This vintage van with modern updates could bring $200k at auction.
If you're in the market to experience old-school camping but want an alternative to a restored Airstream or 1970s RV, RM Sotheby's has this 1959 Mercedes-Benz O 319 restomod for sale at its Arizona auction on January 18 and 19. The company estimates this old-school camper with modern upgrades could bring $175,000 to $200,000, but there's no reserve.
The O 319 was the bus variant of Mercedes-Benz L 319 medium-duty commercial truck. Despite the outward similarity with the Volkswagen Transporter, the engine sits up front. A removable panel in the cabin provides access to it. The powerplant runs through an automatic transmission with a Gear Vendor overdrive and an extra oil cooler.
According to RM Sotheby's, "an eccentric computer engineer" converted this bus into a camper over the course of 15 years, and the guy made some interesting upgrades. Rather than the original leaf springs, this one now rides on an air-ride suspension. There are also custom cabinets around the interior for storage, and each one has lighting inside. A separate area hoses the sink, stove, and refrigerator. There's a bed in the back, and two separate audio systems for the interior. Underneath the bus, propane and water tanks attach to the frame rails.
The most surprising upgrade is a hidden solar panel that owners can set up while camping. It can keep the vehicle's batteries topped up while off the grid for a longer experience in the wilderness.
The extensive conversion to this O 319 is impressive, but the $200,000 auction estimate seems optimistic. These Mercedes aren't nearly as well known as something like the VW Type 2 bus, and even those struggle to bring such high prices. RM Sotheby's record among the Volkswagens is $159,500 for a rare 23-window model with a 1967 Eriba Puck camping trailer as part of the sale. Similarly, a beautifully restored 1962 Type 2 Westfalia Camper brought $110,000 in 2015.
Source: RM Sotheby's