I get wound up at times by Volkswagen of America’s product decisions. The cool cars that helped establish the company in this market are somehow now back burner issues for the company. VW had a perfectly good van in the Transporter (known as the Eurovan on these shores), yet decided to sully their brand by rebadging a Dodge Caravan into a People’s Minivan. Bad move. After a few short years, the Routan was pulled from the lineup and we have yet to see a return of a van with the VW badge here in the US.
If Volkswagen is worried the current generation Transporter wouldn’t work in the US market, maybe they should take a look back at their history and see how much brand equity is tied up in this workhorse. Fewer vehicles these days seem as versatile. A vintage Type 2 Microbus such as this restored example for sale in San Diego is on offer for mega bucks, but this seems to be the new norm for these vans.
One of the most revolutionary cars of the 20th century, and still to this day, was the Mercedes-Benz 300SL, also known as the Gullwing due to it’s top hinging doors. This was a car that might not have been had it not been for Max Hoffman, automobile importer, who suggested to Mercedes-Benz brass that a road version of their competition W194 300SL be made. In 1954, the revised W198 300SL went on sale. This 300SL for sale in San Francisco is a very early production model with the distinctive gear lever and Rudge wheels with the knock-off center lugs.
This extraordinary Gullwing, two owner car, is beyond doubt one the finest example in the world. Owned by a renowned collector [Pebble Beach Concourse d’ Elegance best of show winner] and restored to 100 point condition by the expert Rudi von Koniczek, of Victoria B.C.Everything is operationally and cosmetically perfect, with all body, chassis and engine matching original numbers. The car has new custom matching luggage to the original design, original handbook, parts book, tools, original metal box containing spare fuses and light bulbs, and most importantly, the rare polished Rudge-Whitworth “knock-off” racing type wheels with the accompanying larger brake drums. The car, #38, is fitted with the original “goose neck” gear shift and not the later central mounted shift, an awkward arrangement, made to accommodate 1950s vacuum tube radios fitted after car #50—now utterly useless. This car is ready to win at any show, or to be a delightful driver’s car in rally events anywhere in the world.
It’s no secret that the Mercedes-Benz 300SL is one of the priciest classics out there. For years these cars have commanded great respect (and prices) in the marketplace. Non-alumnium bodied 300SLs can glance seven figures; on average a good example will bring somewhere between $650,000 and $900,000 depending on provenance and equipment. Given the very early production number, it’s not surprising that the seller expects this car will bring more, especially given the unique features and desirable color combination. However, for a non-aluminum Gullwing, the asking price seems out of step with what recent auction results have shown.