At the 1957 Geneva Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz introduced a convertible version of the celebrated 300 SL coupe “Gullwing,” the 300 SL Roadster. In an early suggestion of the increasing focus the manufacturer would place on luxury cars over the ensuing decades, the new Roadster was, above all, a more refined car than its winged predecessor.
There was no denying the 300 SL’s mechanical performance, which had decidedly improved in the Roadster, with the updated six-cylinder engine receiving the competition camshaft used in the NSL racing coupes, good for a boost of 20 horsepower. Handling also benefited from a revised rear suspension with a lower axle pivot-point, minimizing the tendency for oversteer. Despite the added weight of chassis reinforcement required by an open model, the Roadster was every bit the performance car that the Gullwing had proven itself to be.
The Roadster’s overwhelmingly luxurious character, however, generally obscured its performance capabilities. With a convertible top, the model was never subject to the sometimes uncomfortably hot cabin that bedeviled the coupe, and the Roadster’s redesigned tube frame afforded lower door sills, facilitating far easier access than the Gullwing’s challenging ingress and egress. The new 300 SL was an improvement on the Gullwing in nearly every capacity, at least from a road-going perspective, and it has since evolved into one of Stuttgart’s most collectible models—a darling of both concours fields and vintage rallies.