Is an E320 Cabriolet a Good Investment?

The arc of history is long, but it bends towards open-top Mercedes. (photo: MB archives)

If you've been following the Pagoda SL market for more than 10 years, you know where this thread is headed. 10 years ago, it was still possible to buy a nice original Pagoda for 35 grand, and you would've had a terrific car to own and enjoy. After a decade of driving that car, you'd have something worth more than twice what you paid for it. It was a no-brainer to Pagoda cognoscenti who now look like geniuses. What they would tell you is the market is now recognizing something they knew all along: there's something special about the Pagoda SL.

There will be a more detailed comparison in the future within this blog
between the Pagoda SL and the A124 Cabriolet.
In truth, nearly every obscenely expensive collector car that pre-dates the 90s was, at one point in its life, just an old, used car. They were yesterday's news to be traded in for the flavor of the month. Imagine a tatty red BMW 507 free for the taking, discarded on the side of the road like a disposable toy that had outlived its usefulness. (Actual story, by the way.) Or what about the 300SL Gullwing traded in for a hot new 230SL in 1963? These things happened a lot.

A lot of other things have happened since then that have transformed consumer spending habits and helped propel the collector car market to places almost no one predicted. People would have laughed at you in the 90s if you had said a 280SL would one day fetch what it does today. They would say there were too many made. Or it's not enough of a true sports car. Once considered tired, old machines, vintage cars are now an "alternative investment," following the same trajectory as collectible wristwatches and "ephemera," or the more established areas of furniture and fine art. Cars are now "objets d'art." Classic car insurer Hagerty tracks these values in its Blue Chip Index that follows prices based on a composite using what it deems the 25 most collectible cars. These include:
  1. 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
  2. 1957 Mercedes 300SL
  3. 1966 Shelby Cobra Roadster
  4. 1965 Shelby GT350 Fastback
  5. 1969 Toyota 2000GT Coupe
  6. 1959 Maserati 5000GT Coupe
  7. 1958 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder (closed headlight)
  8. 1954 Lancia Aurelia Spider America
  9. 1972 Iso Grifo Coupe
  10. 1970 Plymouth Cuda Convertible
  11. 1958 Bentley S1 Continental DHC
  12. 1964 Alfa Romeo TZ-2 Coupe
  13. 1963 Mercedes 300SL Roadster
  14. 1953 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster
  15. 1965 Aston Martin DB5
  16. 1973 Porsche 911
  17. 1948 Tucker 48 Sedan
  18. 1963 Shelby Cobra Roadster
  19. 1954 Jaguar D-Type Roadster
  20. 1963 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder (closed headlight)
  21. 1957 Rolls-Roye Silver Cloud I (DHC)
  22. 1968 Ferrari 275GTB/4
  23. 1958 Porsche 356A Speedster
  24. 1959 BMW 507 Roadster
  25. 1971 Lamborghini Miura
All in all, it's an impressive list of familiar faces. Hagerty tracks far more values than these, of course, so I suggest you visit their free online tool to look up other collectible cars. It's quite comprehensive.

Now far be it for me to put the A124 Cabriolet in this legendary company, particularly when its spiritual ancestor, the W111 Cabriolet, didn't even make the cut. I include this list merely to show the vehicles that are propelling the market upward. These vehicles constitute the gold standard in today's values.

It's easy to point to the cars everyone lusts after; the real challenge is to find the sleepers. The 280SL was once on that list of undervalued vehicles, but with Pagodas routinely trading in the mid-six figures, that secret is long out.

In contrast, values for mid-90s Cabriolets are still flat today. But from where I sit, that's still a good thing. I believe the fundamentals exist for the A124 Cabriolet as an investment—it's a convertible with relatively limited production, classic lines and a strong enthusiast following.

Buy, hold, and enjoy.