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Omaha Magazine

The Past and the Curious

Mar 26, 2021 03:13PM ● By Houston Wiltsey
white 1958 mercedes dashboard

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

I’ve been a car guy ever since I was little,” Scott Rouse said. “My first baby pictures are of my mother holding me at the drag races in Northeastern Iowa.” 

Rouse is one of four partners of Victory Lane Omaha, the city’s only private car condo complex, located on 204th Street and West Center Road. It’s a haven for motorheads, as well as a hangout for those who are not quite as auto-inclined.

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

Victory Lane is also special for Rouse because it gives him the chance to show off and sell his collection of more than 50 vehicles, which includes everything from restored Volkswagen Beetles to pristine Ferraris.

“I’m a nondenominational car guy,” he said. “A lot of people are brand-loyal, but I appreciate being able to drive everything.”

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

 One of the crown jewels of Rouse’s collection, a 1958 Mercedes Benz SL 190 Roadster, is a true reflection of that mindset.

Rouse said he first saw it when he was driving around his new neighborhood about 15 years ago.

“I caught a glimpse of it in my neighbor’s garage, covered by a mountain of boxes,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Rouse eventually became friends with the vehicle’s owner, Lori Folkers, and when it came time to sell, she looked to him.

“I told her at the time ‘I’d be happy to help, but I’d really like to buy it myself.’” So they researched the vehicle together and eventually settled on a fair price. 

When released in 1955, the main draw of the vehicle was that it offered a similar experience to the Mercedes SL 300, but for roughly a third of the price. Though the model remained largely unchanged throughout its seven-year production run—four-cylinder, front-mounted engine, curvaceous body, and relatively luxe interior—the vehicle helped establish the Mercedes SL line and grow the company’s presence in the U.S.

“It’s just a great line of vehicles,” Rouse said. “It was kind of a trendsetter and a reason why I have versions from this line from ’58, ’68, ’78, and ’88.”

“It was just sitting there, wasting away, and I felt bad that I wasn’t using it,” Folkers said. “I was just so glad that it was going to a good home.”

“Everyone these days is looking for what’s called a ‘barn find,’” Rouse said, referring to the vehicles made popular by shows like Chasing Classic Cars and American Pickers, where the shows’ antique experts are always on the lookout for rare automobiles in unexpected places. “Usually, you have to spend years searching and drive across the country to find something good. The fact that my ‘barn find’ was down the street is crazy.”

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

Even crazier is how much the investment paid off. Today, similar models sell for upwards of $150,000. Despite the high value, it’s not a car Rouse treats like an antique.

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

 “It’s still something that I like to take out and drive,” he said. “I let people examine it all the time. I don’t even mind if a kid wants to jump in and grab a picture.”

Rouse finds investing in vehicles provides a thrill that he can’t find anywhere else.

“You can’t enjoy your stock portfolio or savings account this way,” he said. “When you invest in cars, you still have the thrill of being able to load up the family, put on some tunes, and just drive. It’s really a therapeutic experience for me.”

There are those vehicles—including the ‘58 Mercedes—that transcend investment status.

“That one’s a keeper,” he said. “It’s one of those cars I have a special bond with and I can’t imagine letting it go.”

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This column was printed in the April/May 2021 issue of B2B Magazine.