• Sports Car Market Magazine

    SCM is renowned for its unbiased coverage of the most prominent auctions around the world. Every issue of Sports Car Market is packed full of information you can't get anywhere else at any price. Find out the pro's secrets — what to look for and how much to pay for the classic of your dreams.

    Read More
  • SCM Platinum

    Over 200 cars that sold at auction covered in every issue of SCM. Our market reports include detailed information about the vehicle, including VIN, condition, options, and expert analysis from SCM's auction reporters.

    SCM Platinum is the largest database of collector cars sold at auction. Over 150,000 vehicles, including over 59,000 with detailed write-ups from our auction reporters.

    Now optimized for your mobile devices!

    Read More
  • Insider’s Guide to Concours d’Elegance

    The 2014 guide includes a calendar of events and detailed descriptions of 21 featured concours.

    Read More
  • Glovebox Notes

    SCM doesn't just cover collector cars. Every week, SCM reviews a brand new car online and in our newsletters, and there are new reviews every month in the magazine. Thinking of buying a new car? Check out our reviews!

    Read More

Recent Profiles

load more / hold SHIFT key to load all load all

It takes a while for enthusiasts to realize these cars are about craftsmanship and balance, rather than style





Mercedes continued its tradition of quality in the mid-1950s with the 220S and 300 model range. The 220S was offered in saloon, coupe, and convertible form.

The 220S Convertible (W128) was produced in limited numbers from 1956 to 1959. It was the last of the "Ponton" series, which had begun in 1953 with the 180 and featured a unitized construction and fully independent suspension. It was powered by a 2.2-liter OHC, 6-cylinder engine with aluminum head. An automatic clutch was available, along with the column-mounted 4-speed manual transmission.
The "Ponton" series was succeeded by the "Fintail" for 1960.

Offered here is a beautiful 220S convertible from the Walter B. Satterthwaite Collection. At the time it was sold new, this car was almost as expensive as a Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz. Nearly every surface was covered in leather or wood, and matching leather luggage was optional. Coming out of a long hibernation and available for the first time in decades, this example is equipped with a Becker radio, factory clock, and other accessories.

{analysis}{auto}1066{/auto} This 1959 Mercedes-Benz 220S Convertible sold for $51,750 at the Worldwide Group's auction in Hilton Head, South Carolina, on November 3, 2007.

The 220S and 220SE convertibles were modestly-sized luxurious touring cars that were introduced to America at a time when our own high-end domestic cars were given to wretched excess.

These convertibles (and coupes) were among the last cars to leave the factory with solid brass trim, which was individually fitted and chromed for each car. The convertibles are frequently called cabriolets by collectors, though that term was dropped by the factory, along with the landau irons of the preceding model.

Construction quality was superb, with even well-worn examples giving rattle-free service after decades of use.

The lavish wood trim was offered in burl, rosewood, and zebrano veneers, and was the only Mercedes wood treatment to feature curving, almost sculpted lines uniting the door trim with the dash.

Excellent highway cruisers



The cars were then and are now excellent highway tourers, with padded tops, tight fitting windows, good sound deadening, and excellent heat and fresh air systems. These systems made the cars better suited to cruising American highways than the Mercedes SL two-seaters of the time.

My wife Danna and I just completed an 8,500-mile U.S. tour in a 220SE, cruising the interstates at 80 mph and enjoying the backroads even more. Our one "mechanical event" occurred when the idle screw fell out of the fuel injection pump and was lost. (It was evidently poorly adjusted by yours truly). I got a new one through FedEx.

The 220S used a 2.2-liter, SOHC inline-6 with two carburetors. This variant was built between 1956 and 1959, with just 2,178 convertibles leaving the factory for worldwide consumption. The 220SE was essentially the same car, using a mechanically fuel-injected version of the same motor, which was uprated to 125 hp. Production of 220SE convertibles totaled just 1,112 units.

These 220S and SE convertibles, while made in small numbers, are nonetheless easy to service. They share mechanicals with the mass-produced sedans and are supported by excellent factory spare parts availability. The newly-opened Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, California, can locate any part in their worldwide system, and several U.S. independent parts distributors specialize in this model.

As Mercedes enthusiast John Olson (www.SLmarket.com) put it: "The 220S/SE has that rare combination of quality and drivability... unlike many famous cars you wouldn't dare drive more than 50 miles from home. Mercedes-Benz collectibles like the 220SE and 190SL-and even Pagoda SLs-are for mature (if that's the right word) enthusiasts who appreciate quality over muscle."

It is bewildering to Mercedes enthusiasts how casually American muscle cars of the 1960s were assembled. Conversely, it takes a while for general enthusiasts to understand that 1950s Mercedes-Benzes are about craftsmanship and balance, rather than exceptional style (if you don't count 300SL Roadsters and Gullwing coupes).

Rust is the major problem



If there is a fault to be found, it is rust. These early unibody structures were as vulnerable as 356 Porsches, with rockers, floors, and front suspension mounts at risk. As with most cars, long storage (even dry) causes fuel residue to clog the fuel system and rust to gain a hold in the bottom of the gas tank. After ten years of little or no use, expect to rebuild the brakes, fuel system, carburetors, exhaust, and possibly steering boxes and suspension. This can run $9,000-$15,000 in a 220S.

The 220S convertible sold at Hilton Head is almost certainly going to need a full restoration to satisfy most owners. If the car isn't too rusty, and if it is complete, it could take as much as $200,000-$250,000 to restore it thoroughly.

Recent sales of the slightly more desirable 220SE variant have been in the $90,000-$150,000 range for #2 examples, although a beautifully-restored 220SE sold at RM Phoenix in January 2006 for $203,500.

We sold a 220S convertible in 2007 for $130,000, and routinely have 220SEs in the $120,000-$150,000 range. That $130,000 220S had been beautifully restored by Jurgen Klockemann and was probably the high-water mark in quality and price for this model.

Based on these figures, the purchase of our subject car looks ill-advised; then again, supposedly grown-up adults indulge in these miscalculations all the time. For many, there's nothing like nursing an old car back to life using restorers and vendors of their own choosing, and reveling in the adventures and triumphs along the way.

If the buyer adds a $250,000 restoration to his $50,000 purchase, he can enjoy a beautiful collectible for a few years until the market catches up. And with 300SL Roadsters at $600,000, it may take less time than you'd think.{/analysis}

Recent Blog Posts

  • Training a Dog to Drive a Mini Cooper +

    Read More
  • This Week's Classic Mystery Photo +

    The monthly Mystery Photo has been an SCM tradition for 25 years. Each week, we’ll share one of our “greatest hits” photos from the past and give you a chance to provide a new witty and provocative caption. Each week’s winner will be announced in the Newsletter. Share your caption Read More
  • A Great Weekend at the Concours of America +

    It’s been five years since I’ve been to the Concours d’Elegance of America (formerly known as Meadow Brook). I’d heard good things about the new location, and when Concours Chairman Larry Moss asked if I would be interested in being co-emcee, I eagerly accepted. As Michigan has been the location of Read More
  • Forest Grove Concours Weekend: A Celebration of Cars and People +

    There’s nothing better than a great car event that happens in your own backyard. No packing, no airports, no rental cars, no hotel rooms – just go into the SCM garage, pull out your favorite car (and a couple for your good friends) and head out. This was the 42nd Read More
  • Need for Skid +

      Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

Collector Car News

  • Get Your Free Monterey Pocket Guide +

    Our free Monterey pocket guide, sponsored by Alan Taylor Company Inc. is now online. It contains a map, event timeline, and auction details in one compact package. Read it online here, or click here to view it as a pdf, which you can download or print. Read More
  • The 2014 Northwest Passage Tour +

    The Oregon Region Porsche Club of America's 2014 Northwest Passage (sponsored by SCM) takes place July 31-August 3. Keith Martin will be on the drive, along with SCM Contributors John Draneas and Michael Pierce. The event is sold out, but you can read about last year's tour here. Read More
  • 1953 Ferrari 250 Europa at Auctions America California +

    Auctions America California takes place July 31-August 2 in Burbank. Among the highlights is a 1953 Ferrari 250 Europa by Pininfarina. View all the consignments here. Read More
  • Meet Keith Martin in Monterey +

    Keith Martin and the SCM gang will be everywhere during Monterey Car Week. If you see Keith or anyone wearing an SCM logo, don't hesitate to introduce yourself. Keith hosts the 13th Annual SCM Monterey Insider's Seminar on Saturday, August 16 at 9 a.m. The Insider's Seminar takes place inside Read More
  • Classes Announced for Chantilly Concours +

    SCM Publisher Keith Martin will be one of three American Judges at theChantilly Arts & Elegance Richard Mille event, taking place September 7 in Chantilly, FRA. Judged classes include: Concept Cars The Interwar Period Sports & Racing Cars The Great French Bodyworks from the '20s and '30s British Chassis & Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4