Courtesy of Bonhams
This superb Mercedes-Benz 500SL was purchased by the owner from Mercedes-Benz Young Classics in October 2011 and since then has formed part of his private collection. Finished in Diamantblau metallic with black leather interior, it comes complete with factory hard top and black canvas convertible hood. Factory-fitted optional extras include a driver’s airbag, external temperature gauge, limited-slip differential, heated external rear-view mirrors, theft alarm, armrest, air conditioning, headlights washing system, and heated seats for driver and passenger. A true time-warp classic, still retaining its original underseal, this exceptional 500SL convertible is offered with German registration documents and TüV valid until August 2015. One for the connoisseur.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1986 Mercedes-Benz 500SL
Years Produced:1980–89
Number Produced:11,812 (500SL)
Original List Price:$42,920
SCM Valuation:$21,000–$38,000 (560SL)
Tune Up Cost:$720
Distributor Caps:$304
Chassis Number Location:Radiator core support (European models only)
Engine Number Location:Behind left cylinder head on top of block
Club Info:Mercedes-Benz Club of America
Alternatives:1988–90 Jaguar XJS HE convertible, 1984–89 Porsche 911 3.2 convertible, 1985–89 Ferrari Mondial 3.2
Investment Grade:D (560SL)

This car, Lot 123, sold for $111,385, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Mercedes-Benz sale in Stuttgart, Germany, on March 28, 2015.

I am sure that all owners of very-low-mileage 560SLs are calling each other just like giddy school girls to share the gossip: A conventional R107 Mercedes, with no celebrity connection, rally history or just two miles on the odometer has broken the magic six-digit threshold. No, there is no mysterious AMG twin-cam unit under the hood, nor did it sit in some underground vault for the past 29 years. It is a Plain Jane, box-stock 7,700-kilometers (4,784 miles) Mercedes 500SL.

No U.S. market golf club carrier

This is the part where I remind you how different the European R107 cars are from the American versions. In 1986, U.S. drivers received the 560SL, which was rated at 225 horsepower and was adorned with all of the boring U.S. “options” (federal bumpers, ugly lights, catalytic converters and mild camshafts) that were required to please the DOT and EPA. In addition, all the fun equipment — the high-output 10:1 compression engine, switchable ignition, trunk spoiler, locking differential and European lights and bumpers — never made it to U.S. showrooms.

While the 560SL performed well by U.S. standards, a 500SL with all of the listed equipment is a sports car with a mild temper. Ask anyone who has driven both of them, and the 560SL never comes in first. The 560SL is a great and reliable car, but if I were to present the value difference in another light, the 560SL is a Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais and the 500SL is like a decent Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Now then, I am going to shoot the elephant in the room. I am sure all of the owners of 560SLs are wondering if their 4,999-mile cars are worth $100k. Wouldn’t that be nice? I can already tell you that the regular sales price for a 30,000-mile 560SL is somewhere between $25,000 and $30,000. I can also tell you that a car with around 10k miles is going to sell in the $35,000–$45,000 window — with a few possible exceptions.

However, the financial conservatism of the typical American 107 buyer would make a time-warp, ultra-low-mileage example of the 560 a tough sell at anything over $65,000. The only recent exception is SCM# 224679, the 560SL owned by Madonna that sold at Bonhams’ Stuttgart sale in July of 2014 for $94k with commission. And let’s not kid ourselves — it was the celebrity connection that added $75k to the price.

The unicorn market no longer a myth

The 500SL, however, is handily establishing itself as a six-digit asset. There are three other sales of this caliber involving 500SLs in the past year, but the most sensible of these is the car that sold for $118,000 at Silverstone in London in September of 2014 (SCM# 245307). Although it only had 956 miles, this sale — and our subject car — prove something spectacular: that a $100k market does exist for the crème de la crème of 107s, but the car should be perfect in all regards.

Those who get angry and cynical when they learn that a Mercedes-Benz model has appreciated drastically in value would have laughed if I had told them that the $100k unicorn market was real — and one day it would show its horn. The only part of this that bothers me involves a simple rule: Unstable markets are built on drastic changes. Prior to these sales, $50k was a strong price for any R107, including a time-warp car. These drastic changes could be reversed at any minute, so I advise owners of time-warp examples to stay in touch with reality and keep your expectations in check. Just as quickly as the unicorn appears, so can it vanish.

This car fit the profile of all the other sales in that it was clean, free of defects and was ready to drive and enjoy. I did pull the data card from Mercedes-Benz. I would have a hard time faulting this car, especially because it has a black interior instead of the typical blue one. If someone was to consider selling a 500SL in similar condition, I would say that the European community (especially the French or the British) would give you this kind of money for it.

All 107s are great and usable

The typical problem with great cars is that they are often out of reach and totally unaffordable, but this should not be an issue with the 107. It will always be easy to purchase a reliable and fun 380 or 450SL and keep it for decades. Use it often and service it regularly.

While you should not buy with an eye towards long-term value growth, I think it is safe to say you won’t lose money buying the right example. There are also some hidden gems in the 107 market, particularly the 280SL with a 5-speed, or the early 350SL. These cars have slipped under the radar and should give you all the pleasure of the $100k 500SL. Don’t overlook the SLC either, as it is a rock-solid grand tourer. The good news is that even a full sorting will come out under the $50,000 mark on any nice example.

If this sale teaches us anything, it is that we should stop waiting to buy the cars of our fantasies and purchase now. While you are waiting, I will be banging gears on my best mate’s Euro 280SL 5-speed. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)

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