A recreation of American racing driver Paul O’Shea’s alloy-bodied Mercedes-Benz 300SLS is expected to make as much as €2,500,000 when it crosses the block at Bonhams’ Chantilly Arts & Elegance sale on 10 September.
O’Shea created two SLS Competition Roadsters in 1957, taking two factory fresh 300SL Roadsters and completely re-bodying them in aluminium. He campaigned the new cars in the SCCA’s D Production class, taking the title in the same year.
Following Mercedes’ withdrawal from racing after the 1955 Le Mans 24 Hours, Paul O’Shea launched a privateer assault on the SCCA’s D Production class with a pair of heavily modified 300SL Roadsters. The American racer completely stripped and re-bodied both cars in aluminium, shedding enormous amounts of weight while also increasing power. He campaigned the cars with much success, winning the class in 1957.
Since then, many 300SLs have been converted to the famed ‘SLS’ specification, including this 1957 example built by Georg Distler. Distler’s friend Albrecht Lorenz – a Mercedes technician for more than 50 years – got the project off to a flying start by discovering O’Shea’s meticulously detailed plans in the company’s archives in Stuttgart, and shortly after the car was fitted with aluminium bodywork, lightened seat frames, a Gretrag five-speed gearbox and dual side-exit exhausts.
Two years after beginning the conversion Distler entered the car in one of the world’s toughest historic rallies – the 3500km Carrera Panamericana – where he finished 11th overall, an achievement made more remarkable by the lack of support vehicle.