It’s the classiest wagon because it’s one of one; the result of an NYC socialite’s inability to accept ‘no’ for an answer.
A regular W186 Mercedes 300 ‘Adenauer’ is the sort of toweringly aristocratic vehicle that’ll have you hit your brakes to let it in, and tug your forelock as it passes.
Turning it into the most serenely superior of family cruisers does not change that one bit. Quite the contrary.
Not that this wagon ever ferried snotty nosed kids, you understand. It was custom made at the behest of American Tobacco Company heir Caroline Ryan Foulke who needed something to ferry luggage to and from her yacht in Palm Beach, the French Riviera and Baden-Baden in Germany. Yes, all three places- she flew the vehicle wherever she needed it.
The fact that Mercedes didn’t offer their top of the range limousine as a wagon did not deter Mrs. Foulke. She just had it shipped from the Mercedes plant to Binz, purveyor of hearses, ambulances and wagons on Mercedes chassis. Those commercial applications were nice enough, but not to Mrs. Foulke’s taste, so her car ended up much lighter in the greenhouse, as well as shorter and lower.
Needless to say, cruising Mrs. Foulkes’ wagon is going to be spendy. Gooding estimates between $375,000 - $425,000. For what it is, I don’t think that that’s unreasonable; it is a unique and very attractive version of one of the most definitive Mercedes of all time.
The W186 was Mercedes first all new post war car, but it did borrow heavily from their opulent pre-war cars. Combining some of the advances of the ‘40s and ‘50s with the engineering excellence of those ‘30s SSKs – but without their performance and styling excesses – was a winning formula. The W186 range may now be overshadowed by the contemporary 300 SL ‘Gullwing’, but I think that may be unfair; there is an advantage to staying within the performance envelope of the era, and relying on tried and tested engineering solutions.
It’s no surprise that it became the favourite Autobahn cruiser of wily but solid Konrad Adenauer, Western Germany’s first post war chancellor as a result. Fortunately for us, the limousine that were nicknamed for him are rather more affordable: $50-90k is about the going rate. The convertible and achingly gorgeous coupé rather more than that.
Oh, and in case you’re suddenly flush: Mrs. Foulkes’ longroof may not be brown, but it does come with a manual (four-on-the-tree).
Background story: Gary Anderson at Mercedes-Benz Club of America.