RM Auctions will hold their annual Monaco Sale on the evening of May 10, 2014 at Le Sporting Monte-Carlo, a more glamorous location I couldn’t imagine. One lot that caught my eye while paging through the auction catalog which is heavy on Italian and race cars with a few German and British marques mixed in, was this rare AMG built and heavily modified Mercedes Benz 300SL AMG.
This is one of just 11 such cars built by AMG in Germany between 1996 and 2009. According to the auction catalog, “the project was initiated following a request by the Royal Family of Brunei.” This seems to be the product of someone with infinite funds, a love of classic Mercedes and a desire to experience speed and performance with all the luxuries of a modern car… a 300SL Resto Mod. RM’s pre sale estimate is €740,000 – €940,00 (about $1 – $1.3 Million USD).
This car is built on an original W198 300SL W198 coupe chassis that was mildly modified to accommodate an AMG tuned M119 6.0 liter V8 engine producing 380HP, the same engine you would have found in one of the rare R129 SL60 AMG cars built in the mid to late 1990s. The power is put to the ground by a W4A four-speed automatic transmission, again, mid 1990s R129 style. Adjustable Bilstein adjustable sport suspension was installed along with W124 brakes in the rear with C36AMG brakes in the front. The original swing-axle rear suspension was replaced with a modern unit from an R129 SL.
The exterior reveals a handful of modifications to let you know this is no ordinary 300SL. Electrically adjustable mirrors were fitted to both sides of the car, the exterior fuel filler cap was relocated to the right-rear side of the car and most obvious, the modern AMG wheels with low profile tires.
The interior is an interesting mix of very modern and classic. Red leather Recaro sport seats with three point seat belts and a modern steering wheel contrast with the vintage looking gauge cluster, save for the digital odometer. The modern automatic transmission selector looks perfectly 1990s, but just a few inches away is a 50+ year old Becker Europa radio. Of course, it is fitted with modern air conditioning and an iPod hookup.
The history of this car is well known and according to the auction catalog, of the 11 ‘resto-mod’ 300SLs built by AMG, just four were left hand drive Gullwing coupes such as this one. This example was originally purchased by DD Racing in Germany shortly after its production in 2001 and registered in Germany. In 2005 it found its way to a collection in Hong Kong where it has remained since. It’s been driven just 500KMs since it was completed by AMG in 2001.
It’s good to know that this wasn’t one of the examples actually delivered to the Royal Family of Brunei, as the fate of many cars in that family’s collection have been recently documented in various places around the collector car world… neglected in long term storage, cars literally baking in huge garage buildings in the desert.
This is a very tough car to try to value pre sale. So many collectors and enthusiasts value originality above all else these days, but the allure of a modern version of the iconic 300SL, a bespoke piece, hand built by AMG… what could that mean in the market? Could these 11 cars defy reason and become the like the 29 original alloy bodied Gullwings in another 50 years? Only time will tell.
For now, I’d call this car two parts sacrilege (W198 body and frame) one part completely awesome (AMG’s M119 6.0 liter motor) and most likely, a whole lotta fun!