Sometimes things just don’t make sense. The Mercedes-Benz R-Class is one of those. When it launched, it was compared to a bad minivan with ugly styling and a crazy price tag. The R350 rang in north of $50,000, while a loaded up R500 4MATIC hit $70,000. That is a lot of money for something that doesn’t look the price, and the quality was average at best. The interior was just a lot of parts-bin stuff and was very much form-follows-function. One would think that would equal almost no demand for them in the used market given Mercedes expanded their SUV lineup massively and updated everything around them. However, the prices they are still bringing in the used market some 15 years later say that is not the case.
My company has a corporate office near Philadelphia with a handful of branch offices scattered in the Mid-Atlantic region. So twice a year, the CEO of my company visits the branches to give a ”state of the union” talk to employees. It’s about a five hour trip from Philadelphia to my office outside of Pittsburgh. Now this past spring when he started his speech, he said something that made me shake my head. No, it wasn’t that weren’t getting raises again this year (don’t worry, we didn’t). It was that he was tired from his five hour drive. Now this is a CEO who has a Harvard MBA, who makes decisions that impact thousands people and is compensated in the high six-figures. So I had to explain to my co-workers how crazy it is that our CEO is wasting his time driving instead of you know, working. After I explained to them that he is getting paid roughly $300 an hour to drive here, they got my point. So not only is he wasting 10 hours driving to our office twice a year, but he’s wasting his time driving to our seven other branches. You can see how this adds up. This brings me to today’s featured listing, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van. Specifically, this Sprinter that is setup to be a mobile office for people who make $300 an hour but don’t waste their time sitting on the Pennsylvania Turnpike because one of the tunnels is closed. Just to wrap up the story, I’m not saying our CEO needs a $79,000 Mercedes van to shuttle him around (because we didn’t get those raises, remember?), but at least a Lincoln Town Car so he can at least pretend he’s working in the back of it.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2015 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter on eBay
Following in yesterday’s rough-but-affordable Vanagon Syncro footsteps, we have an interesting DIY-Syncro Camper with a no-reserve auction. It started as a tinop Vanagon GL Syncro but has experienced many surgeries – cosmetic, mechanical, electrical – to make it a much more versatile and reliable van. The Subaru 2.2 is good for speed, the hightop is nice for headroom (there’s no bed in this one) and the Westy kitchen is a huge camping bonus, but what really catches my eye is all of the little aftermarket touches the seller has installed to make this van much less of a headache down the road. GoWesty relays, circuit boards, stainless lines and coolant pipes… these are details that increase confidence that this is a solid Vanagon bet. There are also plenty of less-consequential but still cool pieces coming with it, like insulated curtains, van shower, bike racks, awning, and good-looking Audi 5000 wheels. It shows some exterior blemishes, but nothing bad; they’re like an old climber’s sunspots on his nose and cheeks. This thing was built for adventure and reconstructed for even bigger ones.
Click for details: 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro Hightop on eBay
Late-model burgundy Vanagons were the first to ever catch my eye, and even as I’ve spent the last several years exploring the many variations and degrees of modification available for this versatile van, it’s still the look I find most appealing. This 1991 model has steel bars instead of the clean fiberglass, body-colored bumpers available at the end of the lifecycle, ostensibly to protect your legs and engine from the natural weak points of the cab-over design. They may not be sleek but they don’t look bad, and it seems practical to protect where this guy has put most of his money – the engine. It doesn’t say how long into its 198k-mile life it received the rebuild, but the engine was redone into 2.2-liter form and apparently all engine parts were specially hardened before assembly. The original interior is in great shape for having covered almost 200k, and the upper bed has only been used once. This no-frills, all-business Westy is available for a reasonable $18,300.
Click for details: 1991 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia on eBay
I’ve written up a lot of Mercedes Sprinters, and have been especially excited when I find cool survivors from the old O309/0319 era. This, however, is a new one, a Spanish-built N1300 that served as the smaller counterpart to the full-size 309 vans, and it’s covered just 20k miles in its 37 years. The quality is so spectacular – and flush with ’70s style for better or worse – that it looks like one of those over-the-top VW restomods we’ve seen. The big roof-mounted luggage rack and chrome visor make it look ready to do runs from the airport to the hills in Guatemala (these were primarily used in the South American market) while the interior looks basic but very nice. It even has a little wooden table between the train-style seats doing its best impression of a Westy’s fold out surface. It’s too nice (and barely big enough inside) to convert to a camper and the 85hp from the OM615 diesel four will make highway speeds achievable only on the flats, so this isn’t going to leap to the top of dream adventure vans. Whatever you decide to do with it, you’ll have one of the most interesting looking vans on the road.