For some perspective, consider the fact that it’s been 136 years since Mercedes-Benz patented the world’s first automobile. Conversely, today the German automaker sells around 2.5 million sparkling new cars a year worldwide. Somewhere between origins history and the relentlessness of modern commerce sits a new facility in Long Beach, California, home to both ends of these disparate aspects of automotive manufacturing.
While a hidden part of the new premises serves as a vehicle preparation center for tens of thousands of incoming SUVs, sedans and coupes before they are distributed to dealerships, the real romance can be found at the front of the 1 .1 million square feet structure where Boeing planes were once made – the recently unveiled Mercedes-Benz Classic Center. Christened on a balmy Friday afternoon before Monterey Car Week, the 40,000-square-foot facility is a slice of nirvana for anyone remotely touched by old-school automotive nostalgia. Phillip Sarofim, friend, collector and board member of the Petersen Automobile Museum, lent a stunning Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster for the occasion, where the light green metallic convertible was quickly welcomed with a spot on the red carpet automobile alongside a who’s who of vintage Benzes.
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While the Classic Center offers the usual restoration and maintenance facilities – paint booths, lifts for maintenance, upholstery areas for leather and trim work – the stars, so to speak, are the cars: l Roy Orbison’s elegant 600 ‘Grosser’ sedan, a Mercedes powered Ilmor/IndyCar Racer and all sorts of miscellaneous customer cars awaiting restoration, from a rare AMG Hammer coupe to a delightfully abandoned 1920s ragtop in mint condition walking.
Fittingly, the grand opening preceded a selection of classics that made the pilgrimage to Monterey Car week in a sheet metal caravan that included an eclectic lineup of Benzes, from a CLK 63 AMG Coupe Black Series ready to the track to a jaunty 280 SL Roadster “Pagode” and an elegantly muscular 300 SEL 6.3 saloon. On the contrary, immersion in a world where perfection is sought in aesthetics and not in commerce, is a visceral reminder of why one gets into the automotive hobby in the first place. There will always be a constant stream of new cars, but the classics are an unforgettable reminder of where they came from.
Click here to view all photos of the new Mercedes-Benz Classic Center.
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