Home » For Sale »Last Call » Currently Reading:

Weekend Edition Last Call – A Franco Sbarro Styled Mercedes-Benz on eBay

Jim Brennan December 2, 2012 For Sale, Last Call 33 Comments

This is a Sbarro 500SEC from 1976, and it has covered a mere 8,893 miles. It is being auctioned off for charity, and this raises more questions… Why is this particular car in North Carolina in the first place? Why would anyone add late model Chrome Giovanna Wheels to this unusual car? The rear plate is from a dealer called Planet Suzuki, which was at one time the biggest selling Suzuki Dealer in the country… so why is it being auctioned off for Charity? The Auction Listing is rather detailed, so make the jump to read more…

According to the listing:

This vehicle is being donated to the Arthritis Foundation. 100% of the proceeds will go to support the organization.

Vehicle History: Franco Sbarro has earned a special place in the history of coachbuilding. Inventor of the hubless wheel. Sculptor of wild body designs. Engineer of uninhibited speed and performance. If coachbuilding is an art form, then Sbarro is a great artist, expressing himself through automobiles that capture our imagination but also transform our notions of how they should look and work.

Italian-born and Swiss-bred Sbarro founded his company in 1971 to do just that. Over the years they crafted dozens of bodies, borrowing chassis and tweaking engines to create a unique vision. Coachbuilding allows for a manufacturer to build the cars of their customer’s dreams, without the cost associated with mass production. As such, all of their creations are produced in low quantities, making them even more rare and desirable.

Sometimes, though, coachbuilding isn’t just about innovation but inspiration and homage. That’s why Sbarro also builds high-quality replicas of classic cars like the BMW 328, Bugatti Royale, and Ford GT40. Although Sbarro’s designs are ultra-modern, he appreciates the classics too.

In the 1980s, something of a conundrum occurred in automotive manufacturing: Mercedes-Benz were building high-quality cars that were both modern and instant classics at the same time. For the ever-watchful eye of Franco Sbarro, these cars were ripe for the ultimate expression of gratitude towards Mercedes-Benz for their products.

Which brings us to his custom Gullwing 6.9. The first people of notoriety to customize the Mercedes C126 380-500SEC were Styling Garage out of Hamburg, Germany. Then, Sbarro debuted his legendary take at the 1983 Geneva Auto Show. These guys were the original “pimp my ride”. They were Europeans who loved their cars and wanted to add their own special touch. This usually called for extensive revisions of the interiors, exteriors, and engines.

For Sbarro’s 500SEC, he uses elements from not just one Mercedes-Benz, but two: the C126 coupe and W116 sedan. At first glance it appears to borrow more from the C126. The body is imposing to say the least. Sbarro has crafted entirely new sheetmetal in ways that Styling Garage did not. However, since the car is titled as a 1976, before the C126, the chassis is mostly likely from the W116 6.9 four-door sedan.

The most striking aspect are the gullwing doors, a tribute to the classic Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing of the 1950s. These have since become a trademark Mercedes feature, despite being used mainly on concept cars until their 2010 SLS. Sbarro’s gullwings are made of plastic for easy lifting and less overall weight added to the vehicle.

The car has a unique roof that is lower than the C124. The trunk is higher, and the wheel wells are flared. Mercedes designs of the time featured an emphasis on horizontal lines, so Sbarro takes it new a new level. The whole front is covered in thin slats that hide the headlights and grille that are reminiscent of the rear of a Ferarri Testarossa. The lower panels feature horizontal groove lines too that mimic the iconic ribbed taillights.

Inside, Sbarro has completely reworked the interior, while retaining a Mercedes-Benz vibe throughout. The dashboard is from the W116 sedan. The steering wheel is unique. The center console houses climate controls and an aftermarket radio. The seats appear to be Recaro and are power adjustable from buttons on the seats themselves. Despite the ambition of the overall project, the interior is relatively modest and tasteful.

Underneath the hood lies an enormous 6.9-liter 8-cylinder engine, previously only available in the rare high performance W116 450SEL sedan from 1975-1980. Sbarro is a speed hound and wanted to put as much power in his creation as possible. The 6.9 put out around 286 horsepower, big for the time and still respectable today. It should easily move this thing along.

Condition: Cosmetically, the vehicle is in very good shape. It underwent a 5 year restoration and has been driven around 9,000 miles since. It currently sits on aftermarket 20-inch Giovanna chrome wheels. The paint is in good shape, with only some minor scratches and wear from typical usage. The interior is also in good shape.

Mechanically, the car starts, runs and drives fine, with no apparent issues. The owner has maintained it very well. The hydraulic gullwing doors open and shut easily. The car also has height-adjustable suspension. The odometer currently reads only 8,893 miles since the restoration. It is not accurate and is being sold as True Mileage Unknown.

Only 6 were supposedly built with this configuration, from a total of 28 including the later Biturbo. Many of Sbarro’s original customers were royality from the Middle East and this particular example was supposedly built for an Arabian princess before being owned by Celtics basketball player Dennis Johnson. It could very well be the only one in the U.S. This is a rare piece of European coachbuilding history. The car seems to be in good shape and should be ready to go. At the very least, it will be a big hit at the local car show and the cause of many scratched heads as people try to figure out what exactly this unique vehicle is.

With almost four days to go until the auction wraps up, the top bid so far is $12,600, with an unmet reserve. What do you think it will take to sell this… thing? See the listing here: Mercedes-Benz Gullwing 6.9 Franco Sbarro Edition

  • Van_Sarockin

    Oh, Sbarro, so many good ideas lavishly executed, that hooked left and way out of play. It's hand built. It's rare. It's weird, but not Colani-level weird. Will those doors keep out any rain? And what happened with the shifter, anyway? Big motor with low HP. Maybe it will make fifteen large, which is about where it should be. You just know it's got big issues, where you like the massage of M-B's bank-safe-in-motion design or not. But maybe we now know where Pontiac got some of their bad body cladding ideas.

  • comoto

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/Fr2pYHDfiRA&quot; frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

  • Ethan Gaines

    I live in Charlotte, I saw that car a couple months ago at our Cars and Coffee. Planet Suzuki also sells a lot of late model exotic cars and luxury cars. They had a SLS AMG there not too long ago. This car is an abomination.

    • comoto

      I think the only really bad thing that lets it down are its wheels. It needs something bigger to fill those arches, and be a bit lower.

    • Raphael Orlove

      I would love to see this thing have gullwing-off with an SLS.

  • JayP2112

    I love his stuff. Those wheels need to go though. The originals must still be around…
    <img src="http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m4w56ylEmz1r2dcdfo1_500.png&quot; width="450">

    • king7two

      check out 1000sel.com They have TONS of pictures of the old 80's exotic's that have body kits. Takes me back to my youth drooling over these cars.

  • PotbellyJoe

    I always knew the Swiss were terrible at pizza…

  • Joe Dunlap

    So, why ist being auctioned off for charity? Simple. The owner has a snowballs chance in hell of ever selling the thing outright. He just donated it and took the tax write-off. Jebus, how stupid could you be to every buy this thing in the first place??

  • Devin

    I must have seen a Mansory concept recently, because this looks tasteful.

  • pizzahoon

    I'm shocked that there are so many negative responses to this car. Its a wonderful piece of motoring history! Those rims have got to go though, they're just distasteful and ruin the good looks of this car.

  • JayP2112

    Last Call OT:
    Found the Autotrader app. This will not end up well for my bank account.

    Did you know the Thunderbird SC was offered with a manual transmission?
    I did not and now I want one.

    • The Cougar XR7 of the same era had the same drivetrain.

      • JayP2112

        My buddy's mom had a 25th Ann. Ed with the 302. It was really nice.

    • Yep, I owned a 1992 SC with a 5-speed. Fun car, could outrun a Mustang Cobra 45-120mph.

  • You could grind up that car and snort it.

    • mnm4ever

      I think you would have to have done a lot of coke to want to buy that thing.

  • chrystlubitshi

    somewhat afraid to ask how it ended up at a suzuki dealership.

    • Rover1

      Traded on an X90?

      • chrystlubitshi

        i know i'm wrong in the head…. but I love the x90. and would totally have traded this merc. abomination in for one.

        also—- new camaro front end? hmm??

  • salguod

    Somethign is odd here. The roof line and quarter windows don't match any of the images that turn up when I Google '<a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=Sbarro+500SEC&sugexp=chrome,mod%3D8&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&authuser=0&ei=UCC8UJ24EdCP0QHJ9oH4Aw&biw=1205&bih=739&sei=cSC8UK7VDLK60AGLyIGIBw">sbarro 500SEC'.

    Ah, here's a <a href="http://www.benzworld.org/forums/w126-s-se-sec-sel-sd/1501045-sbarro-gullwing-116-6-9-a.html">BenzWorld thread from 2010 when it was on ebay for $90K. Someone there says it's an even rarer Sbarro BiTurbo from 1984. Looks right based on <a href="http://sbarro.perso.neuf.fr/voitures/biturbo/biturbogb.html">this page, except for the interior and the fact that they say it's a 6.9 not a twin turbo 5.0. Someone there claimed you could get either.

    Whatever, it's still uglier than sin.

  • I liked the Sbarro, Koenig and Styling Garages Mercs of the 80's, and the more subtle ones (e.g without stupid fake Testarossa side strakes) still look good today. As pointed out, though, those rims should be removed, ground into dust and then placed in a low earth orbit to ensure they're never used again.

    Also, that looks very like a Lincoln MKVII 3/4 glass. It isn't, but it sure looks like one. Weird stuff.

  • [youtube R6Mj1Us13Yk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6Mj1Us13Yk youtube]

  • So, basically, he managed to make a Benz look like a (much cheaper) Oldsmobile.

    <img src="http://static.ddmcdn.com/gif/vehicle-pictures/1992/oldsmobile/toronado-trofeo/92128201990201-480.jpg"&gt;

  • Mr. Queeg

    If you buy this, you have to be seen getting out of it wearing some weird clothes like from that British TV show "UFO."

  • Sjalabais

    Because he could.

  • Mad_Hungarian

    Sorry, not getting it. Looks to me like the offspring of an S-class and a Bertone Volvo 240 coupe, with Salvador Dali serving as midwife. Also, is it just me or is the driver's door very misaligned?


    My first thought was "whale on wheels"

  • Buickboy92

    Here is a video on the car from Saabkyle04. I find it to be pretty cool.

    [youtube Fr2pYHDfiRA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fr2pYHDfiRA youtube]