Automakers spend millions of dollars on commercials that proclaim the joys of driving their newest vehicles. But one of them has gone out of its way to draw attention to a pair of cars it introduced 60 years ago, cars it now proclaims as the “value retention” champions.
The cars are the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL and 190 SL, which were introduced to the public — the 190 in prototype form — in February 1954 at the International Motor Sports Show in New York City. A few years later, a 300 SL roadster replaced the gullwing coupe.
“Experts and the public were equally enthralled,” Mercedes proclaims in its news release, adding that, “Today, the fascination with the first two production vehicles in the exquisite SL sports car linage is more alive than ever. No wonder then that both SL models are especially valuable classics.”
How valuable? The cars, Mercedes continues, “count among the most valuable historic vehicles in the world. This is underlined by the presence of all three at the top of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Index (MBCI) published by Historic Automobile Group International (HAGI). Originality and authenticity are particularly important here.”
The Historic Automobile Group International (www.historicautogroup.com) is a London-based investment research house that focuses on classic cars as investments. Its monthly index is published on the Financial Times website.
According to HAGI, Mercedes notes in its news release 60 years after the release of the original SLs, “the average increase in value of the 190 SL is around 10 per cent per year since 1980; however in the last 10 years it was even higher at over 11 per cent. For the 300 SL Coupé, the average since 1980 is 11 per cent, but for the last 10 years the figure is almost 18 per cent, which corresponds to a quadrupling of the value since 2004.
“In the case of the 300 SL Roadster, the rise in value since 1980 is almost 13 per cent.
“For the 29 Gullwings that were built with aluminium bodywork, cars which are seen extremely rarely in the market, an average increase in value of more than 16 per cent can be demonstrated.
“A vehicle’s performance is predicated on it being maintained in first-rate condition or having been superbly restored, both of which are associated with substantial costs,” the automaker adds, and then continues:
“The main difference between the 190 SL and its larger cousins is its absolute price, which is not yet much different to that of a complete restoration. A perfect example is valued by the MBCI at just under the 200,000 euro ($271,694) mark.
“It’s a different story with the 300 SL: cars that are complete, but in poor overall condition, still trade for sums as high as 500,000 euros ($679,237). With one of the rare aluminium-bodied coupés, the price is always in the order of several million euros, regardless of condition.
“In the MBCI, the 190 SL ranks directly behind classics such as the 300 SL Coupé and Roadster, the S-Series of the 1920s and the legendary 500 K and 540 K. It is also worth noting that prices for the 230/250/280 SL “Pagoda” model series W 113 are increasing massively.”
The news release goes on to note that classic cars annually generate 14 billion euros ($19 billion) a year in business just in Germany.
It also reminds us that Mercedes built 1,400 300 SLs gullwings between 1954 and 1957, 1,858 roadsters from 1957-63. It also built 25,881 190 SLs from 1955-63, and 16,500 of them had removable hardtops.