1961 Mercedes Benz SL Roadster, Perfection Personified
Based on the same historic performance and engineering platform as the heralded Gullwing, the 1961 Mercedes Benz SL Roadster featured many similar traits as its more famous brethren. The aluminum hood, doors and trunklid reduce body weight. It also shares the same aerodynamic profile with flattened flanks, race-inspired “eyebrow” accents over the front wheel arches and a lowered hood, facilitated by the motor being canted at a 45 degree angle.
The roadster also benefited from several innovative developments and was considered to be a more comfortable car on the road. For instance, the 1961 Mercedes Benz SL Roadster features more luggage space due to the smaller fuel tank, as well as a larger taillight cluster with integral reverse lights. Although slightly heavier than the Gullwing due to structural changes to improve stability, the roadster compensates for the extra curb weight with a high performance cam, increased compression and a top speed of 150mph. Back then it reigned as one of the fastest (top speed) street cars of its time and let’s face it – it looked really, really good and stylish while keeping pace with the best American muscle.
We got our eyes on the original build sheet of this particular car and were able to trace some of its lineage. It is indeed a numbers-matching machine from the depths of Deutschland. It rolled off the assembly line in Stuttgart during the winter of 1961 coated in Mercedes Hellblau (light blue) and featured gray leather interior and carpets. It came with both a convertible top as well as a hard top. It was fitted with whitewall tires and sealed beam headlights. As you can see, when San Jose, California’s Mercedes restorer par excellence Jurgen Klockeman got his hands on it for a full restoration it was repainted in a stock Mercedes silver. Big improvement in our estimation! The upholstery was also redone in dark blue – another color which was available from the factory.
The mechanicals are unchanged from the factory albeit freshened and repainted. A 2996 CC SOHC (182 cubic inch) straight six-cylinder with Bosch mechanical fuel injection reaped 250hp at 6,200 RPM. The 4-speed manual transmission provided spirited road rallies and canyon cruises while the independent double-wishbone front suspension offered performance and stability.
This impeccable roadster brought $792,000 at Pebble Beach a few years back and now resides in a private collection. In the years prior to the sale, it changed hands several times but was always in the possession of responsible and respected stewards. A car of this value and quality deserves such special attention!