From the onset, the 1951 Mercedes-Benz 300 was aimed at the American market. The car's outstanding quality was matched only by its breathtaking price-it cost as much as three Cadillacs. But the price ensured exclusivity, and early customers ranged from renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright to actor Yul Brynner. The 300 was also the choice of royalty and heads of state, including the Shah of Iran and West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who used six of them and in whose honor the car would come to be referred to as simply "an Adenauer." From its introduction, Mercedes called it the 300, but comprehensive improvements resulted in the 300b for 1954, followed by the 300c in 1955. In 1956, a virtually brand new 300 emerged, the 300d. A completely new body was designed featuring a wheelbase four inches longer for improved ride and increased rear legroom, and swing-axle rear suspension was introduced. The 300 was geared to the businessman and featured many luxury options including Becker radio, VHF mobile telephone, and dictation machine. Adenauer's cars had a writing desk, sirens, curtains, and a division window. Styling remained conservative, but subtle details brought the design up to date. The 300d's longer hood gave the car a more graceful look, while providing room for an updated version of Mercedes-Benz's 3-liter SOHC 6-cylinder engine. Equipped with Bosch mechanical fuel injection, horsepower was increased to 180. All U.S.-delivered cars were fitted with a BorgWarner 3-speed automatic transmission. With power steering now standard, the 300d offered a much better driving experience. The 1961 300d Adenauer presented here is a highly original 1961 Mercedes-Benz 300d finished in black with red leather interior. It has never been restored, although it was partially repainted some time ago. This 300d, being a commendable running and driving example with 60,000 original miles, may be enjoyed as is, or it would make a fine candidate for a complete restoration.

SCM Analysis


Number Produced:3,077
Original List Price:$10,070
Tune Up Cost:$350
Distributor Caps:$45
Chassis Number Location:Right side of firewall
Engine Number Location:Top of right side of block
Club Info:Mercedes-Benz Adenauer 300 Club
Investment Grade:D

This 1961 Mercedes-Benz 300d “Adenauer” sold for $18,700 at the RM Amelia Island sale on March 10, 2007.

Designated model W186, the 300 was the first new model created by Mercedes-Benz after the destruction of industrial Germany during World War II. Most of the Daimler-Benz factory was destroyed and Stuttgart was in ruins after the Allied bombing.

Six years later, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the 300 series sedan and four-door cabriolet at the 1951 Paris Auto Show. Its unique appearance, advanced engineering, and luxurious appointments made it extremely popular with heads of state and other moneyed dignitaries.

The 300b and “c” models followed in short order with mechanical enhancements such as finned brake drums and a new 3-speed BorgWarner transmission built under license by Detroit Gear. The “d” model, which was produced from August 1957 until March 1962, was often referred to as a hard top limousine, as the B-pillar was eliminated and all the side windows, including the frames, could be lowered.

The 300s were equipped with white sidewalls, while power steering and Artic-Kar air conditioning were available options. (The auction catalog states that power steering was standard, but other sources state it was an option.)

Did this car fall through the cracks?

Priced at $10,070 in 1961, the 300d cost the same as two 190SLs. Throw in an extra $900 and you could have bought a 300SL roadster, which in hindsight would have been a far better investment. Fifty years later, the 300SLs are topping $500,000, while this “Adenauer” sold for well under RM’s estimate of $30,000-$50,000.

At first glance I’d think that the buyer caught this as it fell through the cracks; the SCM value guide and others state that decent examples should sell in the $20,000-$40,000 range. A very nice 1960 300d that was once owned by Al Hirt of New Orleans jazz fame was recently offered for $39,500. It was stated to have new paint, leather interior, and wood, and to be in excellent mechanical condition.

As we read the auction description, three key phrases jump out: “partial repaint,” “candidate for restoration,” and “highly original.” These alert us to the fact that a 45-year-old Mercedes does not restore itself, especially if-as the mileage would indicate-this car has been in idle storage. So we are looking at dealing with paint, leather interior, brightwork, and spending some time under the hood.

If the new owner can do all that for $20,000 or so, he should be okay. If not, he would have been better off buying the advertised Al Hirt car or a similarly “done” car to avoid the unknown gremlins and expenses lurking in the restoration. On the other hand, for someone with time on his hands who needs an excuse to spend countless hours in the garage, this 1961 300d Adenauer could have been just the ticket.

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