This 1952 Mercedes 220A Convertible was restored and painted in Los Angeles. A t the time it was considered an expensive gentleman’s summer car, powerful and technically advanced, with its 80 bhp, 2,195 cc in line-six engine, four-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension with wishbones and coil springs, swing-axle rear with coil springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Its wheelbase is 2.85 metres.
The car’s first owner after restoration was Vincent Mandzak, a unique character who was everyone’s kind of guy: the embodiment of Californian cool. ‘Vinnie’ was a beloved figure in the Southern California auto-scene for three decades, initially as a Mercedes-Benz salesman in Beverly Hills and then as an RM Sotheby’s car specialist. He loved Mercedes-Benz models and colourful, thought-provoking art and design generally. Through his work he became friends with the respected Japanese artist Hiro Yamagata, who was also living in California. As a result, Vinnie bought the car which is true both to its creator’s vision and to the eternally optimistic personality of the great Mandzak.
Hiro Yamagata had moved to California in 1978. In the early 1990s he embarked on a series of 23 Earthly Paradise car designs all of which used the same model: a white Mercedes 220A with beige hoods and trim. The aim was to show the interconnections between art, nature and technology. However, the project stalled in the late 1990s, halfway through painting a car no less. The initial concept had consisted 30 cars; Mike is now looking to compile the remaining seven. They were exhibited initially in Los Angeles followed by Europe and Japan. At this time 12 of the cars are in Japan. Mike now five examples and believes that no other Earthly Paradise cars currently reside in the United Kingdom.
Mike Pickles had been introduced to Hiro Yamagata by his Japanese friend Mr. Naka in November 2014. Mike then went on to visit where the cars were being renovated and met up with Vinnie at RM Sotheby’s. Vinnie took Mike to see his 220A which was being stored in a lock-up. It was looking a little dull and dreary—but even so Mike made an offer for the car which Vinnie politely refused. In true Mandzak salesman fashion, however, he offered to sell Mike a few different cars instead!
When the family of the recently deceased Vinnie decided to put his 220A up for sale in 2016, Mike Pickles was alerted by RM Sotheby’s as they knew he’d shown interest in adding to the three he already owned, So Mike made the trek to Monterey to buy Vinnie’s car. Nervous knowing others with deeper pockets perhaps than he were present at the auction, nevertheless he secured its purchase. The story of the acquisition was recorded for TV and can be seen on The world’s most expensive cars (Channel 4 series, episode 3). In his first-ever TV interview, Mike relates how he bought the car in order to display it in the design museum he and others are planning to build in Castleford, West Yorkshire to inspire the young to better understand product design now so as to design better products in the future.
Car displayed courtesy of Mike Pickles from Monday 23 to Sunday 29 April 2018.