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The Story of Walt Disney’s Last “Ride”

Walt Disney's Final Ride

By the 1960s, Walt Disney was on top of the world. He had already conquered films, television, and theme parks. He had also secretly begun work on his “Florida Project,” which would become the Walt Disney World Resort.

Despite all of his fame and fortune, Disney was incredibly frugal. Walt lived in the same house for decades and only moved to the Holmby Hills outside Los Angeles when his family grew. It was rare for him ever to consider spending money on anything that wasn’t completely necessary or for his studio.

walt disney's final ride

Credit: History.com

Enter actor Dean Jones comes in. Disney had seen Jones on television and was trying to convince the actor to star in his new movie, That Darn Cat! (1965).

The pair were walking down the street in Los Angeles as Disney pitched the film to Jones and walked past a Mercedes Benz dealership. According to an article in Slash Gear, Walt fell in love with a two-seat 230SL. But Disney quickly walked away, saying to Jones, “I can’t afford that.”

At the time, the Walt Disney Company was worth millions of dollars, and Disney himself was worth more than $20 million, nearly $200 million in today’s money. The Company that bears his name would go on to be worth billions, but at the time, Disney believed that he could not afford an $8,500 car.

Disney and Jones continued walking, but after getting a few yards beyond the dealership, Walt turned and said to Jones, “wait, I can afford that.” He returned to the dealership, wrote a $3,000 check, and left with the car.

Walt Disney's Final Ride

Credit: Slash Gear

Disney was able to close the deal with Jones, and he starred in That Darn Cat! But Disney was constantly thinking of ways to save money. He would rent his new car to the studio for $100 a day, and Walt’s new Mercedes would appear in the film.

Walt Disney's Final Ride

Credit: The Walt Disney Company

The relationship that began that day between Jones and Disney would last for the rest of Walt’s life.  Jones would star in 11 movies for the Walt Disney Company over the next decade, including The Love Bug (1968) and Ash Wednesday (1966). Jones passed away in 2015 at the age of 84.

A little less than 18 months after purchasing his new Mercedes, Disney dies of lung cancer at the age of 65. He never got to see the completion of Walt Disney World.

This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the Walt Disney Company, and Disney is celebrating at all its Parks. Disneyland Park still holds many of the attractions that Walt supervised and approved himself, from “it’s a small world” to Matterhorn Mountan and Pirates of the Caribbean. But at the end of the day, this sporty Mercedes was a ride all his own.

About Rick

Rick is an avid Disney fan. He first went to Disney World in 1986 with his parents and has been hooked ever since. Rick is married to another Disney fan and is in the process of turning his two children into fans as well. When he is not creating new Disney adventures, he loves to watch the New York Yankees and hang out with his dog, Buster. In the fall, you will catch him cheering for his beloved NY Giants.

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