Few cars have moved so swiftly up the market ladder in recent years as the Mercedes Benz 190SL. Just a few years ago reasonably nice driver quality cars were trading between $30,000 and $50,000 while the very best cars rarely changed hands for more than $100,000. Today, prices are double and triple what they were just a few years ago, as a result, 190s seem to be coming out of the woodwork. Owners are taking them from old garages and storage facilities to the restoration shop and then on to the high profile collector car auctions. There are three fully restored Mercedes-Benz 190SL roadsters scheduled to cross the block at RM Auctions’ sale at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Scottsdale on January 15 – 16, 2015. The fact that all three cars are being offered at no reserve only reinforces their owner’s faith in the current 190SL market, at perhaps too, RM’s ability to eek all the money out of each offering.
RM will be offering this 1962 190SL that appears in Pearl Gray over Green leather. This car is described as having several long term Canadian owners since new. A binder full of records and documentation is with the car dating back to the late 1970s. While the exterior color isn’t necessarily rare or unusual, the green leather and green soft top are. It’s a charming color combination that sets this particular 190SL apart from the usual black, red and white examples we’ve been seeing in great numbers on the auction circuit of late. I’ll look forward to having a closer look at this one during the auction preview next month.
Another detail that will only help this car at the auction is the 3 piece Mercedes fitted luggage set that’s found in its trunk. I can’t imagine anyone really uses the fitted luggage found in their vintage SLs, but this kind of ‘dressing’ does create interest and helps set a car apart on the show field. Finding original luggage for these cars can be difficult and hugely expensive, just as the cars have gone up in value, so have their original, period correct accessories.
The second of the three 190SLs is this 1961 model painted in factory correct Graphite Grey with red vinyl interior. The auction catalog mentions that this car comes with its original detachable hard top, it is also equipped with the side facing ‘kinder seat’ behind the front seats. The car is described as completely restored with excellent chrome and paint, the engine bay “shows only light evidence of enjoyment on the road.” The car has only covered about 1,400 miles since restoration.
I’ve always had a soft spot for grey cars with red leather interiors, as the first Porsche 356 I ever rode in, an elderly neighbors car I got a ride in when I was about 12 years old, was this same color combination. It’s a combination Mercedes has actually started offering again starting in about 2011, new SL550 models were available with red interiors and Mercedes’ ‘Steel Grey Metallic’ was quite similar in shade to some of their non metallic greys from the 1950s.
The last 190SL at RM’s Scottsdale sale is this 1956 model finished in factory-correct Medium Blue (DB350) with a black soft top and an Aero Gray (1140) interior. Teh car is described as having just completed a “comprehensive, concours-quality restoration” in Europe, extensive restoration documentation is with the car. Again, it’s refreshing to see RM offering three cars in interesting color combinations. This is the only one of the three that has any mention of true ‘restoration documentation’ (a binder full of before and after photos) which would lead me to believe that this car might fetch the highest price, as in my experience, such documentation is really what sells such cars.
Another plus with this example is that it is claimed to have never been shown at concours events which will be an added benefit for it’s new owner if he or she chooses to join the concours circuit, it’s always more fun, and your chances of getting an invitation are greater when showing a car that hasn’t already made the rounds.
RM has put together a nice selection of 190SLs for their Scottsdale sale, but frankly, I’m surprised they’ve got three of the same model on offer. Looking through their catalog they do have 4 Jaguar XKEs, three roadsters and a coupe, and a handful of Porsche 911s (although the 911s span almost 50 years of production). There are clearly plenty of people interested in selling high quality 190SLs, let’s hope, for the sake of the three ‘no reserve’ consignors, there are ready buyers. The simple fact remains, restoration costs, especially parts costs, for 190SLs have been increasing at an even faster rate than the cars themselves. Ask yourself, what does a high quality restoration cost and how long will it take? Paying up for a correctly restored ‘great’ example, even if that means $200,000 or $300,000 dollars, isn’t as crazy a proposition as it sounds for a 190SL you can show and drive next weekend.
*All photos courtesy RM Auctions.