful styling, unmatched engineering, gullwing doors

-Expensive to buy, run and restore

For anyone who's been to the annual Techno-Classica show in Germany, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL is a beautiful super-sports car that looks even better in the flesh than in photos. The reason we say this is because for most people, this event is about the only chance you'll get to see these cars up close. But from every angle, the 300SL is a work of art, and quite rightly, it's revered by enthusiasts who love the way it looks, and the engineering that underpins it. But investors like the 300SL, as it's a great indicator of the market.

As for the car itself, the 300SL has earned its legendary status not only because of its high quality construction, obvious good looks and pukka racing heritage but also because it proved that Mercedes-Benz was still capable of building the best cars in the world. It was powered by the the world’s first production fuel-injection engine, for a start - then there's those gullwing doors. The rest of the specification seems quite humdrum today: drum brakes, a four-speed gearbox, and swing-axle rear suspension but in 1954, this must have looked like the future of the super-sports car. 

In 1957, Mercedes-Benz replaced the 300SL Gullwing with the Roadster. It was a simplified version of the original, and received a revised spaceframe chassis to make room for conventionally-opening doors. But the trade off for this move towards orthodoxy was a 100kg jump in kerbweight - and a slightly softer, more relaxing suspension set-up to please the Americans who were (primarily) buying this car.

The received disc brakes in 1961, then it received a much lighter aluminium engine block the following year, for which you'll now pay a premium. Expensive to buy, but it is one of the world's greatest cars. Also bear in mind that although most Gullwings had steel bodies, 29 were built from aluminium - as you might expect, buyers will pay a handsome premium for these.

Ask Honest John

How do I proceed against a garage that overfilled my car with oil during a filter change?

"I recently had an oil filter change on my 2007 Mercedes-Benz 300SL. The EGR light has come on. I've checked the oil level, which is very high (about 1cm over maximum), and suspect that the catalytic conveter has been damaged. The garage is refusing to acknowledge this. How should I proceed?"
In a petrol engined car the only reason for the engine oil level to be excessively high is if it has been overfilled with oil, so you have a strong case against the garage that performed the oil change. Tell them if they don't capitulate you then you'll take the matter to Small Claims.
Answered by Honest John

I got great service and a rapid fix from the RAC for my Mercedes-Benz 300SL's failed alternator.

"I took my 1988 Mercedes 300SL out for a short run on Saturday afternoon, and the battery died on me and left me stuck at the side of the road about 10 miles away. The local RAC man (Wrexham) got to me in about an hour and quickly diagnosed an alternator with no output. Imagine my surprise and delight when he produced a set of brushes from his pile of spares and had the alternator back in action in 10 minutes. Excellent service."
Your RAC story beats everything. That is totally unexpected these days. Top man.
Answered by Honest John
More Questions

What does a Mercedes-Benz 300SL (1954 – 1963) cost?