Last year it was the 50th anniversary of the R107 SL and the reveal of the last generation of petrol-powered SL (R232); this year, we’ve had the unprecedented auction sale of Ulenhaut’s 300SLR for £115 million. Next year, we welcome the 60th anniversary of the W113 Mercedes Pagoda, meanwhile, the R129 SL is on the launch pad; with the stars looking brighter. As we look back on the year, one thing is clear… the SL insignia continues to be etched into enthusiasts’ hearts. It is this popularity that is fuelling demand for servicing and restoration, the hasty exchange of vehicles on the international market and the need for an uninterrupted supply of replacement components. Our three-pointed star is glowing.
This year’s closing market review offers you an insight into the classic Mercedes market, extinguishing any of the contextual concerns of fuel prices and interest rates. This market review is a reminder to enthusiasts that we have survived the 2008 crash, a pandemic and now, together, we will push through a predicted recession.
THE MARKET CORE: SL MODELS
HOFFMAN’S BABY, THE 190SL
Undisputedly beautiful, the 190SL offers all the finesse of its 300SL cousins, for a fraction of the price. Combine this with the scarcity of good calibre examples that retain their period-correct credentials, and you have a demand for the very best.
Pre-1957 examples remain the most sought after, but it is the cult classic style and exponential growth of fifties Mercedes’ values that is driving enthusiasts with the fiscal power to source and restore these vehicles. We conclude the year with five 190SLs in our Heritage Workshops, all receiving restoration work.
THE MERCEDES PAGODA:
The lure of the Mercedes Pagoda hasn’t faltered throughout the year, as collectors and aspiring owners look to invest ahead of next year’s 60th anniversary. This year, we’ve placed a whole host of Pagodas in new homes; all in varying specifications and at different price points. The appeal of ‘drivers’ versus restored cars is 50/50, with many enthusiasts seeking something they can enjoy without concern for the odometer.
The other 50% is an international elite who have the appetite for their very own North Star. The demand for factory correct restorations with matching numbers has fuelled 280SL prices into the late two hundreds, with our record sale being a rare 5-speed ZF manual (one of 35) achieving over £250,000.
As expected, this new baseline for the 280SL is pushing up prices of the 230SL and 250SL beyond six figures; further accelerated by the increasing costs of restoration and the scarcity of original high-quality examples.
Over the course of the year, we have tended to a higher volume of imported Pagodas, as enthusiasts seek out the Pagoda investment opportunities overseas. With the spring driving season around the corner, our Heritage Workshop’s availability is decreasing by the day. Book your Pagoda in now or invest before a new benchmark is reached.
THE 51-YEAR-OLD R107
As anticipated, the aftermath of the 50th anniversary of the R107 added a splash of gold to the SL’s canvas, with interest in the model energetic and broad in terms of model variants and colourways. Over the course of the year, we have found homes for more than 50 R107 models, with the majority being 300SLs due to their wider availability and economy. The knock-on effect of the 300SLR sale has also bolstered 300SL values, as it is this alpha-numeric badge that people remember and desire.
The aftermath has also raised the R107’s profile among international collectors who are seeking out restored or low-mileage original examples. Notable sales include Bruce’s former 500SL which now resides in the far east. Similarly, a Kienle GmbH restored 300SL which now resides in Hong Kong. Both sold for more than £100,000, representing a new era for the very best six- and eight-cylinder variants.
Originality played a key part with an Almandine Red 500SL with less than 5,000 miles, which now resides in New Zealand and sold for six figures. The same can be said for original post-1986 R107s of all engine varieties now all breaking the £50,000 mark.
With provenance having played a key part in many big auction sales this year – Ulenhaut’s 300SLR and Sterling Moss’ uprated 230SL – 2023 could be the SLC’s moment as Maradonna’s very own 450SLC goes to auction with Sotheby’s. The auction house is projecting a sale price of over £100,000 for the infamous footballer’s Signal Red SLC.
ABSOLUTE PERFECTION: THE R129 SL
For years we’ve tipped the R129 SL as a worthy investment, and this year endorsement came from Insurance specialist, Hagerty. We supplied a 1996 SL500 for Hagerty’s Bull Market list – a data-driven collection of cars that are tipped as ones to buy for their future upside potential.
The R129’s usability, sturdiness and balance of classic styling with modern convenience make it a fantastic option for both younger and older generations. The barriers to entry are low and with an abundance of six-cylinder and eight-cylinder variants to choose from, this a fantastic investment and enjoyment opportunity.
Buy now, improve now, or miss the boat.
In our Spring 2022, review we contested the claim that the age of ‘barn find’ restorations was over due to parts and labour shortages. We stand by our position. This year we commenced and concluded more restorations than ever before. These range from dilapidated Pagodas to R107 SL projects that have been butchered elsewhere. Our commitment to filling the skills gap and stocking every part for every SL will ensure a secure market for all.
THE NEXT 12 MONTHS
As a company on the frontline of classic car preservation, we can see that despite the negative context, the market is extremely buoyant. With interest rates expected to fall in the Spring and fuel prices already on the decline, those who have this year stepped cautiously will emerge to inject even more fiscal power into our industry.
Furthermore, as the pressure to go electric increases, expect an enlarged appetite for weekend nostalgia (in the form of classic motoring) to outstrip the supply of good vehicles and specialists able to provide support. Combine this with research that shows classic cars have minimal effect on the environment, and you have a resilient and prosperous industry insulated from government red tape. Furthermore, the increasing attraction of ‘Young Timers’, their return investment potential and the associated tax incentives, and you have a continuous cycle of vehicles that will create enjoyment and investment security.
Rolling into 2023, we might not see the financial gains of the past, but the likelihood of losing money on your investment is low. The reward extends beyond financial return to that of life experience and enjoyment. A life rich in memories is a life well lived.
As the world’s leading SL specialist, we will continue to focus on outstanding quality, finding you the right car and offering you the right support and services; whether that be inspiring you to get out and drive more or simply changing your oil and filter each year.
Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year from all of the team at SLSHOP