Bonhams auctions exclusive Mercedes-Benz classic cars.
True love never rusts. A pilot project.
With gentle circular movements, the moss-green polishing cloth glides smoothly and carefully over the sand beige bonnet of the 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet. The dark red interior contrasts harmoniously with the unpretentious but classic exterior design. In the rear-view mirror is the image of an older classic car enthusiast who is appropriately enough wearing a cap in bordeaux red to go with his restrained beige suit. He stands at a respectful distance from the car, and does not take his eyes off it for a second. “I have one just like it at home. I would just love to know how much this one will fetch today.” Just a few hours later the car is sold with a winning bid of no less than € 195,500.
Originality and authenticity.
A first for the Mercedes-Benz Museum: For the first time, together with the well-known British auction house Bonhams, Mercedes-Benz has auctioned 48 classic cars in private ownership. In addition to a number of lots bearing the Mercedes and Benz brands from the time before the 1926 merger, the AMG-Mercedes C-Class DTM car from the Mercedes-Benz Classic collection with which Mika Häkkinen won the DTM race in Spa-Francorchamps in 2005 was auctioned.
Originality and authenticity – two attributes that are not only reflected in the highly polished surfaces of the vehicles on offer. For Michael Bock, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic, this cooperation with the British auction house is highly appropriate for several reasons:
'The two partners share a common idea: we stand for unique and authentic objects. The aspect of originality plays a major part in this.' What could be more authentic than to purchase a historic Mercedes-Benz vehicle right where the history of the company began?
Reliving automobile history with all the senses.
Before the auction begins, visitors are given the opportunity to view and examine the exclusive models on offer. In the atrium the 500 K/540 K Special Roadster and the 540k Cabriolet reflect the flashes from the cameras, and other models already welcome visitors outside the gates of the Museum. The vast majority of the vehicles to be auctioned are however housed in a pavilion specially erected for the event. This is where specialist knowledge meets curiosity, and anecdotes come together with technical facts. The history of the Mercedes-Benz 230 Cabriolet is related particularly often: during the Second World War the car was ordered by a German officer stationed in Norway, but never delivered because the dealer wanted to keep it for himself. He hid the car, and had it registered in his own name when the war ended.
The focus on the historic models is briefly interrupted only once, when all eyes are drawn to the entrance. None less than Formula 1 legend David Coulthard has entered the pavilion. He is just as keen as everybody else to give the exclusive models a personal inspection before the auction.
He is particularly attracted to a black 190 SL Roadster dating from 1959, which highly impresses him with its good condition and new interior.
British entertainment meets swabian precision workmanship.
On auction day the Mercedes-Benz Museum is treated to another one-off in the form of Malcolm Barber, Vice-President of Bonhams. This auctioneer with a high entertainment value is an absolute expert at conducting the auction in a charming but business-like manner. The auction is transmitted live on the internet, and bidders from all over the world use the telephone and internet to place their bids with the distinguished Bonhams staff. Again and again Barber directly addresses the foreign bidders, who are able to follow the proceedings on a camera at the end of the room. With great talent and skill, Barber manages to navigate the public through the fast-moving bidding phases.
The bids follow each other particularly rapidly when lot number 10 is driven into the room. The Benz Ideal 7 HP Vis-à-Vis with a two-cylinder‚ horizontally opposed engine dating from 1901 attracts a flurry of bids, and in the end it is sold at well over the estimated price for € 471,500 all-in.
Bidding for a good purpose.
Although this is the first auction to be held by the Mercedes-Benz Museum, record prices are achieved. The 1976 Mercedes-Benz Unimog 406 4×4 Utility with crewcab finds a new owner in southern France for an unexpected € 82,800 – a result that draws admiring applause from the spectators. The Mercedes-Benz 500 K/540 K Special Roadster, the proceeds from which are being donated to the Swedish cancer and Alzheimers research organisation, goes to an unknown buyer for an amazing € 3,105,000. This high figure is in no small measure due to the active encouragement by Barber, who even allows the bidders to continue bidding in smaller increments as a further motivation.
The great exception.
A rapid bidding contest also broke loose for the DTM C-Class of Mika Häkkinen. A bidding duel between two interested parties in the room and one on the internet very soon raised the bidding to € 460,000.
The contest ended with a American DTM collector as the winner, who was also rewarded with admiring looks from all the spectators.
The first but not the last time.
The auctioneer’s gavel fell for the last time at 6:00 p.m. Not all the models reached their price estimate. The replica of the legendary “Red Sow”, which became class winner in the 24-hour race in Spa-Francorchamps in 1971, remained unsold despite a bid of € 140,000. The same fate befell the 560 SL, a gift from Sean Penn to Madonna dating from 1987, in which she was photographed with Michael Jackson and others.
Nonetheless a very successful day has come to a close. Michael Bock is more than satisfied with the results of this first auction together with the British auction house Bonhams: “Visitor numbers exceeded our expectations, and there was a great atmosphere in the room!”
It was the 1970 280 SE Coupé that found most favour with Bock on the day, but even though he did not join the bidding himself, his conclusions are completely positive. Which means that in 2015 the auctioneer's gavel will once again be heard in the precincts of the Mercedes-Benz Museum, together with: 'Hold on … Last chance … It´s your car, sir!'.