Walt Disney was a mogul in every sense of the word. By 1964 the company he founded included the Disneyland theme park, the production of animated and live-action movies, and was planning a larger resort in Florida which would later become Disney World. Yet, in his private life, he was frugal, living like a man of modest means. The idea of splurging on a big ticket item made him uncomfortable, especially something like a car.
However, it wasn’t just any car that caught Disney’s eye. It was a 1964 Mercedes-Benz 230SL. Known as the Pagoda because of its removable hardtop, it originally cost $8,500 or the equivalent of $85,000 today. At the time, Disney could have bought any car he wanted. But the price tag of the Mercedes-Benz was too rich for him.
According to actor Dean Jones, he was walking down the street in Los Angles with Walt Disney, who was pitching Jones to star in a new movie titled That Darn Cat! Jones later recalled Disney stopping to stare at the 230SL, falling in love with the car. Then he said, “I can’t afford that,” and quickly walked away.
About halfway down the block, Walt Disney turned and said to Jones, “wait, I can afford it.” Then Disney and Jones returned to the dealership, where Disney wrote a $3,000 check for the Mercedes-Benz SL230 and drove it home.
Dean Jones went on to star in a number of Disney movies, most notably The Love Bug series starring a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle. As for Disney, he decided to recoup some of the $8,500 he paid for the Mercedes-Benz by renting it out to the studio for $100 a day, where it appeared with Dean Jones in That Darn Cat.
The Mercedes-Benz 230SL set the tone for every subsequent Mercedes-Benz SL with its understated elegance and timeless style. Walt Disney died in 1965, about 18 months after taking ownership of his car, but if he were alive today, he would be shocked at its value. According to Hagerty, a 230SL in good condition fetches $50,000, while cars in excellent condition sell for above $89,000.