Typically, when an automaker buys back one of its old cars that was left sitting around at a dealership for years, it’s a bad thing. But not always.
Mercedes-Benz has reacquired a 1954 300 SL gullwing coupe with 35,408 miles on the odometer that had been collecting dust and mold in the back of a Jacksonville, Fla., dealership since at least 1960, before it was moved to a nearby storage facility about a decade ago.
The car was brought to the company’s attention by the chairman of the annual Amelia Island Concours classic car event, Bill Warner, who grew up in the area and knew about it since he was a kid. The Mercedes-Benz Classic Center has been trying to purchase it for years, and recently made an offer acceptable to the owner, although it hasn’t revealed what that was.
Priced at $11,000 when new, only 1,400 cars were produced from 1954 through 1963 and a perfectly restored 300 SL is worth on the order of $1.5 million today.
As the 43rd of them built, the car was originally medium blue metallic, but was sanded and primed during an aborted attempt to revive it long ago. What remains of it is all original, and Michael F. Kunz, the manager of the center’s U.S. arm, told Fox News Autos that his outfit has been able to learn things about the early construction methods used and apply them as they work on other examples.
In fact, that’s what it did with the number 44 car, the restoration of which was recently completed for a private owner just in time for its debut at the this weekend's Amelia Island Concours, where it is parked on the lawn alongside number 43.
After the show, 43 will head to Germany to be displayed at the Techno Classica vintage car show and then return home to Stuttgart, 65 years after it left town. Kunz said they haven’t decided if they’ll fix it up or preserve it, but he estimates that a full restoration would take about two years.