Boy oh boy, the things you see when you’ve been careless enough not to have a few spare million lying around! It was a real privilege this afternoon to visit Lloyd & Trish Marx’s workshop, the next most important building after the house. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Sunday 14 September and it was a pleasantly overcast but predominantly fine drive to Hamilton to meet up with about 25 other members at the Classic Car Museum. There was a strong cross-breeze as we headed south – probably why they build Mercedes cars so heavy. The road was wet but ok unless you were passing a tanker. I passed quite a few tankers and wondered why I’d spent hours cleaning the car!
Arriving at the Classic Car Museum there was a splendid line-up of the three-pointed star. I counted a total of 18 Mercedes before I went in to the museum.
If you haven’t visited the Classic Car Museum it’s a real treat. There are two parts to the building; a museum and a 1950’s style American diner. I’d last been to the museum when it celebrated its’ one-year anniversary earlier this year in summer. There were over 2,300 people who went through the museum that day. This time we had it to ourselves and just a few others. The museum has a core collection that includes some 20s and 30s Packards, a cracking Bristol 401, an Amilcar (amphibious car), and what Brian Hood described as “a car and half”, a 1959 Cadillac convertible. All I can say is Brian must have a very long garage because I think it’d take two garages end to end! Many were taken with the 1936 Auburn Speedster replica that was resplendent in its black and gold livery. I was particularly impressed too with the old Triumph Roadster (think Bergerac and you’ll know which vintage I mean) that I considered an ideal classic car start for a young family. It had a second windscreen and twin dickey seats set so far behind the driver that parents would be unable to hear any complaining at all from the rear compartment! My pick of the museum was a Maserati 3500 closed coupe which I’ve envied before but been unable to ‘liberate’ as it’s on the second floor. So frustrated at what we couldn’t have, we did what any reasonable person would do… went to lunch.
Located in the second part of the building is the 1950s themed Jukebox Diner. In addition to our group, the diner is obviously also a popular choice for family lunches or was it a children’s birthday party? At times there were 20-minute waits for ordering on the kitchen for the full menu. Luckily there was a good selection of food from the cabinet including what appeared to be sausage rolls that were definitely not finger food – both hands were required to manage those monsters. Portions were generous and tasty. There was something for everyone on the menu. I enjoyed revisiting my childhood with an old fashioned milkshake.
Once we were replete, Garry Boyce handed out instruction sheets on how to get to Lloyd’s workshop in Pirongia. This was a pleasant countryside drive and parking in the large front paddock beside the house we managed to resist the temptation to start an impromptu gymkhana. The cones were already in place in the form of a few 911s and a Ferrari. So by now our numbers had swelled to about 35.
Being made of sterner stuff we gathered in the workshop where Garry give us an informative, interesting and sometimes technically challenging introduction to the world of 300SLs and then the particular car we’d come to view, his 1956 300SL Gullwing coupe. Since attending this year’s Concours d’Elegance at Ellerslie where our club had Garry’s 300SL Roadster on display, I’ve been paying more attention to the model. And as I follow auction results in the USA I’ve noticed that these cars are more than just a design classic standard. They’re a serious investment as well.
But wait, there’s more… I had expected this car to be a standard steel-bodied example. I should have known Garry better. This is number 27 of 29 aluminium bodied examples that Mercedes built for privateer racers to compete with, at three times the price of the street standard model, which was eye-wateringly pricey anyway.
What we all had was a wonderful opportunity to see the separate restoration of chassis and body of one of the most collectable Mercedes anywhere in the world. Not only did we see how it was designed (Garry gave an easy to understand treatise on space-frame construction) but we also saw the amount of painstaking work (and presumably dollars to match) that goes into restoring/rebuilding one of these very special motorcars.
From when I first developed an interest in cars, I knew about the Gullwing Mercedes. Today, through our club, we were able to have a close up view and touch one of THE icons of car design and desirability. And, of course, it’s a Mercedes-Benz.
Thank you Garry, Lloyd and Trish for the opportunity, at least for an hour or two, to live in ‘Car Heaven’.
We all drove home seeing three pointed stars and making a mental note to check down the back of the couch to see if the missing spare millions may be there.