The Russo and Steele 2015 Scottsdale auction is coming up next month, it will be taking place between January 14 – 18. Looking through their initial auction offering via the Russo and Steele Auctions website, there are a handful of vintage Mercedes on offer.
There are usually a handful of Pagoda SLs at Russo and Steele, and in years past, I’ve seen some nice examples actually sell at lower than market prices proving that if you look long and hard, there are deals still to be had in Arizona, especially at Russo and Steele, and occasionally at Barrett Jackson.
This 230SL will be crossing the block with no reserve. It’s a 1965 model with a manual transmission, presented in a unique color combination (original to the car) of Graphite Grey w/ Grey White (Weiss grau) hard top and hub caps. According to the auction catalog known history of the car can be traced back to 1975 when it was purchased by a gentleman in North Carolina for his wife who subsequently drove the car only occasionally. The consignor purchased the car from this long time owner in 2012.
The indicated mileage of 43,800 is said to be original. Due to long periods of non use, the consignor took the car to MBI Motors of Portland, OR for an extensive service and general freshening. The suspension and underside of the car looks to have been completely rebuilt, cleaned and refinished, a soft top was fitted to the top bows for the first time and the interior was completely restored with leather upholstery.
The photos in the online auction catalog from Russo and Steele show a car that looks to have been more than ‘freshened’. Of course, closer on site inspection will be necessary before shelling out the big bucks, but the photos of the undercarriage of the car reflect a car that’s had much attention lavished on it.
When reviewing today’s Pagoda SL market, the Mercedes SLs produced between 1964 and 1971 as either 230SL, 250SL or 280SL models prices are all over the map. I see 230SLs for sale for as little as $25,000 an for as much as about $80,000, 280SLs can be found from the high $30,000s up to about $125,000 and results from the high end collector car auctions reflect 280SL sales in excess of $200,000, while 250SL prices fall somewhere between the 230s and 280s.
Why the huge price range? There are a few reasons… you have three very similar, yet different cars. The general consensus is that the 280SLs are ‘the best cars to own’ – right or wrong, that’s what collector’s have concluded, 1971 models, the last year of production, are especially sought after, as only about 800 1971 models were produced of a total 280SL production of about 20,000.
Which model is best for the casual car hobbyist? I would ask this question… “Is a 280SL really 2 or 3 times the car that the 230 is?” 280SLs have more power with a larger displacement engine, conveniences such as air conditioning and power steering are more commonly found on later Pagoda SLs, but the 280SL is also heavier, and arguably, not quite as clean looking with bumper over riders, head rests on the seats, soft pocket door panels and more plastic bits in the interior. The 230SL delivers a lot of driving pleasure for less money, if in a more visceral package. 230SLs are generally accepted to be ‘cleaner looking’ without head rests, bumper over riders, side market lights. The interior rear view mirror on the 230SL is chrome while the 280SL’s is black plastic, 230SLs have hard door pockets… little differences that give the early cars a different look when inspected closely.
I believe 230SLs are undervalued in today’s market (and I’m not saying that just because I have one sitting in my garage). It costs just as much to restore a 230SL as it does a 280SL… the chrome and stainless trim pieces are the same all the way around the cars, interior costs, door panels, wood, all the pieces found on a 280SL that are expensive to restore can be found on the 250 and 230SLs.
Some people even prefer the earlier cars for their more raw driving experience, it’s long been said that the 230SL is the ‘sportiest’ of the Pagoda SLs. I certainly enjoy driving my car on rallies and club tours, the 4 speed manual transmission is a joy to shift up and down while traversing steep hills or cruising on flat ground, there is no lack of power.
Looking at the car Russo and Steele will be offering in Scottsdale, all we can do is look at the handful of photos provided in the online catalog, but the work looks to have been performed to a high standard, by a well respected shop that specializes in vintage Mercedes. Of course I’ll look forward to seeing this car in person to look for all the Pagoda details that ‘matter’… but it wouldn’t surprise me if this 230SL sees bids north of $50,000 when it rolls through Drew Alcazar’s Russo and Steele ‘auction in the round’ arena in Scottsdale.