While trawling auto classifieds online this weekend I started to notice some things that I touched on in Friday’s article, the growing desperation of some car owners to sell their cars, and fast, because economic times are tough and they need the money. I spent several hours searching local Craigslist classifieds and then expanded my research to other cities and states. Things like “Must sell now, rent is already late and I must pay it by the 10th” or “Must sell this weekend” are popping up in more and more ads. I’ve been noticing one particular car, a 1976 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC, on the Twin Cities Craigslist for a little more than a month now, that’s the specific example well explore here.
The Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC is a rather unloved car to begin with. Most of them will always be worth less than an equivalent SL, despite the fact that there was only one more expensive Mercedes-Benz model at the time it was new, the W100 series 600 model. Today most people would rather have something they can take the top off of in the springtime.
It will always lag behind the rare Euro version 450 SLC 5.0 liter cars, some of which made it to the states as grey market cars. These were the cars produced to homologate the model so Mercedes-Benz could compete in road rally competition in the late seventies and early eighties.
Despite the fact that the 450 SLC occupies one of the lower rungs on the Mercedes-Benz collector ladder today, they’re still unique, they do have somewhat of a following, and I guess if I could buy one cheap enough I would.
I first saw this particular car for sale on Craigslist in early October, price: $6000. The seller claims it has had over $1000 in recent maintenance work and it’s ready for the next owner to get in and go. In the ad the seller makes a case to potential buyers that you could take his red car and build a ‘tribute’ car to look like the “silver 450 SLC pictured” along with his red car in the ad “and be worth a easy $25000 to $35000”. I think we all know that would NEVER happen. So you’re looking at a run of the mill 95,000 mile SLC for $6000.
A week or so later he “reduced” the price down to $5000. He clearly wasn’t getting enough action on the car over those three weeks, as the car was listed again on November third, this time at $3500. In my opinion $6000 was never a realistic number for this car. $5000 is probably a little high as well, $3500 not only sounds reasonable to me, but it seems like a bit of a deal.
Friday evening the 6th of November I saw the car listed one more time. This time the price was reduces all the way down to $2500 and the ad had been revised to say “Must sell car this weekend”. By the time I sat down at my computer on Sunday to write about the ongoing saga of this car and take screen shots of the listings, the last ad had been removed from Craigslist. It looks like the $2500 price was attractive enough to someone to pull the trigger on this car. The seller got his money, less than half of what he was originally asking, but he can put it in the bank and get on with his life.
The moral of the story here? Sellers always want more money than someone is probably willing to pay them for their car, but if you’re diligent and watch a car for a while deals like this do present themselves. If I had the space for this car I probably would have offered the guy $3000 for it when he was trying to get $3500 and still come out alright. This particular model is at the bottom of its depreciation curve and as long as the new owner maintains the car and there are no catastrophic failures he can probably drive and enjoy the car for a couple of years, sell it, and probably get out of it what he’s put into it And any true car hobbyist that’s honest with himself understands that if you can do that you’re doing very, very well indeed.