Fake or original: Two Mercedes 300 SL with the same chassis number

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Scandal in Germany: a Mercedes 300 SL with a duplicate chassis number has been discovered at the office of well-known restorer Klaus Kienle. It is suspected that there are several forged chassis numbers. Prosecutors have ordered the seizure of two cars and parts. A classic car dealer is convinced he owns the original.

Klaus Kienle, the owner of Kienle Automobiltechnik, located in Heimerdingen, near Stuttgart, has been restoring and servicing classic Mercedes models since 1984. He is recognized as one of the leading specialists in the restoration of Mercedes 300 SL and 600 models. But a few days ago it was involved in a big scandal.

A classic car dealer Ralph Grieser from Mulheim Karlich wanted to register a red Mercedes 300 SL Roadster that he had bought from Switzerland. But when he wanted to register it in Germany in the name of his Depot 3 company, he found that a yellow Mercedes 300 SL with the same chassis number was registered in Germany. Grieser called the police to look for the second car because he believes he owns the original.

The car Grieser bought has a clear history: the first owner owned it until 1969, when he sold it to the second who kept it until October 2022. Among other things, the soft-top, windshield, side windows, and floor mats are original and the car has never been restored. The original color was yellow and the soft top was black.

Greiser is convinced he owns the car that was on display at the Geneva Motor Show in the spring of 1961. The dealer says the car has been inspected by two independent authorities, the chassis series is 100% correct, and he also owns the car with the 7-number lower chassis number.

Klaus Kienle

What the Mercedes 300 SL Club Germany says 

Wilfried Porth, president of the Mercedes 300 SL Club Germany recommends that before buying such a car, a check should be made at the Mercedes Classic Center, which has detailed documentation on each example and can distinguish whether it is a duplicate. 

Porth says €20,000 for a check-up is a small amount compared to the €1.5-2 million price of an original car. He says a check is especially indicated when the car comes from abroad, has had several owners, and has been restored.

Because a Mercedes 300 SL is very expensive, there are people trying to make dirty business. This is also true for the 29 Mercedes 300 SL models with aluminum bodywork that are trading for prices between 5 and 6 million euros.

After Grieser’s complaint, police raided at the Kienle Automobiltechnik headquarters in Heimerdingen near Stuttgart and at the private residence of the company’s owners on 31 May 2023. The public prosecutor’s office confirmed that they seized among other things two Mercedes 300 SL, a 300 SL engine, a 300 SL chassis, and a tubular space frame for the 300 SL together with several written documents and hard disks.

The charge: commercial fraud with the sale of fake classic cars. The chassis number of a €1.6 million car was duplicated. This was discovered when Greiser tried to register the newly purchased red Mercedes 300 SL roadster.

According to the Baden-Württemberg prosecutor and police, the roadster built in January 1961 was the sixth example with brake discs and was presented at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1961, having been bought by a Zurich businessman in 1962. The car was later repainted red and bought by Grieser.

Prosecutors suspect that Kienle produced and sold professional duplicates of the Mercedes 300 SL with chassis numbers that were not traded for a long time. And there are suspicions that there are other duplicates.

In an interview in auto motor und sport magazine, Kienle said he denied the allegations and said he does not own duplicates. He claims he did not restore that yellow Mercedes 300 SL. But the yellow roadster appears on Kienle’s 2020 calendar. 

Klaus Kienle

The car was restored 25 years ago by a now insolvent company and sold 15 years ago by a dealer in Heilbronn. Kienle claims that he was only a broker for this car and three others “three or five years ago” and returned it. “We had nothing to do with this car,” says Kienle.

Kienle also states that he is still not even sure which of the two cars is original and has announced that he will take legal action against those bringing defamatory accusations against Kienle Automobiltechnik and his person. Kienle has already fired one employee implicated in the allegations.

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