THE LEGEND LIVES ON
UNIQUE MERCEDES PAYS HOMAGE TO PAUL O’SHEA AT BONHAMS CHANTILLY SALE
1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLS Competition Roadster (€1,500,000-2,500,000)
On 10 September, Bonhams will return to the manicured chateau lawns for its Chantilly Sale, where some of the most remarkable motor cars will be displayed and auctioned.
The 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLS Competition Roadster (€1,500,000-2,500,000) is a truly remarkable vehicle. It is entirely unique, and was inspired by the legendary American driver, Paul O’Shea, who took the racing world by storm during the 1950s. He drove alongside some of the finest racers of his generation, including Phil Hill, Dick Thompson and Augie Pabst to name but a few. He was such an ardent admirer of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL that he built two ‘SLS’ versions specifically for racing. Both were built with aluminium bodies, reducing the weight by an astonishing 337kg and creating arguably the perfect sports car in the process.
O’Shea enjoyed a remarkable run of success at the wheel of his SLS, regularly beating Ferraris, Maseratis and Aston Martins whilst on the track. His motor car became widely-recognised as one of the most reliable on the track, consistently performing well in even the harshest of driving conditions. Sadly, Mercedes-Benz faced funding issues and had to withdraw from American racing.
However, almost 30 years later, a determined gentleman named Georg Distler decided that it was high time to reignite the legend of the SLS, and set about creating his own. A mammoth task in its own right, but even more so when one takes in to account Distler’s end goal: to compete in one of the world’s toughest rallies, the Carrera Panamericana. A 3,500km border-to-border race which is widely considered to be the most dangerous automobile race in the world.
Building the vehicle was made possible by a stroke of luck – Distler and his friend Albrecht Lorenz (an engineer for Mercedes-Benz for more than 50 years) discovered O’Shea’s original plans in the Mercedes-Benz archives in Stuttgart and, armed with the meticulously detailed instructions, began turning a dream into reality. In addition to the aluminum body, the two-year project yielded lightened seat frames, a Getrag five-speed gearbox and a dual side-exit exhaust system.
Forty years after the original 300 SLS’s glorious reign on the racetrack, this unique creation started to make history all over again. In 1997, Distler commenced the grueling rally in his dream car as a private entrant and without a support vehicle – brave or mad is yet to be decided! The car was a triumph, and Georg came home as a class winner and in 11th place overall in the field of 67 finishers and 92 starters. The box of spare parts remained firmly unopened, such was the reliability of Georg and Albrecht’s creation.
The car can still be seen leading the pack at tracks such as Hockenheim, Nurburgring, Salzburgring and Roßfeld – all it needs now is a new driver willing to keep the legend running.