Is the 1986–89 Mercedes-Benz 560SL ready to rebound?

It’s amazing how many great collector cars are getting the cold shoulder these days. The 1965–70 Shelby GT350, 1976–89 Porsche 911 Carrera (Turbo 930), and 2005–06 Ford GT, for example, have all seen much brighter days in the market. But when it comes to ice cold—and we’re talking Polar Vortex cold— well, if the 1986–89 Mercedes-Benz 560SL was any more chill it would be the official car of Antarctica.

Until recently, that is.

According to the Hagerty Vehicle Rating, the 560SL had been free-falling for nearly two full years before the bleeding finally stopped. Maybe things are finally looking up again.

What’s the Hagerty Vehicle Rating, you ask? This is what it is not: It is not indicator of future collectability. Additionally, a low score doesn’t mean your car has one tire in the scrap heap. The HVR is a data-driven scale that simply indicates what’s hot and what’s not. Measured on a 0–100 scale, a 50-point rating indicates that a vehicle is keeping pace with the market overall. A rating above 50 indicates above-average appreciation; a vehicle with a rating below 50 is lagging. The stat-heavy rating takes into account the number of vehicles insured and quoted through Hagerty, along with auction activity and private sales results.

1986 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL rear 3/4
1986 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL RM Sotheby's
1986 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL badge
1986 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL RM Sotheby's

1986 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL side profile
1986 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL RM Sotheby's

The 560SL was the last in the venerable R107 series (also known as the W107), which ran from 1972–89 and—true to form for Mercedes-Benz—included models with lots of numbers and letters. Like the 350SL, 450SLC, and 500SLC, to name a few. In 1986, Mercedes shipped its most powerful SL of the decade, and of the chassis type, to the United States. At 3781 pounds, the 560SL was also the heaviest of the SLs, but its new 5.6-liter V-8 engine—with 227 horsepower and 287 lb-ft of torque—had little trouble with the extra weight. In fact, it had a top speed of about 140 mph.

The car also received a new rear suspension, a limited-slip differential to better handle the extra power, anti-lock brakes, leather upholstery, an alarm system, and an airbag, all of which added up to a price tag of $48,000—about $115,000 in today’s money. That hefty sum was perfectly acceptable in the luxury market, and the 560SL sold so well that its average annual sales of 12,000+ units outpaced its predecessors despite the fact that Americans had seen this same basic shape of their roads for over a decade and a half. Nonetheless, Mercedes retired the W107/R107 chassis in 1990.

The 560SL has maintained its reputation as a powerful, reliable, well-appointed, classically-styled luxury automobile, but its values and Hagerty Vehicle Rating haven’t reflected the same consistency. In fact, the 560SL is currently ranked 1201st in the HVR with only 27 points—and that’s actually taking a step in the right direction. Last time around, the 560SL had 18 points and sat in 1245th place, just 12 spots from dead last.

1988 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL front
1988 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL RM Sotheby's

Not one category is to blame for the 560SL’s slide in the HVR, since it is lagging behind the market in all four statistical categories: Hagerty Price Guide values (47 points), number of insurance policies (48 points), insurance quoting activity (48 points), auction activity (39 points), and private sales activity (24 points).

The average value of the most expensive 560SL (1989) in #2 (Excellent) condition is $44,200, which in the most recent HPG update was unchanged from the previous update—and cause for celebration. That’s because the 560SL’s #2-condition value dropped in every HPG from January 2017 until September 2018. That followed a big run-up four years ago, which culminated in a 78.7-percent jump in May 2015. Overall, the average #2 value has dropped 12.58 percent from January 2017–January 2019.

Regarding sales, the average sale price for a 560SL has actually increased 3.3 percent in 12 months, but that still lags behind the overall market, which is at 8.3 percent. Although 6-percent more 560SLs have come to auction in the last year—meaning supply and demand are pretty much in sync—the marginal increase in average value indicates that the very best examples are staying put.

1988 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL interior
1988 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL RM Sotheby's
1988 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL engine
1988 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL RM Sotheby's

1988 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL hood badge
1988 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL RM Sotheby's
1988 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL rear 3/4
1988 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL RM Sotheby's

On the insurance side, the 12-month average quoted value for the 560SL peaked at $22,991 in May 2018. It has decreased 2.8 percent since. Believe it or not, that decrease might indicate the return of a pulse to the market, since the 12-month average value for all cars quoted by Hagerty decreased 5.5 percent over the same period.

Of note: the 560SL appeals primarily to older buyers. Only 10 vehicles have a higher percentage of Pre-Boomer quotes than the 560SL in the past 12 months. In fact, 71 percent of all 560SL quotes go to people age 55 years old or older. Why does that matter? Simple: Older, more financially fit car owners can afford to wait out the storm. With the slight uptick in the 560SL’s standing in the HVR, perhaps they’re sleeping a little better at night.

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