’86 Mercedes-Benz 560SL nods to one owner’s boyhood dreams
This article first appeared in Hagerty Drivers Club magazine. Click here to subscribe and join the club.
I grew up on Long Island in a small city called Glen Cove. I’ve loved cars since I was a toddler. I was told by my grandmother that at the age of 4, I would walk down the street and could name the make of just about every car we’d pass. Over the years, I collected Corgi car models, had a large Aurora HO–scale racing set, and built a number of plastic models. I still have most of the Corgis, as well as the first model I ever put together with my dad, a ’40 Ford coupe.
Dad was into American cars. First a Ford or two and then the ones I remember most vividly—a ’68 Toronado, a ’72 Toronado, a Pontiac 6000, a Grand Prix, and then his final car, a 1982 Firebird. I inherited that car when he passed away, but it was stolen from a parking spot a block away from an apartment I had in New York City.
Our driveway was directly beside my neighbor’s driveway, however, and that was the real story, because our neighbors went the German and British route. An MGB, a BMW 2002, several Mercedes-Benz sedans, and then a 450SL in Light Ivory and Palomino. That’s the one I fell in love with.
Many years later, I married, had a dazzling daughter, and bought a 1965 220SEb cabriolet, a four-speed imported from France. It was a terrific car, but then I got divorced and my ex-wife ended up with it. Such is life.
I got remarried to a wonderful woman who truly enjoys cars. We wanted to get a classic Mercedes, but another 220 was not in the cards. We bought an ’84 300CD to fix up and enjoy. While looking through classifieds one evening, I mentioned how much I wanted to get a nice two-seater convertible—maybe some type of SL. My wife looked up and said, “I’ve always liked those cars. Let’s get one.” We spent the next several months looking around the Seattle area and online.
Soon we found what looked like a nice ’86 560SL in California—a clean, two-owner car. The seller seemed a bit reluctant to chat, and we agreed to have a follow-up call. He began the second call by saying he had checked me out. I told him I had done the same, that I had looked him up on LinkedIn. “No,” he said, “I really checked you out.” At the time, he was chief of police in a small town in between LA and San Francisco. I didn’t know what to say. His next words: “I’m happy to sell you my car!” I had passed his test as someone who would look after the car and treat it the way he did.
We had “Rosie” shipped up to Seattle in January 2014. About a year and a half later, we moved east, and the SL is now safely tucked into our two-car garage. We take Rosie out in nice weather as often as we can. My wife ended up with a classic she has always liked, and I ended up with the Mercedes I’d loved since I was a kid. In Light Ivory over Palomino, no less.