Today, the collector car market has become very similar to the fine art market. Rare and significant pieces are carefully scrutinized for their condition, authenticity, and provenance. Their histories are sometimes well documented, though often shrouded in secrecy or mystery. Certain examples can disappear for decades in private collections, seemingly lost to the ages. Their whereabouts subject to as much speculation as the Holy Grail. However, like any famous Picasso or Pollock, there once was a time when some of these vehicles were reasonably attainable. Old issues of Road & Track have proven to be particularly good at showing this. Some very unique and interesting machines have graced the classified ads, many having been offered for sums we could only dream of today. Furthermore, we can’t help but wonder where some of these cars are today. So, have a look at some of these vintage classifieds – if you can add to their story, let us know!
This ’54 Mercedes Gullwing advertised in the July 1971 issue of Road & Track would undoubtedly be worth close to a million dollars or more today. Adjusted for inflation, $15,400 would be roughly $85,000 today. It isn’t clear if this is the first production 300SL or one of the 50 pre-production prototypes. Unfortunately the ad doesn’t describe details such as the cars color combination or its serial number. It would seem that such a significant car would have a well documented history, yet some quick Google searching leaves us with nothing.
Another interesting Mercedes is this ’39 230 boat-tail advertised in November of 1969. This curious piece of National Socialist postal history is quite unique. The photo makes it hard to determine how aesthetically successful the aluminum boat-tail re-body was. Generally speaking, 230s are not worth an exceptional lot of money today, and it’s difficult to determine if the coachwork and connection to the Third Reich helps or hurts its potential value. It would be very interesting to see if this car was still with us, and if so was it returned to original specification?
A third Mercedes-Benz is this 300SL racer as found in the May 1975 issue of R&T. Another curiosity for sure. Paul O’Shea and his 300SLS are well known to racing history as the 1957 SCCA D-Sports champions, however the car in this photo is not his #30 at all. Rather, this looks like a 300SLR or perhaps a re-bodied SL. Inquiring minds want to know – what is the car in this photo? Simply a case of the wrong photo attached to the ad or something more in depth?
This is no ordinary Jaguar XK-120. By the description of this July 1970 ad, this is almost certainly one of two or three magnesium bodied XK-120 LTs produced for the 1951 racing season. The factory had not anticipated that the C-Type would be ready in time for Le Mans, and created the lightweight as a sort of stop-gap. The “C” made it, however, and these rare XK120s faded into relative obscurity. In 2011, one sold at R&M auctions for £68,000 (roughly $108,000). The car in this ad was being offered by David Cottingham, who we can only assume is the same gentleman who started DK Engineering. Is this the same LT2 Alain De Cadenet drives in “Victory By Design” or could it be the one recently auctioned? Perhaps this is the alleged third car?
Raymond Loewy remains one of the most famous graphic and industrial designers of all time. His portfolio consists of everything from Studebakers and the Hillman Minx Series I, to the Lucky Strike cigarette logo, to the livery on Air Force One, and much, much more. This ’66 Jaguar XKE was re-styled and owned by Loewy though it’s debatable as to whether or not this was one of his more successful designs. This advertisement ran in the July of 1970 issue of Road & Track. According to Bonhams, the car was purchased that year by architect, designer, and student of Loewy, James Murry Hunt. The Jaguar spent 40 years in California before being sold by the auction house for $128,000 in 2011.
Finally in this installment, this extravagant ’56 Ferrari 410 Superamerica was offered up in the May 1970 issue of R&T. This is quite clearly a Boano bodied car – one of only three Ferraris by the coachbuilder to have this design. Two were coupes and one a convertible, though it is difficult to tell from this photograph which this example is. Again, the styling of this car is a matter of opinion, but regardless, a significant vehicle. Allegedly, all three examples of this body style are currently owned by Ferrari collector Robert M. Lee.
These vintage ads were all scanned from original copies of Road & Track magazine by the author.