Introduced at Frankfurt in 1951, the Mercedes-Benz 220 series was available in sedan, coupe, and cabriolet variants. It was in production through August 1955, with only 997 cabriolet Bs built. According to a letter sent by a previous owner to the vendor, this lovely example was owned from 1993 to 1998 by a gentleman in Wisconsin, who bought it from a party who found the car in a barn they had purchased. Upon acquiring it, he removed the body from the frame and restored both. He claimed to have never driven the car but only restored it cosmetically. In 1998, he sold it to a car dealer in southern Louisiana, who painted the car black (it had been red) and only drove it 42 kilometers over the next five years. In fact, it sat in his showroom, not for sale, but simply as a display car. Finally, in 2003, the vendor acquired the 220 cabriolet B with 36,363 kilometers showing on the odometer. Although it was cosmetically restored, he enjoys driving his cars and therefore elected to conduct a mechanical restoration on this car as well. He carried out as much work as possible on his own before sending the car to noted restorer Henry Magno of Massachusetts. Receipts totaling over $37,000 in mechanical work are available. As presented, the car is reported to run perfectly and drives wonderfully. The owner has driven the car about 3,500 kilometers since purchasing it and has won awards in every car show he has entered. The extensive list of desirable features include an original owners manual, sales literature, service manual, a Telefunken radio with multiple bands, and original Bosch lamps with halogen bulbs, which do not have sealed beam units behind the original lenses like so many other restored cars. The car also has a set of fitted luggage in the trunk, which is in excellent condition. Overall, it is described as being in outstanding condition with everything in working order. The lovely black exterior finish is offset by a burgundy interior with matching carpets. Thanks to properly executed restoration work, this Mercedes-Benz requires nothing to be driven and shown with pride.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1952 Mercedes-Benz 220
Number Produced:977 (cabriolet B)
Original List Price:$4,490
Tune Up Cost:$750
Distributor Caps:$75
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
Investment Grade:B

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.

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