Sold at $258,500
Gooding & Company Geared Online
August 3–7, 2020, Lot 36

Chassis number: WDB2010361F732965
SCM Condition for this car: 1-

There are arguably only a handful of low-production collectible post-war Mercedes-Benz models. In no particular order, they include the iconic 300SL Gullwing and Roadster, the stately W186 300 “Adenauer,” the classic 280 SE 3.5 convertible, the Autobahn-storming 6.9 S-Class (see German Profile, p. 68), the Porsche-built 500E/E500, the DTM-like SL65 AMG Black Series, and our subject car, the W201 2.5 16 Evolution II. This special model has a story behind it and a revered history.

Back in 1984, the original first-generation W201 190E 2.3 16-valve participated in a historic race that celebrated the opening of the new Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit. A young Ayrton Senna piloted one of 20 of these cars and handily beat legendary drivers Niki Lauda, John Surtees, and James Hunt.

During the mid- and late 1980s, the W201-series 16-valve then raced successfully in the competitive Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) series. Our subject car, Lot 36, is the rarest and most revered W201, the final-edition 2.5 16 Evolution II. This particular car is number 105 of only 500 manufactured and shows just 10,000 kilometers from new. With such a small production run, all of these cars were gobbled up long before they went on sale to the public.

Each one wears Blauschwarz (Blue Black) metallic livery. Race versions of the Evolution II conquered the 1992 DTM Group A championship with a 1-2-3 finish against BMW’s iconic M3. As a nod to its racing heritage, the street-legal version of the Evolution II came with a race-inspired dogleg Getrag 5-speed manual. For the Evolution II edition, the bodywork upgrades include an outrageous rear wing with aggressive air dams and flared bodywork. These aerodynamic improvements are not just aesthetic, as they lower the drag coefficient to a slippery 0.30 while providing significant downforce. The Evolution II is a civilized street racer complete with leather seats, air conditioning, sunroof, heated seats and, of course, a Becker radio.

Gooding recently sold a similar car in their January 2020 Scottsdale auction. That car, Lot 29, had even fewer miles and was arguably a better-preserved example. It hammered for a whopping $434,000. Our subject car sold for “only” $258,500 at Gooding’s first online auction this summer.

The price difference is curious because both cars traded within eight months of each other. Furthermore, the two cars are comparable examples with similar mileage. However, first-hand feedback from attendees at Scottsdale indicates that Lot 29 was a 100-point example, a unicorn. It was pristine and was indistinguishable from new. As one astute and reliable insider of both auctions told me, “You can chalk up the premium to part condition, and part auction magic.”

The radically different auction outcomes for these two similar Evo IIs do not indicate a downward valuation trend for these iconic cars. Nor does the online auction format explain our subject car’s lower outcome, as many cars at Gooding’s Geared event sold strong. Regardless of the cause, the auction results for this particular Benz still reinforce the Evo II’s long-term value trend. These big-winged Benzes are only going one way: up. — Philip Richter

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