The 2019 model year marks the first year that the United States market will receive the new entry-level Mercedes-Benz W177 A-Class. It was a long time coming because there is nothing more American consumers want than luxury products on a low monthly payment. I checked out a new A220 last week at the auto show and I have to admit it was better than the C117 CLA-Class that was introduced to the American market in 2014. That CLA is a sad exercise of how cheap you can make a car and holds the record for the largest ratio of bezel to screen on a dash screen. Thankfully, a new CLA is in the works and should be miles better than the original. Nevertheless, those old cars will hang around on the buy-here, pay-lots until the end of time much like the original cheap Mercedes that started it all, the W168 A-Class.
Launched in 1997, it was Mercedes first dive into the subcompact market that was most infamously noted for failing the Swedish traditional “elk test” and looking like a giant wedge of cheese. The design wasn’t by random chance, Mercedes engineers designed the car this way so encase of a crash, the engine and transmission would slide underneath the floor below the pedals rather straight into the occupants in the front seats. The front wheel drive layout allowed this as well as there was no need to deal with a driveshaft preventing anything from sliding. Still, this car needed to compete in the subcompact market so it couldn’t be twice the price of competitors. That meant making the interior resemble a children’s play-place and passing it off as funky and modern. Those late ’90s were a crazy time after all. These sold reasonably well with 1.1 million units leaving dealer lots between 1997 and 2004 thanks to their small stature ideal for the city streets and tight parking of traditional European cities. Now, over 20 years later, a well-used A-Class can be had for the price of a modest vacation to Ocean City, Maryland and even the nicest examples, like this example for sale up for sale outside of London, don’t command a high asking price. Thing is, are they even worth it?
I love crazy interiors. Give me a crazy interior, even an ugly interior, over a sea of beige and tan any day. I’d rather look at some color than a vast display of nothingness and take the heat online as well as in real life. Today’s a car, a 1999 Porsche 911 up for bid in San Diego, has one of the craziest, and probably ugliest, interiors I’ve seen in some time. This first-year 996 has the standard Arctic Silver exterior but inside, Jade Green and faux Burl Wood as far as the eye can see. It’s garish, it’s gaudy, it doesn’t match anything and even worse, there is a strange-looking slot with a knob sticking straight up where the normally 6-speed manual transmission should be. Yes, that means this car is also an automatic. So this is a first-year automatic 996, with a 166,000 miles and an interior that even the Porsche factory was probably shaking their heads at. Is this possibly the least-desirable 911 … ever?
”Conceived in Germany, Born in America.â€ That was one of the tag lines used for the Mercedes-Benz W163 ML-Class when it was riding the new wave of luxury SUVs that roamed the earth back in the late 90s. Thanks to a $250 million subsidy package from the state of Alabama, the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International (MBUSI) production plant had the honor of producing the W163 starting in February of 1997 with sales beginning later that year in September. How were they received? Well, in addition to being nicknamed the ”Bama-Benz”, you also had less flattering names like ”The Alabama trash can.” Truth be told, the majority of the people who bought these new could care less about things like quality and reliability because they all looked and acted like the mother from the movie American Beauty. The fit and finish were just average and the interiors would make the designers of Mercedes-Benz interiors in the 60s and 70s sob tears into their Weihenstephaners. Nevertheless, Mercedes sold a boat load of these things because the grille star was big enough to be seen from your neighbor’s house across the street.
Today, the first-generation ML chugs along with battle scars and so much rust you think it was intentional, like when the few in the Volkswagen crowd started doing it for scene points. No one actually seeks out and wants to buy a W163 now, especially the early ones with the two-toned body cladding, given how cheap other used luxury SUVs have become over the years. Although today I ran across a survivor that seemed spared from all the upper-middle class abuse a luxury SUV can take and actually is quite endearing in a strange sort of way. This 1999 ML320 up for sale outside of Philadelphia has just 68,000 miles and isn’t a destroyed wasteland when you open the doors. Thing is, does anyone actually want to pay for this?
Update 11/29/18: Although it was listed as sold a few weeks ago, this E320 4Matic has been relisted with a Buy It Now of $2,950. Maybe another good chance to get a cheap winter beater if you have access to a steam cleaner!
Update 11/16/18: This E320 Estate sold for $1,757.
Winter is mere weeks away and I’m still on the hunt for a new-to-me winter vehicle to battle the snow and ice. My current winter beater, a 1997 Land Rover Discovery that I’ve had for the past 13 years, is on life support. Both front fender wells are rusting away at an alarming pace, the 4.0 liter V8 that has been around since the mid-1960s (!) is sounding awfully crunchy and I swear it gets around 11 mpg. I told myself I was going to buy something reliable to replace it, so I started hunting for a Toyota Land Cruiser/Lexus LX470/GX470 only soon to find out that you can’t buy one for $2,200 like you can Land Rovers. They aren’t all that plentiful on the used market thanks to people taking them to their graves. Well, the time is ticking and I might have to consider options. One of those options is a Mercedes-Benz W210 4Matic because I might as well stick to what I know. Even better, an E320 4Matic Estate would fit the bit quite nicely with the extra cargo space and no one would confuse it with my E55 if I bought one in silver. Well, wouldn’t you know this 1999 popped up for sale that would fit my needs quite well. The only problem is that it is 2,600 miles away. Such is life.
Have your eye on that G63 AMG 6X6 Brabus B700 but can’t swing theÂ $1,895,000 price tag? I might have a solution for you. You are probably looking at the title and seeing 1999 G500 and looking at the photo not seeing a 1999 G500. I have an answer to that question as well. This W463 started life as your regular G500 and was transformed into a faux Brabus B700 6X6 by master craftsmen in Eastern Europe. You are probably chuckling when I say ”master craftsmen” and ”Eastern Europe” in the same sentence, but hear me out on this one.
As you might have noticed this G is not in Miami like the listing says, but is actually in the city of Lutsk in Western Ukraine parked outside of a khrushchyovka and a store that sells fertilizer. Mercedes made less than 100 6x6s in total and Brabus converted a handful to their B700-spec so it’s not you can just go grab a 6×6 body from the local parts department. Being a former resident of Ukraine, I reached out to this seller to ask a laundry list of questions as to how this 6×6 came to be. The seller said the entire body was custom fabricated by his team and all the carbon fiber pieces, including the giant fenders, were made custom by his factory that molds carbon fiber pieces. How he got all the specs and dimensions, he wouldn’t tell me. Simply ”its secret”. When I asked if Mercedes or Brabus contacted him, seeing as he somehow replicated one of their most exclusives vehicles ever that sold over $700,000, he replied that they had not, but he hopes to sell the 6×6 before they do. As for the mechanicals, it is a 6×6 system that fully functions and mentioned that while it is fun to drive, actually parking this monster is less than ideal. Oh yeah, we haven’t even talked about the interior yet.
The E36/7 M Roadster remains an interesting microcosm of not only BMW, but more specifically BMW M, products. Similar to the SLK and Boxster, the Roadster offers you a unique experience and expression of your favorite brand. But because “true enthusiasts” don’t value you them as much, these models often come to market below the value of similar models. While the E36 M3 Coupe is enjoying an uptick in value and the E36/8 M Coupe has been more highly prized, it’s possible to get a lower mileage and great condition Roadster for less money still though the experience is quite similar.
Today I’ve stitched together three interesting examples – one for every budget. From a very inexpensive example through an unusual low-mileage collector, which one grabs your eye?
The W140 Mercedes-Benz S500 Grand Edition is a one of those cars that you probably forgot about if you knew they existed in the first place. I looked at a really nice one about a year ago and they don’t pop up for sale all that often. I’m sure that has a lot to do with just 600 of these cars ever made, but a lot of times when I do see them for sale they are in a pretty sad state. Chalk that up to the W140 not really being a collectible yet and the market still really soft on them, but I think this car has some serious potential to be a in demand model when it comes to Mercedes enthusiasts. If you want the best of what the W140 has to offer and don’t want to fully dive in with a S600, then the S500 Grand Edition is probably going to be your answer. This example up for sale in California is probably the nicest one I’ve seen come up for sale in a long time and I’m even more surprised at it’s condition given its four owners and over 100,000 miles. The question is, are you willing to pony up a heavy premium for such a nice example?
Update 11/11/18: The seller has dropped the asking price to $50,000.
Update 9/12/18: The seller has updated their asking price to $54,000.
For decades, I’ve had a pipe dream of taking a Westy van cross-country. When I was a teenager, a family member had a late 80s Vanagon Westfalia, and we went on a camping trip in it. It was great! And while I’m certain time has diminished the drawbacks of our method of transport on that trip, the knowledge of that isn’t enough extinguish my desire.
Unfortunately for me, it seems like I’m not alone. #VanLife has pushed the value of these clever boxes on wheels up substantially. Clean T3 campers regularly hit the market in the same territory as late 70s 911s. Even the replacement T4 Eurovan Weekender – which just has a bed, and none of the real camping gear the earlier Westfalias had – command a substantial premium over a non-pop-top T4. By far, the Volkswagen vans are the most expensive products from their catalog.
So you can imagine that if we get a rare Euro version of the T4 over here, it’ll probably be worth a look:
Update 11/20/18: After heading back up to $24,999 and then down to $18,999, this E55 is strangely now listed as a 2000 model year and has dropped in asking price to $17,999.99.
Update 9/18/18: Another drop in the asking price from $22,500 to $20,999.
Update 8/30/18: The asking price has dropped $2,500 from the original $24,999 to $22,500 today.
Earlier this week I dove into how the W210 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG is becoming the next collector car from Mercedes and as a result, prices have been creeping up on them. The example I looked at was a 1999 up for sale in Canada that had all the makings of a collector example with its pristine condition and full service history. It ultimately ended up not selling as the bidding reached $10,500 and I was a little surprised it didn’t go higher. Today, I happened to run across another 1999 E55 up for sale in California that checks in with just 44,000 miles. At first glance, I thought this one might be another home run, but then I really took a closer look it and then I saw the asking price. Now, I might not be so hot for this one.
I’m ready to declare that the W210 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG has stepped into collectibility territory. Full disclosure, I own one of these so take it how you want, but the recent sale prices have been telling the story. Over the past year, auction results for clean, nice condition E55s have been producing prices that have surprised me just a little. For the past five to eight years, you could pick a decent W210 E55 for $7,000-9,000 and have a nice example. If you wanted a rusty one with a bunch of issues, $5,000 would put one in your driveway. Now, those $9,000 examples are $13,000-$15,000 and the really prime cars with low miles are reaching the high-teens and maybe even $20,000. Sure, you can still find those rusty $5,000 ones if you look hard enough, but I just don’t think there will be any appreciation on those because once the rust starts on a W210, it never ends. I guess this makes sense in the grand scheme of things because we’ve been seeing price cycles like this for years with W201 190E-16vs, W124 500Es and on the BMW side with the E39 M5 and of course the E30 M3. Remember when you could get one of those for $8,000?
Today’s car, a 1999 E55 AMG up for sale in Canada, brings a little bit of a unique situation. First being it is a Canadian-spec car so there are some minor changes from the US cars and second being that it’s a 1999 which means this is the rare, one-year only, pre-facelift car. That means a different gauge cluster, steering wheel, body work, transmission setup, taillights and radio. For some the one-year status might mean increased scarcity, but I doubt you’ll find a lot of people wanting a 1999 over a 2000-2002 because of all the upgrades the facelifted cars received. That doesn’t matter all that much today because this car is in outstanding condition and is set to probably bring a nice, fat number once the auction ends.