All posts in Famous Owner

Elvis Presley’s 1969 Mercedes-Benz 600

(lights lift slowly over a sole figure on stage, the band strikes up the first notes to the familiar tune Jailhouse Rock. The singer breaks into verse…)

“Seller threw an auction up on eBay’s site
He was hopin’ that the listing got his price just right
He thought that the famous owner would take bidding far
‘Cause that giant Mercedes-Benz was Elvis’ car

Let’s bid, everybody let’s bid
Anyone who remembers who Elvis was
Will want to get in his old cars…”

I was going to make a concerted effort to write this entire post without referencing either a Twinkie or the signature catch phrase “Thank you, thank you very much”, but I’ve just failed. Look, I’m not here to give you a history lesson on Elvis or his importance. I’m not here to recount the leather jump-suited Vegas years, whether I like fat old Elvis or young vibrant Elvis, or even debate if he stole music from African Americans. I’m not going to give you a history lesson on the Mercedes-Benz 600, either. But let’s consider a few things about this car. The 600 was expensive. Really, really expensive. Arguably, in the late 1960s it was the nicest car that money could buy, and since it took a lot of money to buy, some really famous people owned them. Only about 2,600 were made, mostly in short wheel base variants like the one that Elvis bought. We learn he put $5,500 down and yet still had 36 monthly payments of $344. That equates to $17,844 in 1969; a figure which doesn’t seem particularly outrageous today and even inflation corrected it’s “only” about $116,000. But it was far more expensive than your average car, and it took near royalty to get into the 600. You needed to be someone like Elizabeth Taylor, John Lennon, or…well, Elvis to buy one. And if you weren’t an A-list celebrity , you were probably a dictator; Chairman Mao, for example, was a famous owner, along with Tito, Ceausescu, Pol Pot, Papa Doc, Hirihito, de Klerk, Marcos, Kim Jong-il, and Saddam Hussein. Basically, you go through history, and everyone the West considers a “baddy” owned a Mercedes-Benz 600. But, universally they’re still lauded as one of the most impressive automobiles ever made, and when you couple a celebrity owner (which, proportionally, is perhaps more likely than any other single model car in history other than some really low-volume models of Ferraris and Duesenbergs) you’ve got a recipe for a high asking price:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1969 Mercedes-Benz 600 on eBay

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James May’s 1984 Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe

Fans of the BBC motoring show Top Gear are familiar with the travails the show has gone through over the years and I assume are aware of its current status due principally to Jeremy Clarkson’s constant ability to cause problems. Always found in the midst of Jeremy’s bellowing and Hammond’s whining stood James May, otherwise known as Captain Slow. As a constant source of jabs from his two ridiculous co-presenters, May provided balance to the show, but behind the staid exterior was a genuine motoring enthusiast who has owned a number of interesting, and fast, cars and bikes over the years. Some of his machines have made appearances on Top Gear itself, while others have appeared in separate one-off shows he has been a part of during his Top Gear tenure. One of those, his Guards Red 1984 Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe with just under 55K kilometers on it, will be put up for auction at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed on Friday, June 26. Among cars with famous owners this Carrera is somewhat unique in that it is currently owned by James rather than being a car that is an owner or two removed from its famous owner’s stewardship. For fans of the show, that makes this low-mileage Carrera just that extra bit more special.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe on Classic Driver

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1989 Porsche 930 Cabriolet – Originally Owned by Wayne Gretzky

Attention Canadians and/or hockey fans! Here we have a fairly special car: a Linen Grey Porsche 930 Cabriolet, located in Kansas, said to have been originally purchased by the great Wayne Gretzky. Other than a picture of the signed sun visor, which is a pretty cool touch on such a car, the seller hasn’t provided evidence of the necessary documentation to support Gretzky’s ownership, but that documentation is said to be available to those making serious inquiries. The Gretzky ownership aside there is much to like about this Porsche anyway. It is a relatively low mileage example (currently 43,915 miles) from the only year the 930 came equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission and those points alone should garner plenty of attention. And while a former hockey great isn’t the sort of famous owner that might make many people take notice within the car world it’s still a excellent conversation piece added to what should already be a dynamite performer.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Porsche 930 Cabriolet on eBay

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Motorsports Monday: Ex-Joest 1978 Porsche 935

Even though they don’t generally get the big headlines, arguably the Porsche 934 and 935 were the most important car in developing the racing history and reputation of Porsche. While the 356 and early 911s were certainly notable, it was in the mid-1970s with the introduction of turbocharged 911 in 935 form that Porsche developed a sizable following of independents who raced the all-conquering Turbos. In turn, it was these race successes that convinced enthusiasts that the Porsche 930 was THE car to have. The 935 was, in many ways, a development of the earlier 934. Wide flares coupled with wheels and brakes from the prototype category 917 and 936 gave a purposeful and classic look. While the roofline and doors remained effectively the same as the production cars, few other details matched what you could buy at the dealer. One of the biggest developments was the aerodynamic “Slantnose” developed with help from Kremer; it would become the signature look for not only the 935s but also the most expensive versions of the 930 in the 1980s. The 935 also helped breach the gap in between the 917 program and the start of the 956/962; while the 936s were the direct transference between the two, it would be the 935 that would carry the Porsche flag around the world. Amongst the notable wins for the 935 were around 150 international victories including all-out victory at Le Mans in 1979 and multiple wins at both Sebring and Daytona. All of the top-tier racers of the day drove them, and top teams that still race today cut their teeth on the 935, such as todays example run by Reinhold Joest:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1978 Porsche 935 Kremer K1 on racecarsdirect

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Motorsports Monday: 1988 Porsche 944S Firehawk

If you were a sports car racing enthusiast in the 1980s, Group C might have been the top of the heap but there was some great action in the Firehawk support series. Here was a category of cars you could actually go buy, in very close to their original specification. Looking back, they are the cars we often write up today – BMW M3s, Volkswagen GTis and Corrados competing against everything from Camaros and Firebirds to Honda CRXs and even the occasional Peugot 505. The names that raced the cars were just as famous – and some are still active. Jack Baldwin, for example, ran Camaros back then and I believe it getting ready for another run at the Pirelli World Challenge with his Porsche Cayman S in 2015. Names like Scott Sharp, Randy Pobst, Dorsey Schroder, Andy Pilgrim and even Paul Newman weren’t uncommon sights in 1988. But there were other notable race names from the 1980s; BMW fans would recognize David Hobbs, Ray Korman and TC Klein, for example, and for Porsche fans Dave White combined forces with Bob Akin. Both had extensive race history with Porsche, and they took some Porsche 944s with the paint still wet to Sebring in 1988:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 Porsche 944S Firehawk on eBay

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