Even by SL standards, that’s a lot of money, so what is it that makes this 1957 evocation quite so spectacular? While it is unique today, it is not actually the first alloy-bodied competition 300 SL. The car was not all Georg Distler’s idea…
Beating him to it by 40 years was noted American Mercedes racer Paul O’Shea. In the 1950s O’Shea built a 300 ‘SLS’ racer by giving the stock SL all aluminium bodywork – and saving a whopping 337kg. Already one of the finest production sports cars of its day, the resultant lightweight racer proved a winner. In 22 starts O’Shea and his SLS were among the top finishers in 18 of them, and the car’s reputation for reliability and speed was set. This was the car that George Distler set out to re-create, using the original factory drawings and involving even an engineer who worked on the original car. As well as the new alloy body, created by Zagato, the car was given lightened seat frames, dual side-exit exhaust system, Getrag five-speed gearbox, disc brakes, electric cooling fan, oil cooler, and alternator electrics. As well, all the engine internals were polished and balanced.
Paul O’Shea never ran his SLS in the Panamericana in period but the factory-fresh Merc SL was no stranger to the epic race. In 1952 Mercedes chose the then-new model to showcase its post-war return to motorsport. In a feat of endurance, the SL came home first at an average speed of 102mph.
A ready-to-race and totally gorgeous looking competition car that recollects such feats at what was the world’s most dangerous road race will surely be a hard one to resist when it crosses the block at the Bonhams sale at the Château de Chantilly on September 10th.