Hollywood is magical a place where movie and music legends are created and the stars are not just in the night sky. Clark Gable, John Wayne, John Travolta, Olivia Newton John, and Tom Cruise are all renowned stars of their respective generations whose names grace the Hollywood Walk of Fame alongside many others.
Located in central Los Angeles, the densely populated neighbourhood of Hollywood is home to the US movie industry, which includes many historic studios. The oldest of these hark back to 1911, the year after the area was consolidated with the city of Los Angeles.
With star quality as the central theme what car would you take for a cruise of Hollywood? With so many high-net-worth individuals in this area, a modern Bentley or Ferrari goes almost un-noticed in the sea of expensive cars that ply streets here.
What does get you noticed however, is an immaculate classic car with great pedigree. My friend, local property developer John Kostikyan had just the ticket in the form of a 1969 Mercedes 280SE Coupe recently restored by Platinum Motorsport.
In a culture where latest is greatest, and today’s hot-pick quickly becomes yesterdays news, the classic Mercedes 280SE Coupe really stands out from the crowd on Sunset Boulevard.
A provider and builder of bespoke tuned high-end cars to the rich and famous in Hollywood and LA, Platinum Motorsport starts each of their bespoke projects with the latest models from Bentley, Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce, and even the mighty Bugatti Veyron as their raw material.
Originally crash repair specialists before they moved into customising high-end cars, the crew at Platinum aimed high from day one and their bodywork and paint skills are some of the best I have seen anywhere.
The way Platinum’s business has expanded in recent years means that they don’t normally restore classic cars, but as John is a long time friend of owner, Jack Keshishyan, the work on the 280SE Coupe was taken on as a personal favour.
“The car is a 1969 280SE Coupe with the 160hp 2,778cc six-cylinder motor,” said John. “I have always loved the shape of this car and set out to find a basically solid example I could restore to a very high standard.”
“The car only had two owners from new and factory electric windows, sunroof and air-conditioning, but it was in a right state. It had been vandalised, and parts like the headlamps, door locks, some of the chrome parts and wood trim were missing. It was not exactly a basket case as it was not rusty, but it really needed a complete restoration.”
This 280SE Coupe left the factory in a not very appealing shade of mustard yellow with a brown interior, and was a sorry sight with so many bits missing. Friends who saw the downtrodden Mercedes thought John was mad and told him there was no way he could turn it into a nice car. “All of them have since eaten their words,” he said proudly.
The restoration process began two weeks after John bought the car. To save money, he did a lot of the disassembly work himself before sending the car over to Platinum for the pros to get stuck into the paintwork and interior trim. From the time he started the restoration work in earnest, it took two and a half years to get the 280SE Coupe to its present immaculate condition.
While John likes classic Mercedes for what they are, you can tell from his unique choice of colours that he also values individuality. “I was keen to keep the car looking original, but I personally find the factory colours from this period rather dull and gloomy,” he explained.
"My ‘what if’ moment was inspired by the Mercedes factory Designo concept,’ John recounted. “I wanted a rich and classy looking shade of coppery gold that would look good under the strong sunlight here in Southern California.”
Jack’s paint specialist mixed up some samples for John to see. After a couple of tries, the right shade was found and the paint went on to the immaculately prepped bodyshell. New chrome parts replaced the missing pieces and existing parts were re-chromed to match.
In the meantime, the motor and transmission had been sent out for a complete rebuild, and the chassis was also overhauled with new bushes, springs, dampers and brakes. New wiring was also applied where necessary.