5 May 2020
5 May 2020
It’s a great shame that many classic and valuable Mercedes-Benz cars reside in private collections, some never to be driven or even seen publicly again.
Coveted models to attract seven-figure bids at classic car auctions over the years – and then effectively to disappear from view – have included pristine examples of the coveted Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing from the late 1950s, sleek 1930s-era 540 K Roadsters, the frenetic SSK open-top racer from the late 1920s and more recent supercars from the Mercedes-McLaren collaboration, such as the SLR and the F1 GTR.
In 2013, an undisclosed buyer paid a record price for a car sold at auction, snapping up one of the most significant Mercedes-Benz models ever to hit a racetrack. The $US29.6 million ($A45.9 million) sum was for the W 196 racer driven by Juan Manuel Fangio to two grand prix wins in 1954, one of the cars most closely associated with the racing legend of the Mercedes-Benz ‘Silver Arrows’. It is unlikely that such a valuable car, representing a golden era in the marque’s history, will ever again be accessible to fans of the brand.
Yet for every such beautiful Benz added to a tightly held collection behind locked doors, many others will be snapped up by enthusiasts who want to drive, race or share their purchase. Some of these precious examples emerge to salute adoring fans at classic car conventions such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed (UK), Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance (USA), Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este (Italy) or Melbourne’s own Motorclassica; others hit the racetrack or salute adoring crowds in genteel tarmac rallies.
Australian trucking magnate Lindsay Fox proudly displays his extensive personal collection in a publicly accessible museum in Melbourne’s Docklands, including two pristine 300 SL models – a Gullwing and Roadster – and a special 190E Evolution model.
Yet sightings of the truly most significant Mercedes-Benz representing the brand’s rich history are elusive, at best, for any avid enthusiast. The only remedy is to take a pilgrimage to the home of Mercedes-Benz.
Welcome to the Mercedes-Benz Museum
The Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart* is a treasure trove of precious metal representing the storied history and landmark developments. It also pays tribute to a phenomenal history of motorsport success.
As you might expect, the extensive collection amassed by the company’s own historians is an eye-opener. A total of 160 vehicles and 1500 exhibits in 12 themed rooms over nine levels includes an example of the world’s first motorised vehicle, the 1886 Patent Motorwagen, and the landmark 1901 Mercedes-Simplex 35 HP, the first proper ‘car’ to be offered for sale.
Not only are some of the most recognisable production models – such as the collectables mentioned above – represented, but also rarities and concepts that have never left the company’s possession.
One such example is the T 80, a car designed to break the land speed record in 1939 but never run due to the outbreak of World War II; even today, it still looks futuristic. In Legend Room 3 is a one-off 300 SLR that was built for the 1955 Panamericana rally before the race was scrapped. Capable of speeds up to 290 km/h, it was claimed by Mercedes-Benz chief engineer Rudolph Uhlenhaut who used it as a daily driver but also as the basis for the Uhlenhaut Coupé, said to be the era’s fastest road car.
Legend Room 7 contains a growing collection representing the brand’s motorsport success over more than half a century, from the dominant ‘Silver Arrows’ of the 1950s to Formula 1® world championship-winning cars of recent years, all arrayed on a banked track.
Trucks, buses and an array of significant passenger cars mix with exhibits dedicated to the safety, technology and luxury innovations that have kept Mercedes-Benz at the forefront of the automotive pack.
For any true enthusiast, the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart is a must-see. Virtual tours have also become available for the first time, so while you might not be able to make it to the museum in person during current lockdown restrictions, you can embark on a memorable online tour now.
*The Mercedes-Benz Museum is closed during the Covid-19 epidemic but will reopen to visitors when local restrictions are lifted.
By Steve Colquhoun