1963 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
The last run of the legendary 300 SL Roadster happened in January and February of 1963. Twenty-six cars would be built in those two months, with the last six built in February. Chassis 3257 was completed the day before the factory closed on February 7th 1963, making it the penultimate 300 SL. Being the second to last 300SL means that this car benefits from every improvement ever made to the 300SL platform, including disc brakes and the very rare, all-alloy engine featured only in the last 200 cars.
3257 was delivered from the factory in white with a red leather interior, and black convertible top. What makes this 300SL's early history immensely interesting is what happened to the car in 1963. Fresh from the factory it was sent to Mercedes in Salzburg, Austria. Research indicates that the car did not sell on its initial outing and was returned to the factory for upgrades. Reasons might have been that this 300SL was rather unadorned, and the new 230SL that had been released in 1963 was much more affordable.
The result of this return to Stuggart was a second build sheet for 3257. Obviously aimed for the US market, the car was fitted with sealed beam headlights, and then dressed up with a factory hardtop, US spec Becker Grand Prix radio, white wall tires, and gauges in English. Not a total conversion from Euro spec, the 300SL would retain its 3.64 rear end, Euro steering column, and would have no rear DOT reflectors. The upgrades worked, and 3257 would be sold on February 14 1964, one of only three 300SL's sold in 1964.
The first known owner was Robert Lindsay of Spokane, Washington. The first repair order documenting his ownership dates to September 22, 1967 when the car had only 19,055 miles on the odometer. On January 2, 1968, at 19,365 miles, Lindsay had to replace the engine block and pistons. The new alloy block was an unstamped factory spare. This was incredibly common with the alloy block engines, as the design was not as thoroughly tested for stress before being released on the market. Several components were prone to fail and very few of the original engines still exist in any of those 200 Roadsters. Many were replaced and re-stamped with the correct number by the factory. Some received the last batch of numbered extra blocks, but those ran out by 1964. It is incredibly rare to see an original engine tag on an unstamped block, as it is with 3257.
When Lindsay wanted to sell his car in late 1970, it was purchased by Bill Sutherland, the owner of Sutherland-Marlow Inc., a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Spokane. His ownership was brief, lasting only a year, but Sutherland used 3257 frequently, putting almost 10,000 miles on the car that year. His final repair order dates to November 24, 1971 with an odometer reading of 28,547 miles.
In December 1971, 3257 was purchased by Mercedes-Benz dealer, Phil Smart Sr. There are numerous repair orders from Smart's ownership at his dealership in Seattle, WA. He fastidiously maintained the Roadster, and in 1977 a repair order documents removing chrome and rubber for painting and re-installing chrome and rubber after painting. The car's last recorded mileage under his ownership was in 1976 at 32,635 miles.
Smart would keep the Roadster in his possession until the early 1980's. Long time car collector and entrepreneur, Gordon Apker, got a call from Smart's bank offering him the 300SL along with four other collector cars in order to put Smart's dealership's business loan back on ratio. The one stipulation was that he had to pay for them all by 2pm. Apker countered with the provision that the bank had to deliver the cars to him. By 6pm that night Smart's five-car collection was in Apker's garage.
Apker, who paid just $55,000 for the 300SL, would go on to use the Roadster as a weekend car to drive between his home on Puget Sound and lakeside cottage in Eastern Washington. A few years later Apker would receive an offer he couldn't refuse for the car. David Brice, an Australian investor, put down $500,000 US for the car in late 1988. When a good Roadster was pulling a little over $100,000 this was staggering money and probably a record. That number would not be publicly offered for a Roadster until the mid-2000's.
Brice's collection at the time included the very first alloy Gullwing, which coincidentally was delivered new in the same color combination as 3257. They were a "book end pair" for any serious 300SL collector.
A California based dealer, who to date has owned over two hundred 300SL Roadsters and Gullwings, bought 3257 and the first alloy Gullwing from Brice in 1992. He would go on to sell 3257 in 1995 to a German collector, who asked to remain anonymous. The customs stamping on one of the paper documents, a factory data card, indicates it cleared customs on March 30, 1995.
Five years later, in 2000, Phil Smart Jr. tracked down his father's old 300SL Roadster in Germany and purchased it back. In 2001 he had Rudi Koniczek (Rudi & Company) in Victoria, BC strip 3257 to bare metal, re-paint it in its original white, and give the car a major mechanical service before giving it as a present to his father that same year.
Phil Smart Sr. & then Phil Smart Jr. kept 3257 for another fourteen years, driving it less than 1000 miles in that time. The car would be kept in excellent condition with regular trips to their Mercedes dealership for service and detailing.
The Smart family owned 3257 for a combined 27 years, with the Roadster only being driven a mere 10,000 miles since 1971. An outstanding file of receipts and other history document the current mileage to less than 39,000 original miles.
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