There are a number of enthusiasts out there with some really cool car collections. Some tend to focus on a specific marque, and recently I got to spend a whole day with one such person.
Blakley Leonard is a man who loves Mercedes-Benz. He eats, sleeps and breathes rare examples, most notably pre-merger AMG cars. That is not to say he doesn’t have some other cool models in this collection, but our focus will be directed on Blakley’s AMG and Renntech cars.
Currently, most think of AMG as what M is to BMW or R/RS is to Audi, but prior to the early ’90s, AMG – an acronym for Aufrecht, Melcher and Großaspach – was a separate entity from Mercedes-Benz. You could send a car to AMG’s headquarters in Affalterbach, where they would build you literally whatever you could envision. Provided you had a large enough bank account, that is.
You could also order aftermarket AMG body components to be installed at a local dealer, or have a specific group of approved shops customize your Mercedes with AMG engines, suspension and exhaust etc. There weren’t many North American cars fully built by AMG due to strict guidelines; most of the cars here were imported from other countries.
Since I had planned to spend the whole day with Blakley, we got the chance to enjoy a great lunch and dinner. I was able to pick his brain and learn more about how he came to accumulate such an incredible collection, how he was able to start the premiere Mercedes-Benz auction site, what his future plans are for that, and what models he hopes to add to his collection.
Ever since Blakley was a child, he was inspired by these cars. You see, his father drove a 1983 Mercedes-Benz 300D, a car that Blakley still owns to this day. His father’s enthusiasm for the brand made a lasting impression on his son, and that fire burns just as strong as ever. Blakley currently has 17 Mercedes-Benz cars in his collection.
I think the majority of us will immediately take note of the C126 560SEC AMG wide-body. Surprisingly enough, this wasn’t Blakley’s first AMG wide-body either. We will focus more on that in an upcoming feature on the car.
I first met Blakley at his residence. I knew it was the right place when I saw the 1983 300TD diesel wagon in the driveway. I gave him a ring to let him know I was there and as I patiently waited, I was greeted with the garage door opening. As the light spilled in, I got my first glimpse of his W210 E60 RS Renntech. Admittedly, I have never been much of a fan of the W210 styling. It was the first transition to the new style of E Class. You can tell the car has something special about it but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what without being more informed on these rare specs. After riding in the car on the way to lunch, my opinion was transformed. More on that later.
Before we left, Blakley me invited me into his home. The interior was an homage to Mercedes-Benz. There were parts, advertisements and diecast models etc. I really got a sense of how deep his passion for brand runs.
It was about a 30-minute drive from Blakley’s residence to the warehouse. We had a blast with my 650hp S212 E63 AMG wagon chasing after his E60 RS Renntech. Blakley’s in a good location for some spirited driving with winding roads alongside mountain views. It’s truly a great place for a car enthusiast.
Once we arrived at the warehouse, I was in awe. Obviously, I thought I was mentally prepared having seen lots of photos on Blakley’s Instagram profile, but nothing can truly prepare you for the sheer size of the collection in person. I immediately walked over to the 560SEC and just soaked in those flares. It is absolutely wild to see how wide that car is.
The next car that caught my attention was the 190E Cosworth, which has been retrofitted with Evo I kit. When you see it in person, among all the other cars, it’s remarkable how small 190s are. I have always adored these and they look even better in person.
Next, I was drawn to one of the only drop-tops I have ever cared for – the 500SL. There are a lot of SLs out there, but few with a genuine Gen 1 AMG body-kit paired with a 6.0L. It sounds absolutely menacing. The car looks good from every angle, but the ducktail spoiler truly makes it in my opinion.
Oddly enough, I also really loved the 1985 Euro 300TD wagon. The wheels, stance, European bumpers and lights really set the car off. I stared at it for a while and imagined it a touch lower, with some aftermarket aero and a cammed M156 under the hood.
When I asked Blakley what models he intended to get next, he laughed and said “all of them.” I can let you know that he does also own another very special, one-of-one car that was not at the warehouse at this time. I will touch more on that in an upcoming feature as well.
The 18 vehicles he has in his inventory are as follows (one purposefully left out for now): Euro 1990 560SEC AMG wide-body, Euro 1990 500SL 6.0 AMG, Euro 1988 190E 2.3-16, Euro 1985 300 TD (wagon), Euro 1964 230 SL, 1983 300D, 1999 E60 RS Renntech, 2001 E430 Sport, 2002 E320 (wagon), 2000 E55 AMG, 2001 E55 AMG, 1999 E55 AMG, 1998 320, 1992 500SL, 2005 E320 CDI, 2007 E63 AMG (wagon), 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser.
Unfortunately, the area didn’t provide us with many usable locations to shoot outside. With the sheer quantity of cars, time was also limited so I decided to do the majority of the shots in the space itself. I also wish we had more seat time as well, but it was a long trip there and back. Perhaps another day I could return for more rides and rollers of all these magnificent beasts.
Lastly, I wanted to touch on how this passion has turned into a business venture. Although he has been buying and selling and collecting these rare cars for nearly a decade, a couple of years ago Blakley started theMBMarket.com to advertise quality examples of various Mercedes-Benz models. More recently, it took shape in an auction format where it continues to grow today. It’s the only exclusive marque site for these cars, and it’s fascinating to witness the examples being provided.
It seems Blakley’s long-time enthusiasm for these vehicles as well as his ability to recognize which models are the best to obtain have also given him access to a very wide and exclusive network of individuals. Individuals with the same enthusiasm, many of whom own the rarest examples. It is this type of person that can successfully create and build a platform designed not only for Mercedes-Benz vehicles, but for the community of enthusiasts that drive them.