A Vintage Year

This article previously appeared in Elements Magazine.

Now, You Can Have a “Brand-New” Classic Car

Paintings, sculptures, tapestries, and fine jewelry are just some luxury items that can be bought, appreciated, and generally expected to rise in value. Yet, automobiles are arguably the most enjoyable investments one can add to a portfolio. Now, recognizing the popularity of vintage automobile investing, major manufacturers are opening their own restoration and classic sales facilities to the public. The oldest carmaker in the world, Mercedes-Benz, has had such a facility in Germany for some time. However, last year, they opened a branch of the famed Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in southern California.

The Mercedes-Benz Classic Center, in Irvine, California

The Mercedes-Benz Classic Center, which is the first and only manufacturer-backed classic center of its kind, opened its doors for business in Irvine, California, in summer 2006.  The Classic Center at Irvine offers a full compliment of services, including retail sales, restoration, appraisal, and vehicle-search assistance for Mercedes-Benz models aged 20 years and older. M-BCC was created, in part, because Mercedes wished to ensure the stars (pun intended) of their company’s history would be treated to the high standards of restoration that they enjoyed when they were constructed new.

“Imagine the chance to step back in time and purchase the Mercedes-Benz of your dreams right off the showroom floor, and that is the magic of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center,” says Mike Kunz, manager, Classic Center.  “For those who longed for these cars when they were younger, or for customers who are new to the brand and value the nostalgia and timeless style that comes with a vintage Mercedes, the Classic Center at Irvine provides a unique opportunity unmatched by any other marque in the world to relive automotive history.”

The Classic Center's storage area.

Vehicles are offered at a wide range of prices beginning at around $25,000 and reaching into the millions. The Classic Center, which is housed in a 28,000-square foot building, also operates a full service department and any technician employed at the Center is qualified to work on all Mercedes-Benz vehicles classified by the company as “classic”–currently up to and including cars built until 1992. Through its partnership with the original Classic Center in Germany, the Classic Center in Irvine maintains a direct link to the factory and unequalled access to the parts, tools, service manuals and production records needed to work on these great automobiles.

“Nobody understands how to care for these cars better than the company that made them and has the vast resources and expertise to do so,” notes Mark McNabb, vice president, Marketing. “Should an original part not be available, the Classic Center can turn to the Mercedes-Benz Prototype Department and the Research and Development Department for assistance in remanufacturing parts. For example, the Prototype Department was called upon to reproduce the hood for the 1956-1963 190 SL, because it required a specific technique that is no longer in place.”

Another legendary manufacturer who restores their classic wares is Aston Martin. However, one must send one’s Aston Martin to England to enjoy all their Works Service Department has to offer.  AMWS is a factory-backed workshop with the experience to care for any Aston Martin or Lagonda. Located in Newport Pagnell, the staff will help arrange any special travel arrangements you might specify to bring your car in. The Aston Martin Works Service Department is able to undertake scheduled and unscheduled maintenance on all post-1950 Aston Martin cars from DB2 through to the latest V8 Vantage and DB9 models.

The Aston Martin Works Service Department, in England.

As soon as you arrive, a service reception engineer will greet you and your one-on-one consultation will begin. Cars can be re-painted in any hue you choose; leather can be re-trimmed to your personal specification; and the engine in your Aston can be “massaged” to produce more horsepower than when new. On restoration projects, all of Aston Martin’s skills are combined to bring a cherished motorcar back to its former glory. After the initial contact, the owner is invited to visit the AMWS premises so that a complete assessment of the car can be carried out. If this proves to be impractical we will carry out the assessment at the customer’s own premises. The assessment will include a partial strip down to gauge the extent of the necessary repairs.

A V-8 Volante and a DBS, gleaming after restorations.

Through the use of a high-tech, computerized body alignment system, heavy collision damage can be accurately repaired ensuring correct suspension geometry and panel alignment. Factory trained technicians utilize skills both traditional and state of the art–from a twist of a wooden handled screwdriver to the operation of the latest in microprocessor diagnostic equipment. The original vehicle build history will be drawn from Aston’s archives and referred to throughout the process to ensure originality. Their experienced technical staff will then provide a detailed, itemized estimate for the necessary refurbishment or replacement of components. Once approval is given, the car will be fully stripped down in readiness for each area to be restored.

Depending on the amount of work required, your “new” classic Aston Martin will be ready in about a year’s time and most important, you can begin to appreciate your blue chip investment…even if it’s painted in 007 silver.

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