Sale of the Week

Would you buy a seven figure, nine-decade-old car over the internet?

by Conner Golden
12 February 2022 4 min read
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The roaring success of Bring a Trailer might be built on the roofs of watercooled Porsches, 1980s BMWs, and a fleet of restomodded SUVs, but all it takes is a quick scroll through the biggest sales on BaT to see the ultra-popular auction site has shifted enough blue-chip metal to populate the catalog of a major brick-and-mortar auction house. Between the waves of seven-figure GTs—those being of both Ford and Carrera variety—you’ll find a bevvy of Mercedes-Benz 300SLs, a smattering of mid-century Ferraris, and a handful of pre-war icons; a fever-fantasy roster that as of this week includes a $2.5 million 1930 Mercedes-Benz 770K Cabriolet now sitting at the very tippy-top of the BaT leaderboard.

Yes, even after BaT’s $828.7 million total sales blowout in 2021, the site proves it’s still got some room to grow against the established cabal of legacy auction houses. As enumerated above, there’s some seriously top-tier stuff shifting across its digital block, but most collectors opt for houses like RM Sothebys, Bonhams, and Gooding & Co. when it comes time to shift their historically significant, seven-figure collection crown-jewel.

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$2,560,555 paid for this black beauty is record-setting for BaT, but peanuts for the big houses. Zoom out a bit, and this isn’t even in the top 20 most expensive Mercedes-Benz’ ever sold at auction; by our records, this clocks in at number 43 on the Mercedes power-list. If this was offered as part of the January auction scrabble, it would have finished in fourth place in the top-ten most expensive cars sold during Arizona auction week.

As we said, BaT brims its coffers on pure volume alone, not a cluster of sky-high eight-figure results. As of this writing, 23 cars have successfully sold for seven-figure sums on BaT, 20 of which sold during 2021 or 2022, and three of which were offered by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum—the consignor of this 1930 Mercedes.

So, the strong sale of this dictatorial cabrio might not be an ironclad precedent going forward, but consider this sale a symptom of an ongoing shift. Previous BaT record holders formed a mix of hypercars and Gullwings; a selection of top-shelf Carrera GTs, McLaren P1s, and Sennas swapped places with Mercedes’ most iconic model for the hi-score. Now, the crown rests on the taut red leather seats of this 92-year-old concours-baiting Benz, and you better believe collectors were watching.

So, what did $2.5 big ones take home? Well, this is just one of 117 Mercedes W07s produced between 1930 and 1938, ordered new by King Faisal I of Iraq. Coachbuilders Voll & Ruhrbeck of Berlin enrobed the rolling chassis with the four-door, three-position cabriolet body presented here in early 1931. The car served as an official car of state through the reigns of King Ghazi and King Faisal II, before being purchased by IMS museum in 1967 following the cars retirement around 1958.

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This big-body Benz received a “refurbishment” in 1970, and a reupholstered interior in 2007. The sale listing doesn’t mention any other restorative work, but it’s safe to assume the IMS staff kept the Merc in tip-top running condition during its extended life in the collection. Crucially, the numbers-matching 7.7-liter supercharged inline-eight is still hunkered-down under all that swoopy body work, meaning the new owner can still blow the monocle off any dignitaries or tycoons riding shotgun.

This is just one of a few significant cars shuffled off by the IMS museum. Don’t be alarmed—both the museum and its supporting foundation are stronger than ever, as this yard sale is just part of the museum’s slow deaccession process that began in 2015 with the goal of streamlining and simplifying the collection. As part of this, BaT was already the battleground for IMS’ green 300SL and 1935 Deusenberg JN Convertible, the latter claiming a record-setting $1.3 million last year. Stick around—IMS plans to sell a 1927 Mercedes-Benz 680 S, a 1921 Hispano-Suiza H6N Cabriolet, and an Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8 in the coming months.

Cars and Bids

What, is this Mercedes too “old geezer” for you? Too Pebble Beach? Alright, fine—we wrangled two more Sale of the Week runner-ups just in case reading about this austere Teutonic titan choked your interest like a sleeve of literary saltine crackers. For the more overcaffeinated readers, check out this wild 1996 VW Golf “Harlequin” that claimed an exceptional $26,125 over at Cars and Bids. No, we’re not going explain why this is called a Harlequin, and yes, it came like that from the factory.

What did not emerge from Wolfsburg with is the 2.8-liter VR6 under the hood, ditto for the five-speed manual. The seller swapped these goodies in sometime in 2017, performing additional points of maintenance while everything was disassembled. $26,000 is a chunk of change for a Mk. III Golf—even one of the 300 Harlequins that made it to the U.S.—but you’re going to have a hard time sourcing a car that attracts more attention than the blend of Ginster Yellow, Pistachio Green, Tornado Red, and Chagall Blue panels. Additionally, that engine swap appears to be professionally done, and you’d end up paying a significant chunk of change to commission a VR6 implant of your own.

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On the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, BaT’s 2003 BMW Alpina Roadster V8 roared off with a backbreaking $483,000 winning bid. While values of the rare Alpina Roadster have spiked tremendously in the past three years, this wrapper-fresh, 34-mile example is surely an outlier sale—right up until it isn’t.  A Roadster with just 2,100 miles on the odo pulled a similar $447,000 on BaT, sandwiching a 17,000-mile example that rolled home for $380,000. Suddenly, $483,000 doesn’t seem so crazy.

You know what is crazy? This exact car stalled out on BaT last June at a high-bid of $352,500, only then carrying 32 miles on the dash. That’s $65,250 of added value per mile driven—imagine if the seller added two more!

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Comments

  • MustangJim says:

    I guess spending 2 mil on the internet has its risks of fraud and misrepresentation but if well documented what the heck…. if you can spend 2 mil you can get whatever work done that is needed also. I used to say that i would never by a car over the internet , that I would have to be able to personally put the car on a lift, drive it, etc.. before buying. But I’ve been watching bat and there are cars I would gamble on. I’m not in the 2 mil crowd though.. I’d be in the low 5 figures at best.

    • Marc René Yvon says:

      Don’t worry, the gentleman buyer’s lawyer(s) took care of the deal after the said buyer’s machanic(s) went through the whole thing. 🤣

    • John Ehle says:

      On BaT, and presumably other online auction sites, you can personally inspect – or hire an expert to inspect – the cars during their 7-day (or more if a premium listing) auction period. You don’t have to roll the dice on photos and the word of the seller alone.

  • James P Fox says:

    Interesting piece. But am I missing the biggest component? The commissions, fees and premiums can and do vary widely. Factors include provenance, historical character, etc. I’d love to learn about the friction costs associated with these amazing vehicles.

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