The New Mercedes-Benz Classic Center

Mercedes-Benz Classic center, long beach,restoration, mike kunz,

MBCC Expands!
Fabulous New Facility

I’m overdue reporting Mercedes-Benz Classic Center’s move to the 1.1m square foot facility in Long Beach formerly occupied by McDonnel Douglas/Boeing. The grand opening was in October 2022 and featured guided tours of the facility by director Mike Kunz and assistant Nate Lander, and a large car show in the parking area outside the building held the following day. This I couldn’t miss and it coincided with buying back my favorite 6.9 that had been with a Hollywood writer living in Studio City for 6 years or so.

I booked a flight to Burbank, Ubered to Studio City, jumped into the gorgeous full European model 1976 6.9 (black with moss green velour!) and motored down to Long Beach. The new building towered over the enormous parking area and I couldn’t wait to see what lied within. Touring the the facility was fascinating and after looking at the projects in the general maintenance area we were taken to the restoration areas to observe various projects that were underway. Cavernous and spotless are two words that aptly describe the experience!

It was an opportunity to meet clients and old friends while wandering a sea of unique Mercedes-Benz’.

 

mercedes classic center, 300SL gullwing , hk-engineering,

The new Classic Center has room to spare now. This is the general maintenance area and we see a diverse group of cars being attended to. In the foreground is a much used Gullwing with a luxurious modern interior.

One Roof – 5,000 Cars

The Classic Center outgrew its Irvine, CA facility essentially months after it opened and it was no secret that a new location was being sought for many years. However, the move to the fabled 3860 N Lakewood Blvd address achieved a number of goals beyond giving the Classic Center some breathing room. With the ability to store over 5,000(!) vehicles inside, all Western US regional offices carrying out new vehicle preparation have been consolidated into one facility.

For many decades this was handled regionally and owners of MBs from the ’80s and ’90s might remember the small square blue decal in the lower left corner of their new Mercedes’ windshield with the letters VPC: Vehicle Preparation Center. The one in my area was in South San Francisco.

Every new Mercedes-Benz unloaded at the Port of Long Beach now goes directly to N. Lakewood Ave, approximately 14 miles from the port. All final detailing, touch ups and any accessory installs are carried out at the new facility. Long Beach is one of approximately 5 such facilities in the US.

 

MB Classic’s Nate Lander explains the workings of the trim shop.

Walking Among Projects

We were escorted to upholstery and trim area where Nate Lander explained the painstaking process the Classic Center follows to insure accuracy of materials and construction. A highly original 1938 230 cabriolet B was being attended to. The hum of a Consew sewing machine told those assembled that old world techniques were being followed. Then it was off to the sheet metal fabrication area where an obviously distressed 300SL Gullwing was being essentially rebodied, such was the rust/damage that the car suffered.

 

300SL gullwing restoration. mercedes classic center, nate lander

The fabrication area housed a Rudge wheeled Gullwing quite likely being brought back from the dead. Note the extensive sheet metal replacement in progress. I would have loved to see this car in as arrived condition.

Mercedes History on Display

The car show the next day was staged in the massive parking lot in front of the Classic Center and featured a wonderfully diverse group of cars ranging from Randy Carlson’s gloriously weathered 1940 320 Sport Cabriolet with unusual coachwork by Rometsch to Arbor Kamberi’s gorgeous green SLS with clever green carbon fiber elements. It was an opportunity to meet clients and old friends while wandering a sea of unique Mercedes-Benz’.

 

mercedes classic center, classic mercedes

This is just a small sampling of the hundreds of classic MBs on display in front of the enormous Classic Center building. It was a fabulous day for all.

On to the Petersen Museum

After savoring the cars on display in front of the Classic Center, I decided I would drive to the Petersen Automotive Museum in downtown Los Angeles to view the Andy Warhol’s CARS art exhibit¬† before heading back to the SF Bay area. This was an extraordinary exhibit that not only featured a number of the 35 prints 35 prints commissioned by Mercedes in 1987, but also most of the cars featured in the prints.

Viewing the brilliant prints while walking amongst a 1969 C111, 1954 W196 streamliner, W125 Grand Prix car, 1886 Patent Motorwagen and a Gullwing was an especially rich mixed media experience. What a way to end a memorable road trip.

 

warhol's CARS, andy warhol,

The Warhol CARs exhibit at the Petersen Museum offered a potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to see not only a group of the more meaningful prints Warhol made before dying in 1987, but also most the cars he depicted in the pieces. This was automotive mixed media art at its very best.

text/photography mercedesheritage.com

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Have a look at the 60 image photo essay below of new Classic Center and the massive car show held Saturday.

 

  • Prewar woodie and unique 300SL Gullwing greeted visitors the new facility.
  • Gorgeous foyer filled with SLs a Penske Indy car.
  • Yes, the Classic Center will be bringing many unique MBs back to life.
  • A factory two-tone roadster sparkles under the lights.
  • The secret to lighting the cars were circular lamps arrayed around the showroom.
  • A unique white gullwing specially ordered with non-white dash face.
  • All the details of the bespoke white gulling. An amazing array of unique features.
  • Silver/Red 190SL dazzles in the corner.
  • Quite an array of car, most of which were customer cars.
  • Not everyone is aware that the gullwing shape is patented. GW space frame could be carried by one technician.
  • This display revealed essentially every related original, in period, document associated with a 300SL.
  • More original 300SL documents and literature.
  • Extreme low mileage 300D greeted us.
  • Classic Center director, Mike Kunz, tells us what we'll see on the tour.
  • Nate Lander explains what's going on in the trim an upholstery shop next to a 1938 230 Cabriolet.
  • Old school discipline on display.
  • Modern belt driven Consew.
  • Main service area offers plenty of space for the technicians.
  • Cavernous to say the least.
  • A few pagodas and a 158 white/grey 300SL receive attention on gleaming floors.
  • Looks like a recreation of the rally winning 300SEs being created. Seems to be on fintail Universal tall wheels.
  • Gorgeous 300SL roadster coming along.
  • DB190 grey gullwing fitted with chrome Rudge wheels sans engine.
  • Heavily modified gullwing is a well use tour/event warrior.
  • Comfy interior of the tour/event gullwing.
  • 180 Silver 280SL looks to be fully restored and nearing completion.
  • The earliest 190SL on the planet being restored.
  • Fabrication area with a ravaged gullwing being brought back to life. Nate Lander explains the process.
  • Stepping out into the storage area of the complex revealed some other projects. 5,000 cars can be stored inside the building.
  • Perfectly restored M189 engine looks like. Note the air compressor for the suspension on the nose of the engine.
  • Saturday's massive car show was under brilliant sun.
  • First gen CLK Black Series fronts some modern MBs.
  • You can see size of the facility in this shot.
  • Two heavyweight 126 AMG models.
  • The wide body SLC was reminiscent of the Mampe raced in 1978.
  • Quite a stance.
  • L-R Ryan Hemphill, Blakley Leonard and Arber Kamberi.
  • The MB Market founders Ryan Hemphill (L) and Blakley Leonard.
  • 126 lineup.
  • Horizon blue and rare signal red 108 sedans.
  • A well raced 190SL next to a fully restored example.
  • 114 coupe lends itself well to being slammed. Beautifully done car.
  • Cleverly done 114 coupe interior including Recaro seats!
  • Tastefully modified E wagon has E500 front fenders and valance.
  • Ultra rare red 280SE 4.5.
  • Arber Kamberi's SLS was a hit in non-standard green with green carbon fiber elements.
  • Bespoke interior in the Kamberi SLS.
  • How about the green carbon fiber under the hood.
  • My 1976 European model 6.9 in black/green velour.
  • A six door 600 Pullman is an exceedingly rare sight.
  • 1940 320 Sport Cabriolet was a stunning yard find by Randy Carlson.
  • 320 Sport Cabriolet owner left the cosmetics alone but sorted the mechanicals.
  • Patina galore!
  • Double row of louvers would make any SoCal hot rodder smile.
  • Fabulous car.
  • 500SEC wide body.
  • 220S in ivory with red leather.
  • Handsome 560SL(?) in 904 midnight blue with short bumpers, monoblock alloys and lowered suspension
  • Tatty 450SE(?) next to my Euro 6.9.
  • Former MBCA president Terry Kiwala showed his immaculate 300D.
  • Single owner Moss green/beige 280SL has been in the family for 51 years!
  • 220SE lends itself nicely airbags and whitewalls.
  • Gorgeous manila beige 300TD.
  • Pausing in the 6.9 before heading to the Petersen Museum for the Warhol exhibit.

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