NOTHING CAN STOP US NOW
Classic SL owners in 2023 continue to enjoy the best of both worlds, with machines that are not only tremendously rewarding to drive, but also offer some of the safest four-wheel investments out there.
So far, 2023 has seen classic car sales and use go from strength-to-strength. Despite a strong economic headwind, we’re delighted to report that, here at SLSHOP, we’ve been witness to a market that’s remained as buoyant as ever – with ever greater numbers of owners choosing to enjoy their investments out on the open road.
The classic car industry seems to have remained as resilient as ever; enthusiasts prioritising and cherishing their classics over almost all else. With the legacy of lockdown fading (thankfully), though nevertheless still fresh, many choose to attend more shows or just drive their cars more frequently – falling back in love with them in the process – something we unequivocally approve of.
To give us a front-seat perspective on the current state of SL affairs, we took a coffee break with SLSHOP boss, Sam Bailey. He’s quietly optimistic about the year ahead, but before we get to any predictions, let’s highlight a few of the challenges facing internal combustion and classic car ownership in general. Don’t worry, there’s been some good news lately…
Despite what you might have heard from certain corners of the industry, the internal combustion engine (ICE) is very far from dead. Rows regarding the long-term supply of fuel have largely been quashed by enormous and sustained investment in carbon capture. Firms including Porsche and BMW are spending hundreds of millions of pounds to investigate the technology, which literally makes fuel from thin air.
In case you don’t know, fuel you can use in any internal combustion engine (without modification) can be produced by combining captured carbon (from the air) with renewable energy. It’s a technology that’s already seen limited use in motorsport – both current and classic – with the aviation industry now also paying serious attention. Better still, the EU has just offered German car makers an olive branch, agreeing to extend the sale of ICE-powered cars past its own 2035 cut-off; so long as said cars make exclusive use of carbon-neutral fuel.
Combining all these hints with the miniscule impact classic cars have on global emissions, it seems we can rest assured of a supply of guilt-free fuel for our indulgent yet fabulous hobby for decades to come. So, with our future on a sure footing, let’s get onto how the classic SL market has been performing so far this year…
“We’ve seen little change to the classic SL market so far in 2023. A few models have held their values, while others have continued to climb,” discloses Sam. Little to no change is, of course, great news in the face of tougher economic conditions. “We’ve seen no let-up in demand for desirable, core models.” What’s core and desirable, we hear you cry? “Cars in the right colours (outside and in) and sitting in that mileage sweet spot between barely used garage warmers and high-mileage SLs with poor history,” explains Sam.
Starting in chronological order, from oldest to newest, there’s been little value adjustment seen at the vintage end of the SL spectrum; with both 190 and 300SLs remaining as desirable as ever. The ‘Pagoda’ SL (W113), on the other hand, seems to be more popular than ever – no doubt aided by this important anniversary year. “We’ve had a flurry of people wanting Pagodas,” reveals Sam. “We’re currently selling one per week, which we’re putting down to the prominent exposure we’ve recently seen in the classic car media, as well as our own efforts surrounding the model’s 60th. Special cars from all generations with noteworthy histories are usually pre-sold, with a waiting list for the very best examples.”
Mercedes-Benz fans comes in all ages and sexes – something that’s often sadly lacking in other corners of the classic car hobby. Despite this already broad church, Sam’s noticed a further change in customers coming through SLSHOP’s doors; “We’ve noticed our customer demographic has continued to move with the times, with plenty of younger enthusiasts showing an interest in Pagoda and newer SLs.” Great news for the future of the hobby.
Naturally, younger buyers are looking to capture a motoring icon from their youth, which more and more frequently this year means looking for the right 1990s SL. “We’ve seen a real surge in interest for R129s.” Further helped by insurance provider Hagerty tipping the R129 for growth as part of its ‘Bull List’ at the tail end of 2022. “A bit of a drought in finding ideal examples has led to another waiting list,” admits Sam. “Exceptional examples of both very early and very late R129s are in particular demand.”
Sam puts the popularity of this technologically advanced SL down to its myriad talents, which stretch from a highly engaging drive, with great comfort, to its cutting edge (for the 1990s) built-in safety. “It’s the perfect SL with which to dip your toe into the classic car market.” The R129 is still seen as an old but aspirational model, with plenty of technology that allows an owner to evade some of the compromises inherent in the older classic era. “A power hood, windows, seats, airbags, automatic roll-over hoop etc. all adds up to an SL that was way ahead in 1989, yet feels familiar to a first-time classic owner in 2023.”
The perennial SLSHOP favourite, the R107 SL, might not have generated the same excitement so far in 2023 as either the older Pagoda or newer R129, but it has instead maintained its enviable position in the market, as Sam points out; “The R107 is doing well, with the best examples in the right colours with the right miles and history quickly finding new homes.” As noted already, holding or mildly improving in value during tricky times shows enormous resilience, with the return investors expect still keeping the R107 as a safe place to put your money.
“We’ve seen a good mix of buyers so far in 2023; investors collecting SLs with half an eye on values are seeing the returns they seek, while we also get plenty of enthusiasts who love to get out and enjoy their SLs.” The wonderful world of classic Mercedes-Benz caters for almost all tastes and budgets, from those after the perfect concours winner, to those looking for a bare shell – the latter proving surprisingly popular this year. “We’ve seen a bit of a resurgence in people looking for project cars. We’ve had a number of customers asking us to source or support them in rebuilds, which is interesting,” reiterates Sam.
As ever at SLSHOP, we’re constantly evolving as well as taking stock, and with some major developments afoot later in the year, we’ll soon be poised to breakdown the classic SL market into ever more minute detail. For now, however, it’s reassuring to know that the classic SL market remains as confidence inspiring as ever.
Record attendances and sold-out tickets – often months in advance of show dates – show that owners have taken the opportunity to get out and enjoy their classics this year. Events at Bicester and Goodwood show there’s a great social side to owning an SL and, together with our own events, we’re looking forward to seeing you and your SL out in the sunshine over the summer and beyond.
Enjoying your pride & joy is what we’re all about, but it’s also reassuring to know that classic SL ownership affords not only years of fun, but also far better returns than keeping that pot of cash in the bank.