Two decades after a pair of magic red shoes helped launch Judy Garland’s movie career in “The Wizard of Oz,” she may have hoped that a new Mercedes Benz with a Technicolor red interior might bring her some good luck, too. Long after her star faded, Garland’s beautiful convertible wound up in a used car lot. The 1959 Mercedes Benz 220 SE Cabriolet, with its striking contrast between its red leather upholstery, retractable black top, white exterior and chrome side stripe, was a remarkable find.
“Sometimes heirlooms are appreciated, and sometimes they aren’t and find themselves in a used car lot,” says Mitchel Terk, the Jacksonville doctor who bought the car 10 years ago.
It seems Terk has a gift for restoring bodies, both automobile and human. The founder of Terk Oncology and the Florida Center for Prostate Care, he purchased the car after a friend found it in a used car lot in Northern California.
“That’s the funny part of the story,” Terk says. “It had been restored in the 1980’s by a wealthy man who was said to be the son of a European count. Then no one heard from the guy, and he passed away.”
The elegant roadster-style Mercedes was a new design that came out after World War II, when they were still hand-built. “It was built back when there was a lot of old world craftsmanship,” he says. “It’s almost at the end of an era.”
The car was in relatively nice condition when Terk purchased it, but it needed a lot of mechanical work. It also needed a new top and interior repairs.
“When we bought it, it only had 33,000 miles on it,” Terk says. “I think it sat for a long time, which for an auto is really bad. It needed a little attention. It’s really nice now.”
Terk has been collecting classic cars for two decades. Last year, he joined the board of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. Combined with his membership in the Antique Automobile Club of America’s local chapter, the organizations helped him find some top-notch restoration experts. “Jacksonville has a lot of talented crafts people if you can find them,” he says.
The Garland Mercedes has many distinguishing features, but the Macassar ebony wood dashboard and trim appeals most to Terk’s penchant for detail.
“The dashboard, door sills and different pieces are in this beautiful African ebony,” Terk says. “Back then, the owner could choose from several different woods.”
The car was shown at the Amelia Island Concours in 2013, and the Boca Raton Concours the following year. In 2015, it won a Swan Award at the Lake Mirror Classic in Lakeland, Fla.
Terk attributes his love of old cars to his father, who learned it from his father who owned an auto body shop in New York City. While Terk prefers classic Cadillacs, and has two of them, the Garland Mercedes is the favorite of his wife, Nadine.
“I just like restoring old things and bringing them back to life,” Terk says. “That combined with the nostalgia is why most people do it.”