I've interacted with "collectors" for years in the automotive and gun communities. Before I discuss my predictions for the SLK, I must share this one caveate: real, serious, collectors are, most often, pretty sick obsessed people. Someone like, say, Jay Leno who is building a major collection as a gift to the public, is very rare. Most collectors are driven by the "need" to have more, or more expensive, toys than other people. These aren't "nice" people. They are driven, and they ain't motivated by a love of engineering or driving.
With that nasty (but honest) bitterness behind us allow me to share my observations of what collectors want and what they will pay for. The first rule is that the item must be absolutely original
. When you do some neat things to change your car to make it more personal, you are destroying its future value. People who understand this, and there is no way around it, are smart enough to be absolutely sure to keep all the original parts
which are replaced. If you want to make major changes in the car to make it more personal or function better, then understand that if they are not reversible you have "ruined" the collector's value of the car. Since a mass produced car like our SLKs takes decades to become collectable, if you don't have a rare model like an early manual transmission or AMG model, you might as well make the mods and enjoy one of the nicest sports cars in history.
As for which models will, eventually, be collectable; I agree with the models listed in the earlier posts. Certainly, the first year's models are always good bets. I am talking about the American models since they were all super charged, and super charged production cars are very rare and by definition exotic. The baby 300SL look of the R-170s are just so neat that they are the inspiration of the latest model. That lends them authority. From my experience I'd say that they will be the most sought after. The factory hop-ups and limited runs will go up sooner, but in the long run, a clean first year model with an unscratched (that will be the rarest) red and black interior will be the hardest to find and therefore the most desirable.
After a half a century, most well kept SLKs will have some collectors' value. I base this on the rising prices of the old 190SLs. Those cars were scorned when new since they were considered no more than German T-birds. All looks and no go. The survivors have become classics. They still are pretty sorry cars, but the ones which are left are way up in value. The same thing is happening with the "Pagoda" roofed 230SLs and their later variants. Not fast, nor the easiest cars to control at high speeds, but as most of them have rotted or crashed, the survivors are growing in value. It took decades, but at least they are pretty! No one, in their production period would have predicted that they would ever excite collectors.
Just some thoughts from an experienced (read: old) guy who has dealt with collectors for decades. Again, modify and enjoy your car, but only pure originals (remember to keep all the original papers and especially the original window sticker
and delivery manuals) will be "grand classics."