It is often overlooked that Mercedes-Benz produced hundreds more 300 SL Roadsters than it did of the more famous ‘Gullwing’ variety. When the mighty German firm ended its highly successful 300 SLR racing programme, a number of roofless 300 SLSs were created privately from 300 SLs in order to mimic the open-topped works SLRs. The car you see here is one of the most famous of those.
American racer Chuck Porter is said to have started with a burned-out wreck of a 300 SL Gullwing and instructed a Hollywood firm to create a new open body for the car from aluminium. For a bespoke body the finished article bore a strong Mercedes-Benz ‘family’ resemblance, save for a very wide grille aperture and the lack of a windscreen.
It was never going to look as hunkered-down as the original SLRs, due to it not being based on a Grand Prix chassis, but it was reportedly a quick car and had little trouble keeping up with the Maserati and Ferrari sports cars, despite still apparently running a largely-standard 300 motor, although in its later years a variety of American V8s were fitted.
In 1999 the Porter Special was restored by renowned 300SL specialists HK Engineering in Polling, Germany, after which it was used in various historic racing events. This brings us to the car’s appearance at this year’s 73rd Members’ Meeting where, sadly, the front was heavily damaged in a very unfortunate incident with a Lister-Jaguar.
As a matter of fact, these images are amongst the last taken of the car with this bodywork fitted, because the accident happened the very next day! Fingers crossed Goodwood will be graced with its presence again once it’s back in one piece.