Classic Mercedes 190SL restoration project stuns the crowd at Brightwells as over 80% of entries are sold yet again


Restoration project stuns the crowd

Classic Mercedes 190SL restoration project stuns the crowd at Brightwells as over 80% of entries are sold yet again

With the usual huge crowd in attendance, Brightwells rounded off 2015 in fine style on 25th November by selling 127 of the 151 vehicles on offer for a total of £1.25m, thus maintaining a sale rate which has not fallen below 80% in all 12 auctions held over the past two years.

The most sensational result of the day was the price achieved by a 1963 Mercedes-Benz 190SL Roadster which was effectively in ‘barn find’ condition after 20 years in storage. Still covered in dust and in need of a good deal of cosmetic refurbishment at the very least, it had attracted so much pre-sale interest that phone bidders had to be turned away on the day of the sale because there simply weren’t enough phones in the building to cope with them all! There was little doubt that the £25,000 - £30,000 estimate was going to prove conservative but even so, the final price of £93,500 was so extraordinary that the room erupted into spontaneous applause when the hammer finally fell after one of the most intense bidding wars ever seen in the Leominster saleroom. The car is now on its way to a private owner in the West of England who successfully beat off competition from as far afield as Australia, Canada and Qatar.

Always in the shadow of its mighty big brother, the 300SL ‘Gullwing’, the 190SL has long been looked down on by enthusiasts as something of ‘a poser’s car; all show and no go’, and for many years even the best examples languished in the £25k region suggested by the Brightwells estimate. However that all began to change about six years ago and it is now clear that the 190SL has experienced one of the most dramatic price rises of any car in history, with top examples now routinely making over £100k at auction and the odd one or two perfect specimens even breaching the £150k barrier. No doubt the extraordinary Brightwells price was partly down to the fact that the car on offer was a rare right-hand drive example (these accounting for fewer than 1,500 of the 25,881 made in total) but it is still a market-significant result which will no doubt see collectors and insurers recalibrating their calculators yet again and in can only be a matter of time before the model breaches the £200k milestone if current trends continue. 

Also instructive of the LHD/RHD divide were the prices achieved by the two Mercedes SL ‘Pagoda’ models in the sale. For while a cosmetically smart LHD 1967 250SL ‘California’ with a new MOT and no immediate issues only just got away at a slightly below estimate £29,700, a very distressed RHD 1966 230SL in need of substantial restoration comfortably shot well beyond its estimate to finish on £31,350 – further proof that the market values scarce RHD Pagodas at about double the rate of comparable and far more plentiful LHD examples.

This trend also affects British-made classics from the post-war era because RHD versions tend to be much rarer than LHD ones as manufacturers like Jaguar, MG and Austin-Healey sold far more to the booming USA market than they could ever sell in the austere home market of the Fifties. However, because the cars were designed from the outset to be easily interchangeable from left- to right-hand drive, the value gap is less pronounced, as evidenced by the price realised by a scruffy but sound LHD 1956 Jaguar XK140 SE Roadster that had only recently come in from America. Relatively easily converted to RHD (compared to a Pagoda Mercedes), it attracted numerous British bidders but eventually fell to an internet bidder in Switzerland for a healthy £59,400. A LHD 1961 Austin-Healey 3000 MkI BT7 four-seater in good and highly original condition also sold well at £29,700, these prices being perhaps two-thirds what you would expect for comparable RHD versions.

Other Jaguar results of note included the well-above estimate £63,800 raised by a smart 1972 E-Type S3 V12 Roadster which had been professionally chopped down from a fixed-head coupe (a comparable factory-built Roadster would have made perhaps £20,000 more), and the top estimate £33,000 required to secure a 1970 E-Type S2 2+2 Automatic (perhaps the least desirable E-Type of all but rescued here by virtue of its good condition), these prices showing that there is no slackening in demand for this iconic model which seems to get more valuable with every passing sale. A wonderfully original and low mileage 1967 Daimler 2.5 V8 Saloon also did exceptionally well at £23,100 and is now on its way to a new home in Dubai.

A trio of rather more aristocratic British machines also performed above expectations, a smart 1976 Rolls-Royce Corniche Convertible leading the pack at an impressive £41,800 while a 1954 Bentley R-Type made £25,300 and a rare 1948 Armstrong Siddeley Hurricane Drophead Coupe flew over £5,000 beyond its estimate to finish on £18,920, a record price for the model by some margin. Equally impressive in its own way was the £12,100 raised by a burbling 1949 Ford V8 Pilot, a house record for Brightwells if you discount the whopping £23,100 fetched by an ultra-rare ‘Woody’ Estate version earlier in the year.

Some of the more prosaic British classics also sold well, a 1972 MGB Roadster professionally converted to V8 spec making £14,520 while a humble 1960 Austin Seven Mini raised £11,000 by virtue of its originality and a tidy 1962 Morris Mini Van raised £6,930. A 1957 MGA Coupe in ‘use and improve’ condition tempted an Austrian phone bidder into parting with £10,780 to secure it, a 1969 MG Midget upgraded to fast road spec made £7,700 and a nicely restored 1968 MGB Roadster fetched £8,600. An exceptionally clean 1968 Morris Minor Traveller also did well at £8,800 as did a low mileage 1964 Rover P5 3-Litre Saloon at £6,600.

Prosaic is not a word you could ever apply to a Fiat 130 Coupe, this aristocratic Italian beauty being coach-built by Pininfarina rather than mass-produced by Fiat, and the rare RHD 1974 example on offer almost doubled its pre-sale estimate to finish on £11,900 but could yet prove to be a bargain as this aristocratic model is still somewhat undervalued in the eyes of many. Equally good value was a 1974 Jensen Interceptor which had come to the sale all the way from Canada and looked something of a snip at £15,400, this being another hand-built beauty that is widely tipped for future growth. A handsome 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280SE Coupe also looked like a shrewd buy at just £17,820 as did a 1971 Lancia Fulvia 1.3S at £7,700.

The two most baroque vehicles in the sale were also successfully hammered away, a lavishly equipped LHD 2014 Mercedes Sprinter 319 CDi 4x4 McLaren Motorhome which had covered less than 1,000 miles from new and would have made an ideal classic race car transporter raising £63,800 while a vast and luxurious LHD 1996 Lincoln Town Car Executive Stretch Limousine with less than 3,000 miles fetched £10,350 and could no doubt earn a good living on the wedding/prom car circuit.

As ever at Brightwells there was a strong contingent of pre-war cars on offer, top honours going to a 1934 Railton Drophead Coupe with bodywork by Berkeley and a 4.1-litre Hudson straight-eight engine which cost a French bidder £28,050 to secure. Not far behind was the ultra-rare 1913 FIAT Zero with two-seat open coachwork by Farina, one of only 13 known to survive worldwide, which was netted by an Italian buyer for £24,200. Even older and more obscure was the 1911 Marion Model A 30hp Torpedo Roadster, a little-known American marque only in business from 1904 to 1918. In fine condition following extensive restoration in the early 1990s and powered by a lusty 3.7-litre side-valve engine, this Edwardian beauty deserved every penny of the £22,000 it took to secure it. A pair of high quality Wolverhampton-built machines also sold well, a beautifully restored 1927 Star 14/40 Coupe, believed to be the only surviving example, fetching £19,800 while a stately 1935 Sunbeam 25hp Limousine made a well-deserved £19,250. A 1929 Humber 16/50 Tourer fetched £13,750, a 1930 Crossley Silver 15.7 Saloon £11,200 and a 1925 Ford Model T Tudor £8,250.

To view the results of the November sale in full, please visit and click on ‘Classic Vehicles’ or phone 01568 611122. Brightwells’ next sale is on 2nd March 2016 and entries are now being invited with free valuations available by emailing The catalogue closing date is 1st February so please consign early to take best advantage of the extensive pre-sale marketing.


All the prices given above include the 10% buyer’s premium.