After A Family Dusted Off This Forgotten Treasure, They Realized They Had A Fortune On Their Hands

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When was the last time you closely inspected the contents of your house? If you can’t remember when, you may want to do something about it. After all, you never know what forgotten treasures could be lurking among your belongings. Just ask the relatives of one Midwestern doctor, who dusted off his possessions after he passed away – and quickly realized they were sitting on an absolute fortune.

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Of course, striking gold in your own home isn’t easy, but it’s not out of the question either. It all depends on what you’ve got stashed away – as one Edinburgh family discovered in 2019. You see, it turned out their grandfather had unknowingly purchased a long-lost historic chess piece in 1964. And his $6.35 investment has paid dividends decades on, as it’s now worth an eye-watering $1.27 million.

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A year earlier, an anonymous Michigan man’s doorstop made for a similarly jaw-dropping story. That’s because the unassuming rock, which had propped open his door for three decades, was actually a chunk of meteorite – worth up to $100,000. The 22-pound space mineral apparently plummeted to Earth in the 1930s, and weighs in as the state’s sixth-largest find.

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However, neither of those finds can compare to the curious case of Cimabue’s long-lost “Christ Mocked” painting. The Florentine artist’s masterpiece sold for the incredible sum of $26.8 million at auction in 2019. And its owner – an elderly woman from France – had no idea of its true value. In fact, the 13th-century artwork had simply been hanging in her kitchen.

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These incredible finds have all been discovered largely by chance. But they’re proof that there’s plenty of forgotten treasure out there, just waiting to fall into the right hands. If you were so inclined, then, you might decide to make a business out of unearthing hidden gems. And that’s exactly what entrepreneur Peter Kumar did.

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You see, Kumar has been involved in the motor industry since he was just 15 years old. Back then, he worked part-time at his father’s store in New Delhi, India. His family sold vehicle parts – despite not owning a car themselves. Indeed, Kumar told blogger Nancy Ruhling in 2018, “My father had a Vespa scooter. We were little better than poor – we were not on the road and we had a house.”

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Unfortunately, his father’s store struggled to turn a profit, and the family were forced to sell up. Kumar then headed off to college – but dropped out of his program just two thirds of the way through. By that point, though, he had already set his sights on becoming a millionaire. Step one involved flying to London, where Kumar resumed his journey into the motor industry at his uncle’s used Mercedes dealership.

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After touching down in London, the then 19-year-old Kumar spent the next four months cleaning his uncle’s vehicle fleet. From there, he jetted off to Miami, Florida, to check up on another of his uncle’s used-car dealerships. And it was there that the youngster sold his first car – despite not even owning a driver’s license, let alone his own vehicle.

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That business shuttered its doors in 1986, but Kumar remained undeterred. Using his newfound knowledge of the market, he began selling used cars from his apartment by day, while delivering pizzas by night. Eventually, his uncle advised him to move his business to New York. And so, in 1988, Kumar headed up the east coast, ultimately securing a base of operations that still stands today.

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His business is Gullwing Motor Cars, which Kumar founded in 1990 after specializing in used Mercedes vehicles. He began his enterprise with just 20 cars in a warehouse in Great Neck – but as business boomed, he relocated to Astoria, Queens. And in the decades since, he’s successfully plied his trade, buying and selling antique vehicles and developing his reputation in the industry.

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Today, Kumar’s business is one of the biggest dealers of classic cars on the east coast. And he’s expanded beyond his initial Astoria warehouse into three more, where he maintains a constant inventory of around 100 vehicles. You’ll find iconic brands including Bentley, Ferrari and Aston Martin on hand – but Kumar’s favorite car is a 1955 Mercedes Gullwing.

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A toy version of that car, taped together and splashed with maroon paint, now sits on Kumar’s desk. “I fell in love with a 1955 Mercedes Gullwing,” he said. “It was $80,000. I didn’t have that much money, but I did have the $20 for this toy, which I found the same week. I named my business after it.” Given he’s owned the tiny replica for more than three decades, it’s understandably looking a little worse for wear.

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Anyway, Kumar maintains his inventory by journeying all over the United States, scouting out classic cars to ship back to his warehouse. If a seller contacts him from less than 200 miles away, he’ll drive, but otherwise, he’s happy to hop on a plane. Also, he travels beyond the country’s borders to attend special events and shows in European countries, including Germany and France.

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In fact, Kumar generally finds himself flying at least weekly, and has bought cars in every single U.S. state – except North Dakota. He works with shipping companies for those cars that he needs to transport to his New York warehouse. However, sometimes they don’t even get that far, as Kumar has been known to instantly sell and ship his latest acquisitions directly from the original seller.

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And he generally carries cars to suit every budget, from vehicles only good for parts, to those road-ready. He told car magazine Classic Motorsports in 2018 that he always keeps cash on hand – with good reason. “I will buy virtually every car I am offered,” he said. “It just comes down to price.” That’s because it’s not just wealthy petrol-heads who buy, but regular folks looking for restoration projects, too.

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Like any industry, the classic car market has had ups and downs in the 30 years Kumar has been involved. For instance, he told Old Cars Weekly in 2017 that the more expensive Ferraris were beginning to lose value. “That has surprised me a little, but I have seen it before,” he said. “They cycle up and down, but they have been going up for seven, eight years.” Nevertheless, the lows have never been enough to drive Kumar away from his passion.

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Even today, Kumar still stumbles on previously-undiscovered classic cars – often much to his own surprise. “It seems like there should be less and less cars around, but they are still coming,” he told Old Cars Weekly. His recent finds include a 1962 Porsche 356B Super 90 Coupe that had just a single family owner, and a 1984 Ferrari 512BBI Berlinetta Boxer with only 9,000 miles on the clock.

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Now, Kumar regularly deals in seven-figure sums, with his most expensive sale reaching an eye-watering $9.95 million. That particular transaction involved a 1962 Ferrari 250 GT, one of the historic Italian manufacturer’s most well-regarded vehicles. Following its immense success on the motorsport scene in the early 1960s, the 250 GT is now considered among the greatest cars ever built.

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Over the years, Kumar has amassed a solid stable of stories behind some of his most memorable purchases. For instance, in 2013 he drove five hours to inspect a black and silver Corvette, finished with a red interior. But when he arrived, its then-98-year-old owner rediscovered his own fondness for the car, and opted to keep it. Five years later, he contacted Kumar, finally ready to relinquish it.

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Another customer was attempting to shift a cheap motorcycle alongside his classic 1975 Porsche. “He kept saying he needed $35,000 for them,” Kumar told Ruhling. “But the highest offer he was getting was $25,000. Finally, I asked him how he came up with $35,000. It turned out that they didn’t have health insurance and that was how much his father needed for cancer surgery. I bought them for $35,000.”

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So Kumar loves the anecdotes behind his vehicles almost as much as the cars themselves. It’s fitting, then, that his latest discovery boasts its own incredible origin story. You see, this particular treasure had sat forgotten for decades – and when its owners got in touch with Kumar, he realized it was worth an absolute fortune.

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It may look like a worn-down old sports car, but this Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster is actually an incredibly rare collectible. What’s more, it has fewer than 15,000 miles on the odometer – despite being six decades old. That’s because it’s effectively been gathering dust in an Indiana garage for the past 40 years. That low mileage, coupled with its traceable ownership, makes it unbelievably valuable to collectors.

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Now, the 300 SL hails from a decade that saw Mercedes manufacture some of its most popular cars. And the company found huge success in exporting its vehicles to the United States in the postwar period, spearheaded by the 300 SL’s Gullwing variant. The 1950s would also see it become a dominant power in motorsport, with its drivers winning competitions including Le Mans.

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In fact, the 300 SL – which stands for “Super Light” – made its debut as a race car in 1952. Two years later, at the suggestion of U.S. importer Maximilian Hoffman, Mercedes produced its first road going version. The car’s iconic gullwing doors cemented its popularity stateside, and trade journalists named it the “Sports Car of the Century” in 1999.

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And the car’s popularity gave Mercedes a solid foothold from which to launch the Roadster in 1957. This new 300 SL variant was the manufacturer’s response to the enormous popularity of open-top two-seaters, and accordingly forewent its predecessor’s gullwing doors. However, Mercedes manufactured just 1,458 Roadsters in total from 1957 to 1963, with a solitary 249 produced in 1960.

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That makes the one Kumar purchased incredibly rare – and, therefore, highly sought after. But the car’s condition also adds to its value. You see, the 300 SL Roadster still has its data card, which records the car’s original state upon leaving the factory. And through that, Kumar – and by extension, any future owners – can trace the car’s full history.

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The Roadster is complete with both its factory soft and hard tops, along with its jack. More importantly, it’s also completely “number matching” – a phrase used among car collectors that refers to a vehicle having its original parts. Indeed, the Roadster hasn’t been restored in any way, and – aside from a couple of cosmetic alterations – is exactly as it left the factory.

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You see, the car was initially painted in Blaugrau, a rare color that sits somewhere between blue and grey, and boasted a blue leather interior to match. Unfortunately, it was repainted at some point over the decades to the far more common silver, while its interior was dyed black. Restoring the Roadster’s original color scheme, then, could make it even more prestigious.

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And this particular example was purchased as new by its most recent owner around 1976. The unnamed Midwesterner reportedly fell in love with the Roadster after driving his brother’s model. Despite tracking down an unsold car in Chicago, Illinois, however, the anonymous buyer rarely drove his new acquisition. Then, in 1980, he parked it in his garage for good, with just 14,558 miles on the clock.

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But the 300 SL Roadster wasn’t the only classic car in his garage. No, the German-born doctor was also the proud owner of a 1960s Ferrari 330 GT and multiple antique Porsches. However, the Mercedes was undoubtedly the most spectacular part of his extensive collection – which was discovered in its entirety by his relatives, following his passing in early 2020.

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But while the car now looks a little worse for wear – both inside and out – after being tucked away for so long, it hasn’t decreased the value. In fact, the market for 300 SL Roadsters has been booming for years, with most going for seven figures at auction. And that’s exactly the price range Kumar aimed for when listing this historic car through Gullwing Motor Cars.

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Yes, Kumar listed it on his website for the vast sum of $1,095,000. Any potential buyer would need deep pockets, then, but there’s no denying that the car was competitively priced. As recently as 2017, auction house RM Sotheby’s in Los Angeles sold another 1960 300 SL Roadster for $1.1 million.

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Generally, “survivor” cars like this particular Roadster, which comes with all its original parts, are even more sought after than restored vehicles. That’s because they can entice Mercedes fans looking for their own restoration project. It therefore won’t come as a shock to learn that Kumar managed to secure the full asking price for the Roadster in May 2020.

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The new owner may have parted with a hefty chunk of change, but they’ll need to dig a little deeper to bring the car back to its best. For example, one likely modification could be restoring its original color scheme. Indeed, painting the exterior in Blaugrau and dyeing the interior blue to match would go some way to recreating the Roadster’s distinctive visual identity.

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And while Kumar’s listing didn’t dwell on the condition of the engine, it’s likely that it will need a complete rebuild. However, its motor is very distinct thanks to its huge sand-cast aluminum intake manifold. That likely made restoring the Roadster an appealing prospect to its new owner – even if it will take far more than the asking price to realize.

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For those with the resources to do so, though, taking the plunge on the Roadster probably wasn’t a tough ask. After all, like many classic cars, the 300 SL Roadster has been described as “recession-proof” by motoring experts. And a spokesperson for Kumar’s company told DailyMail.com in April 2020, “We are a safer bet than the stock market.”

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Unbelievably, Kumar almost instantly found what’s arguably an even rarer car after selling the Mercedes. Yes, his luck seemingly hasn’t run out just yet, as his company has since acquired and sold a 1952 Aston Martin DB2 Drophead Coupe. The car is one of about 75 to sport left-hand drive, and one of only 98 ever produced in total.

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Now, the convertible sports car, which can seat four people, admittedly isn’t in the greatest condition. The interior and exterior have both seen better days, and it doesn’t have its original engine. That said, Gullwing Motor Cars advertised it as being in “restorable condition,” clueing any potential purchasers into the extensive work that would need doing to it.

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While the listing didn’t include a price, a similar DB2 sold in 2017 for just under $350,000. That’s not quite as hefty a price tag as the 300 SL Roadster, then, even if the Aston Martin is technically rarer. But according to car website The Drive, any prospective purchaser of Kumar’s DB2 would need to drop another six-figure sum on bringing it up to scratch.

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For Kumar, though, both the DB2 and 300 SL are simply another pair of incredible tales to add to his stable, which now spans over three decades. And as he told Old Cars Weekly, he has no plans to stop any time soon. “[I plan to continue] as long as I can go – as long as I have energy and good health,” he said. “You’ve got to love what you do, otherwise it gets boring. I’m into old cars. It’s a passion.”

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