Walt Disney was a true tycoon. The company he established in 1964 already operated the amusement park Disneyland, produced animated and live-action films, and was developing Disney World, a larger resort in Florida. However, he was parsimonious and lived simply in his personal life. He didn’t like the idea of spending a lot of money on something, particularly a car.
Disney, however, wasn’t just interested in any car. It was a Mercedes-Benz 230SL from 1964. Due to its detachable hardtop, it became known as the Pagoda and was initially priced at $8,500, or about $85,000 in today’s dollars. Disney had the option to purchase any car he desired at the moment. But he couldn’t afford the Mercedes-Benz because of its high price.
Actor Dean Jones claims that while they were out and about in Los Angeles, Walt Disney approached him about playing the lead in his upcoming film, That Damn Cat! Later, Jones remembered how Disney had stopped to admire the 230SL and had fallen in love with it. He immediately left after saying, “I can’t afford that.”
Walt Disney turned and said to Jones, “Wait, I can afford it,” about halfway down the street. Disney then scribbled a $3,000 check for the Mercedes-Benz SL230 and drove it home after the pair went back to the dealership with Jones.
Dean Jones later appeared in several Disney films, most famously The Love Bug series, which featured a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle. With regard to Disney, he made the decision to partially recoup the $8,500 he spent on the Mercedes-Benz by lending it to the production company for $100 per day, where it was featured alongside Dean Jones in That Darn Cat.
The Mercedes-Benz 230SL, with its understated elegance and timeless style, set the tone for every succeeding Mercedes-Benz SL. Walt Disney passed away in 1965, just over a year after acquiring his car, but if he were living today, he would be astounded by its price. A 230SL in good condition sells for $50,000, and vehicles in exceptional condition go for over $89,000, according to Hagerty.