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A Trip to the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center

A Trip to the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center

Written and submitted by John Gates

It took several years for the cost of new cars and my disposable income to rise to the level to enable me to purchase a classic Mercedes-Benz. (“Classic” sounds so much better than “used”, doesn't it?) The ever-escalating new car prices caused me to wonder why I should buy a new econobox when I can buy a truly good, albeit pre-owned, car. While doing my research, I stumbled across the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, CA and decided I needed to visit there one day. That day came late this past October during a business trip to Los Angeles.

The Classic Center web site ( www.MBClassicCenter.com ) shows they stock over 40,000 genuine M-B spare parts, have factory-trained craftsmen performing restorations on-site ranging from daily driver to Concours level, have an extensive library with a wide range of M-B technical documentation including owners manuals for virtually all M-B's made since 1946 and they sell classic Mercedes-Benz automobiles. They encourage visitors and their displays include their vehicles for sale, customer's vehicles awaiting restoration and a rotating display of automobiles from the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center collection in Fellbach, Germany.

Irvine is a short hike south of Los Angeles and, other than dealing with So-Cal's notorious traffic, is real easy to get to. This striking contemporary building is definitely a low-key place. The staff was always helpful when asked, but I was left alone to wander the parts of the Center open to the public – this does not include the actual restoration garage, nor the parts warehouse or library.

When you pull up to the M-B Classic Center and see their parking lot with lots of Mercedes-Benz's of various vintages, you know you are in the right place.

Right inside the doors was this superbly restored 300sl ($ 750,000 USD).

The Classic Center show room has about a dozen cars on display ranging from a replica of the very first Mercedes-Benz automobile ($ 65,000) and a 1933 290 Cabriolet B ($ 175,000) to more recent classics, like an unrestored 1979 6.9 with just 229 miles ($ 175,000), a fully restored 1959 190 ($ 29,000) and many more beauties. The showroom also has a large reception desk and a wide range of items for sale (the same as found on the MBUSA web site), several of which found their way home with me ( I paid for them ).

It took me awhile to get past the 300SL; with no barriers as you might find in a museum, you can get up-close and personal with all the cars in the Center. ( I did not take advantage of this situation to actually sit in the 300SL and make vroom, vroom sounds. ) That 300SL and the adjacent cars were only the start.

The showroom opens up to a large storage & display area with two rows of lifts with cars displayed above and below and in-between; over 30 cars in that one area. I felt like the proverbial kid in a candy store, seeing some models for the very first time…one stunning car after another…from limo's to race cars and everything in between.

I was particularly intrigued by a 1935 150 Sports Roadster (W30), one of just five produced. This petite rear-engined roadster did not fit my stereotype image of the large 1930's Mercedes-Benz cars.

Just across this room was a 300SL race car owned by the Mercedes-Benz Museum that appeared to have just arrived from the race track, complete with dirt.

As with several of the cars on display, I had not seen one of these racers before and this was quite a treat, especially knowing that this was a “driver”.

You should visit the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center the next time you find yourself in So-Cal; it's worth the time.

I will leave you with one “What Is It?” that was on sale in the Classic Center. Not much of a challenge, but another beauty.
 

John Gates is not a gear head, nor a Mercedes-Benz historian, but he truly loves driving a really good automobile. His daily driver is a 1986 560sl that won 2nd place in its class at our recent Germanfest XXII.