Hamid Heydrian with his Mercedes Benz type 113, the classic "pagoda roof" sports car.

Hamid Heydrian with his Mercedes-Benz type 113, the classic "pagoda roof" sports car. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

You'd have to be crazy to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on 40-year-old sports cars when much faster, more luxurious and sophisticated machines are available for the same money, wouldn't you?

Canberra accountant turned public servant Hamid Heydarian disagrees. The 41-year-old Iranian-born Mercedes tragic has three of the German firm's prized ''pagoda'' roof roadsters in the family and wants more.

Heydarian, first exposed to the Mercedes virus by his uncle in Tehran in the 1970s, is one of dozens of enthusiasts across Australia who will be bringing a record number of the rare sports cars to the territory next month.

Hamid Heydrian takes in the view from inside of his Mercedes Benz type 113.

Hamid Heydarian and his 230SL, known as a pagoda because of its distinctive and its slightly concave roof. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

More than 50 pagodas - Mercedes-Benz 230SL, 250SL and 280SL Roadsters based on the W113 platform and so named because of their distinctive, slightly concave hardtops - are to converge on Canberra for the Shannons Wheels display at Thoroughbred Park on the weekend of March 16 and 17.

The event, marking the beginning of series production, will be the largest gathering of the iconic vehicles ever seen in the southern hemisphere.

The event is part of a worldwide celebration of cars synonymous with the golden age of the French Riviera, and which were used as accessories by beauties such as Sophia Loren, who drove a red 230SL in Arabesque opposite Gregory Peck and owned one in real life.

Other famous owners included John Lennon, Peter Ustinov, Charlton Heston and Tony Curtis. The fact that Kate Moss and John Travolta are owners is proof the allure still lingers.

Heydarian says this is because the 230SL, unlike many more modern motors, oozes that indefinable quality called ''class''.

''As cars these are very basic; you feel every bump, you hear every rattle,'' he said. ''But they can keep up with modern traffic easily and they are just classy.''

In the last four years he has bought two 280SLs and a very rare 250SL manual. Given a well-presented 230 SL was auctioned at Shannon's spring auction last year for $81,000, this line-up is potentially worth in excess of $200,000.

Heydarian's ''dream garage'', which includes a 1950s 190SL, a 230SL and a V12 sports from the early 1990s, would cost about $1 million to complete. ''I think that is a dream that I will be taking to the grave,'' he said.

The pagodas, for the historically minded, were a legend in their own lifetime with 48,912 built between 1963 and 1971. While they were continually mechanically upgraded, with the engine growing in size from 2.3 litres to 2.8 litres over that time, only minimal cosmetic changes were made to the classic styling headed by Paul Bracq.

Heydarian's blue 1968 280SL, in unrestored original condition, is a time capsule of the era. It has 56,000 miles on the clock (97,000km) and was in storage for 18 years.