In 1956, Mrs. Caroline Foulke enjoyed a tri-city life with homes in Paris, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida, and that year, she walked into the New York City Mercedes-Benz dealership with a most unusual request-a new station wagon. While this is a commonplace order today, no such car was available in the Mercedes-Benz lineup in the 1950s. This was far from a standard model; however, Mercedes-Benz dealerships in the 1950s were eager to please. After some clever research, a new 300c sedan was ordered and, according to various accounts, it was shipped directly from Stuttgart to the Binz & Co. Coachworks in nearby Lorch-one of the few remaining custom coachbuilders in Germany. Known for building ambulances, hearses, and other commercial vehicles on smaller M-B chassis, it was a fitting task for them to create a station wagon.
According to famed Mercedes-Benz restorer Bob Hatch, the Binz craftsmen most likely removed the standard bodywork from the front doors back. A one-piece roof panel was then fabricated, as was a new rear section, complete with folding rear seats and two-section tailgate. To create a seamless fit, the original rear doors were substantially modified, with vent windows incorporated. Other modifications were 190SL taillights (standard items being too large), polished, unpainted wheel covers, and a unique livery of medium gray over red leather. The finishing touch for Mrs. Foulke’s wagon was the application of diagonal stripes, painted from the leading edge of the chrome belt molding to the lower rear edge of the door. The colors chosen were red and blue, to match her yacht club burgee. Binz assigned serial number 3 to the one-off wagon.
Legend has it that Mrs. Foulke was so fond of her splendid wagon that she had it shipped by air from home to home. Years later, the car was sold, eventually coming to the attention of Bill Patton, a car collector from Orange County, California. It remained with him for many years, before being sold to collector Charlie Cawley. In Cawley’s care, the car was repainted in its current shade of Midnight Blue.
Approximately ten years ago, the unique wagon was bought by its current owner, a collector with an interest in one-offs. It was promptly sent to Hatch & Sons, who were to undertake a partial restoration. What ensued was the removal of the engine and interior, a thorough engine bay detailing, a mechanical rebuild, and an interior restoration. Once completed, the car was shown at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, where it was well received.
This one-off station wagon is surprisingly architectural in its features, a masterpiece of then-modern German coachbuilding. The interior is magnificent. Woodgrain surrounds the cockpit and extends across the dashboard, onto the door sills, around the flush-fitting chrome window frames, and even surrounds the windscreen. The instruments and hardware are also impressive in their quality and spectacular in design, and the front compartment is generously equipped with a Becker Mexico radio, in-dash clock, and an optional air conditioning system, a necessity in humid Palm Beach. The passenger compartment and luggage area are similar in their deluxe appointments (woodgrain door caps, storage nets, and rich leather) and are meticulously finished with chrome hardware and thick carpets. Inside and out, the car remains in marvelous condition.
A 300 of unusual grace, style, and distinction, this custom Binz-bodied wagon is a prize. It entertains at high-end concours and Mercedes-Benz club meets alike and is still quite capable of acting as an exclusive town car, just as Mrs. Foulke imagined it back in 1956.