Why McCartney’s 1985 Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL Lorinser just sold for a pedestrian $38K

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Paul McCartney with 500 SEL
Courtesy of Collecting Cars

Turns out, a Beatles connection doesn’t always deliver the Midas touch. Over the weekend, a meticulously restored 1985 Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL Lorinser that was originally owned by Sir Paul McCartney sold for $38,579 (including fees) through Britain’s Collecting Cars auction service. That’s not much more than a Concours-condition ’85 Mercedes 500 SEL without the Lorinser sports body kit and the McCarney association.

What gives?

“Paul McCartney’s bass guitar might sell for six figures, but his cars aren’t as highly valued by collectors,” says John Wiley, Hagerty Manager of Valuation Analytics. “Even in 2011, his 1967 Lamborghini 400GT 2+2 sold for $196,858, which wasn’t much more than its #1 value at the time ($185,000).”

What matters most, Wiley says, is how a celebrity is connected to the item. For example, if McCartney’s Mercedes had been featured on an album cover, we would likely be having a different conversation today.

mercedes benz 500 SEL front three-quarter landscape
Collecting Cars

This right-hand-drive 500 SEL was first registered on June 14, 1985 after being purchased by McCartney’s MPL Communications holding company. According to Mercedes Enthusiast magazine, the car was sold to a Saudi prince in 1989 and remained in southeast England until it was purchased by the auction’s seller 12 years ago.

Painted Nautical Blue with black interior, the Mercedes had been neglected before the seller purchased it in 2008, so he footed the bill for a full restoration using numerous parts from a well-preserved donor car. Among the donor parts were the doors and Lorinser-specific hood and trunk lid. It also has lowered suspension and refurbished “monoblock” alloy wheels.

Paul McCartney 500 SEL closeup wheels
Collecting Cars

Welding work was required on the chassis rails, floors, and sills, but the original 5.0-liter V-8 engine required no more than stripping down and cleaning to return it to good working order.

The interior is almost all original, with the restoration only involving a re-rimming of the center panels. The leather upholstery was solid and needed only cosmetic rejuvenation.

mercedes benz 500 SEL interior front steering wheel
Collecting Cars

Sir Paul McCartney reportedly ordered the car with speakers in the rear parcel shelf, but those were replaced during restoration, as the current owner opted for a more discreet modern system with smaller speakers and an amplifier. A reverse camera was also installed under the rear bumper.

Following completion of the restoration in 2010, the 500 SEL Lorinser was driven sparingly over the next year before being stored. Earlier this year it was thoroughly serviced to ensure that everything is in proper working order; it has been driven fewer than 700 miles since its restoration.

All that work—and the car’s McCartney connection—likely didn’t bring the result that its owner thought it would. Maybe including a bass guitar would have helped.

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