Let’s start with the top grossing auction house of Scottsdale 2020, Gooding & Company. David Gooding’s eponymous auction company managed to relieve his Scottsdale bidder pool of $36m over two nights and 170 lots. This represents a 25% reduction in sales volume compared to their 2019 Scottsdale auction total of $48m generated over 160 lots.
These numbers are revealing and broadly speaking, the fact that 10 more lots resulted in $12m less in sales means one thing; classic automobiles are selling today for less than 12 months ago. For those of us in the classic automobile business, this is not news and represents the definable trend that began in late 2015.
If fact there is good news within this sales decline. The stalemate that typically occurs in a flat to down market between sellers unwilling to recognize lower values and buyers who will not enter the market at last year’s prices seems to be easing. Gooding’s excellent sales rate of 91% indicates sellers are acquiescing to current market prices which I feel is a sign of a healthy market.
The casualties of this market are sellers who are now accepting losses on cars acquired further up the 5 year value trend line. These sellers will undoubtedly have a different opinion of today’s market. Let’s have a look at the results. All prices noted include the buyer’s premium.
Gooding & Company Mercedes-Benz Results
Lot 6: 1978 Mercedes-Benz 280SE ID# 116.024.10.120426 – Mimosa Yellow (DB 618) and Avocado MB Tex/plaid, 52k KM (32k miles). I’m a fan of mint condition pedestrian Mercedes sedans with extreme low mileage. And the more outrageous colors the better. This eye-popping M110 twin cam six cylinder short wheelbase 116 class sedan certainly fits the bill. The $60k – $80k estimate must have shocked most observers but the car sold for just $1,600 below its $80k high estimate. Think about that: $78,400 buys a spectacular 1992 500E or a superb 280SL. Or, the best 6.9 on the planet. Yes, this 280SE is a unicorn and very likely impossible to duplicate but it is indicative of the growing interest in historically neglected younger classic MBs. Amazing and well deserved. Oh, and it was fitted with a 4-spd manual gearbox. Fantastic price for a fantastic young classic.
Lot 015: 1958 Mercedes 300SL Roadster, Fire Engine Red/Black, ID# 198.042.7500669 – Fitted luggage, Hardtop, Tools, Luggage, Records. Restored by W198 experts Hjeltness Restorations in ‘the 1990s’. Sold for $940k, just above its low estimate and $260k below the high estimate. Well documented history and sadly color/trim changed from DB 190 Graphite Grey/Light Grey leather to the all too predicable Red/Black, probably during the Hjeltness restoration. Not sure if the fact that all proceeds were headed to the seller’s favorite charity influenced the sale. The Hjeltness restoration unequivocally establishes this SL’s quality, despite the fact it was performed decades ago.
Lot 012: 1958 Mercedes 220S Cabriolet, ID# 180030-8507858, Never restored, largely original interior, Recommissioned by Paul Russell and Company in 2017. The notion of ‘never restored’ is nonsense and should have been noted as ‘seat trim never restored.’ Not much of a description in the catalog beyond noting 2,178 were constructed and its Ohio origins. The car was repainted, interior leather cleaned and conditioned and carpets replaced in ‘1990s’. This 220 seems to be either sitting on collapsed front springs or was lowered in some fashion. Despite being somewhat of a mystery car, it sold for its high estimate of $140k. The ponton’s day has passed along with their traditional buyer pool. This was enormous money for a non-injected cabrio. I have to admit that these cars are very comfortable tour/event cars, if short on brakes and power.
Lot 39: 1971 Mercedes 280SE 3.5 Cabriolet, ID# 111027-12-003173, 050 White/Black, Console Automatic, US model, Books and Tools. Sold new as a tourist deliver to Newport Beach, CA and has remained in CA since. Serviced by the same mechanic for almost 50 years and carefully ‘nut and bolt’ restored by that mechanic who acquired the car in 2003. Data card on hand. This 3.5 presents itself beautifully and reflects the fact that it had come fully apart for the restoration. Spotless engine bay and crisp and clean throughout. Sold for $313k, just above the low estimate of $300k. The high estimate of $375k was probably correct for 2016 but wishful thinking today.
Lot 104: 2009 Maybach 62, ID# WDBVG78J19A002496, Caspian Black Maui Pearl Nappa, $463k new, 15k miles, 1 of 66 US models imported in 2009, Factory divider wall/intercom Package.The car that the Rolls Royce Phantom effectively killed, Maybachs are MB’s fairly expensive ultra-luxury orphans. It’s quite rare to to see one in the flesh on the road, so rarity would be a potential buying motive here. Not sure about parts support, however, although the drivetrain should be well supported. Sold for $140k against an estimate of $160k – $180K.
Lot 115: 1961 Mercedes 300SL Roadster, ID# 198.042.10.002707, European model, Fitted Luggage, European Headlamps. Formerly owned by John O’Quinn, famed litigator against big Tobacco who lost his life in October 2009 after loosing control of his Suburban. Originally Arabian Grey/Natural leather. Incorrect engine and color changed to black before a cosmetic restoration and dark red paint circa 2000. Minimal use during during both O’Quinn’s and the latest owner’s custodianship. Sold for $775k against a $700k – $900k estimate. Non-matching number engine knocks at least $100k off the value. Hopefully it will return to the road.
Lot 140: 1955 Mercedes 300SL Gulwing, Chassis # 5500553, Single ownership from 1962 to 2019, long time daily driver, 89k miles. Color changed from DB 158 white grey to dark metallic silver. Re-trim many years ago. Dash board still in original 158 white grey. NOS bumpers many years ago. A classic ‘in betweener’ Gullwing: almost too nice to restore but a really too tatty to be proud of at an event. Original paint dash board jarring against the grey exterior. Not sold against an asking price of $1,050,000. My detectives tell me the bidding stopped around $800k and that the seller had invested circa $1m and was not ready for the $200k haircut.
Lot 153: 1970 Mercedes 280SE 3.5 Coupe, ID# 111026.12.000148,172 Anthracite/Black leather, Console Automatic. Stored 20 years prior being restored in 2014. European model equipped as most US models and a very early car (148th constructed). Appears to be a factory two-tone but data plate was not shown. Appears very crisp with spotless engine bay. Let down by lack of a rear axle compensator and attendant tail up attitude from 5th spring installation. Sold for $84k against an optimistic estimate of $120k – $150k. Seems like a good value although Euro cars will always be worth less than a comparable US model.
Lot 168: 1987 Mercedes 560SEC, ID# WDBCA45D1HA344180, (probable) DB 199 Pearl Black/Grey, 23k miles, Single owner. New York car. Nicely presented with handbooks, service receipts and data card. Sold for $36,960 against an optimistic estimate of $45k – $65k. I feel this was an excellent retail price for an ’87 model. I (under) sold my museum quality 1991 in Arctic White w/23k miles for about the same money 4 months ago. And sold a fabulous 1990 w/34k miles last week for $34k. That Gooding would even feature a 560SEC is testimony to this 126 model’s growing popularity. Fabulous cars.
Lot 029: 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5 -16 Evolution ll. ID# WDB2010361F738417, Homologation Special, AMG Power Pack, # 256 or 500 Evo lls constructed for the public, 7,600 KM, AC, Leather, sunroof, heated seats, books, tools, data card. The ultimate 190E and presented in impeccable original condition. Sold for $434k against a $340k – $380k estimate. Another example of the growing interest younger classic AMG MBs. Yes, it’s one of only 500, but the interest and price realized are well deserved. Rare AMG models are getting hotter and hotter…
roy spencer/editor mercedesheritage.com
photography/gooding & company