Selling a Classic Car at Auction: It's Not All Business


1959 Mercedez-Benz 190SL


Whether attending as a buyer, seller, or spectator, classic car auctions are exciting events. Mustangs, Hemis, Shelbys, Packards, and Ferraris are only a few of the cars regularly on the docket. An auction company may be offering 100 cars for sale, or as many as 3000, but regardless of the number, you'll undoubtedly feel as though you've entered an adult candy store -- admittedly, an expensive candy store.


If you're attending the auction as a spectator, you can just relax and enjoy the array of eye candy on display. However, as a seller, you may be in for an emotional roller coaster ride, particularly if the car you are selling has become an integral part of your family. Needless to say, parting with such a car is often difficult. This was the case for a 1959 Mercedes-Benz 190SL Roadster, which was consigned to Auctions America for its Fort Lauderdale auction.



From 1955 to 1962, Mercedes-Benz offered a sporty, two-seater convertible, the 190SL. It shared much of the same styling of the Gullwing 300SL coupe, without the iconic swing up doors. In a time when American cars were all about fins, chrome, and size, the 190SL's smooth lines and distinctive European design was a welcome change to some domestic buyers of the day.


One of these Mercedes, a 1959 white, with red interior model, was brought to auction by its owner, who had enjoyed it for 54 years. The car was a "Survivor," meaning it was an unmodified, well-maintained original. Clearly, it had been pampered, but it had also provided years of motoring pleasure and many lasting memories. Nevertheless, as difficult as it was to part with his pride and joy, for the owner of this car, it was time to turn stewardship over to someone he hoped would appreciate the Roadster as much as he had.



While the car was sitting in the pre-staging area, there were several prospective buyers that showed an interest, and the owner stayed close to answer their questions. Having retained the car for most of the its life, the owner had full documentation, and the sale included a removable hardtop and tool kit -- all highly desirable to a prospective buyer. Just before the car rolled onto the auction block, the owner reminded the Auctions America staff of the car's desirable features, emphasizing its originality.


During Sale

Recognizing its value, there was no shortage of bidders for this rare, well-cared for Mercedes-Benz 190SL convertible. The reserve price was quickly reached, and the long-time owner was acknowledged for bringing such a fine car to the auction. The final hammer price surpassed the auction company's estimate, but based on the audience's interest in the sports car, it was certainly well deserved.





Post Sale

Recognizing the significance of the event, the President of Auctions America, met with the former owner to congratulate him on the sale. They were joined by the winning bidder, who was understandably excited to now own this special car.


Not all transactions are this personal, but, after all, it's rare that a car has been a member of one family for over 50 years. The former owner planned to stop by the white Mercedes to say his final goodbyes. It was definitely a bittersweet moment.