|Vehicle:||1952 Mercedes-Benz 220|
|Number Produced:||977 (cabriolet B)|
|Original List Price:||$4,490|
|Tune Up Cost:||$750|
|Chassis Number Location:||Tag on firewall, stamped on right front chassis rail|
|Engine Number Location:||On left side of block below head|
|Club Info:||Mercedes-Benz Club of America 1907 Lelaray St. Colorado Springs, CO 80909|
|Alternatives:||1952 BMW 501 cabriolet; 1952 Alvis TA21 drophead; 1952 Alfa Romeo 1900 cabriolet|
This car sold for $112,750, including buyer’s premium, at RM’s Automobiles of Arizona Auction in Phoenix, Arizona, on January 22, 2010.
The road back from the ruins of World War II seems, in retrospect, a quick and fairly painless one for Mercedes-Benz. Like its counterparts in Germany and Italy, much, if not all, of the company’s manufacturing capacity had been destroyed in air raids. Add to that the need to make a splash in all-important export markets-some of which might be distinctly cool toward the products of a company so recently building armaments for an enemy government.
However, forgiveness proved to be more forthcoming than might be assumed, and business was strong enough to more than pull Mercedes through. In fact, following the reintroduction of the pre-war 4-cylinder 170 in 1946, few would have dreamed that a mere four years later the company would be back in the luxury car business with the 300 sedan and four-door convertible, and back at the top of the motorsport heap a year later with the 300SLR. In the meanwhile, an important middle-class offering was necessary, so the 6-cylinder 220 model was also inserted into the mix. The fact that 1951 saw the introduction of both the 220 and 300 was evidence of a very impressive comeback for Mercedes.
The styling of the 220 is distinctly 1930s
Along with a pre-war-based chassis, the styling of the 220 also was distinctly 1930s in feeling. By the time it came along, it was difficult to find manufacturers who had not gone over to an “envelope” design, eliminating separate fenders and running boards. All the American cars were so styled, and even in Europe the 1951 offerings from Alfa Romeo and Lancia featured sleek, modern bodies. For the 220, the only concession to the 1950s was fairing the headlights into the fenders.
The 220 was well built, with a tubular frame and hand-finished body detailing closer to pre-war standards. As a result, they are extremely expensive to restore, especially the cabriolets with their complex lined and padded tops, delicate chrome-trimmed instruments, and generous interior wood décor. While the 220 has undeniable class, Mercedes style, and might be seen as the “poor man’s 300S,” it’s no autobahn burner. With 80 hp to drag 3,100 lb, its power-to-weight ratio compares quite unfavorably with that of the more powerful model. But the 220 can keep up with modern traffic and cruise at 75 mph-80mph, so it’s not exactly a slug. It’s not dissimilar to the case of the 190SL, which is a very enjoyable ride, provided you don’t count on it being a little 300SL.
Mercedes continued its pre-war policy of offering two versions of their open cars, called the cabriolet A and cabriolet B. They varied in passenger capacity and most obviously in the number of side windows. The former was a “two-window” two, or two-plus-two seat, model, while the latter was a “four-window,” four- or five-passenger car. Needless to say, the cabriolet A was by far the better looking of the two, with a dashing, sporty balance that the slightly ungainly cabriolet B could not match.
Not well known and seldom seen outside Europe
For years, all these early post-war Mercedes languished in the shadows of the undisputed three-pointed “stars” of the 1950s-the 300SL, 300S, and 300SC, and even the 190SL. They are not well known and seldom seen outside of northern Europe. That has begun to change, with well-restored 220 and even 170S cabriolets appearing on the market from time to time. Strangely enough, three emerged at auction in January of this year, with two in the Bonhams Rétromobile sale in Paris, (where the cab A sold at $88,550 and the cab B did not sell) and this one, which sold in Arizona.
A well restored or exceptionally preserved example of the more attractive cabriolet A has fetched prices at the $100k-plus level for a number of years, a reflection once again of their style and recognition of the restoration costs involved in making one right. This cabriolet B, with what seems to be a twelve-year-old cosmetic restoration, sold above the $88,550 achieved for the cab A in the Paris sale, in what seems to have been similar condition to this car.
Our subject car sold near the end of the auction, and it appears to be a case of two determined bidders who waited the duration of a very long session in order to take this car home. And of course, once you’ve invested the time in waiting, there’s no sense in going home without a car. We saw a similar situation at the Bonhams Quail Lodge sale last August, with two no-reserve Porsche 356s among the final lots. Convinced a steal was in the offing, a small group of dealers waited into the cooling evening, as the rapidly dwindling audience drifted away. The results? “Retail plus” sales for both cars. For all those who think they can handicap run list location and outcome, think again. Auctions have their own rules, and as always, remember that one sale does not a market make.
This price, for this car, is yet another example of a vehicle that is bought above the norm, but the vehicle itself, due to the excellence of the restoration and the costs involved, more than justified the amount spent. For this car, I would call the deal fair for both sides.