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Lot 206: Mercedes-Benz 500 K Cabriolet

Fine Motor cars incl. The Jaguar Legend, Coys (14 July 2012)

If Thor, the god of Thunder, owned a car it would be a Supercharged Mercedes.' So much has been written over the years about these magnificent cars, but this statement is probably as accurate a description as any. Very few cars, before or since, have been so imposing, exclusive, charismatic and simply Wagnerian in conception. The supercharged Mercedes' have long gone down in history as some of the world's greatest cars.

Daimler Benz began development of the supercharged car for road and racing use as early as 1919 in order to gain extra power from the low-revving engines of the period. That they succeeded is demonstrated by the list of the legendary supercharged cars from the 1922 Targa Florio winner to the W125 and W154 Grand Prix cars of the last years before the war, passing through the SSK and SSKL, before reaching the 500K and 540K, the last supercharged 'production' models ever made.

The 500K was introduced in 1934 as a replacement for the 380, and was immediately greeted with enthusiasm by motoring connoisseurs the world over; journalists spoke of 'the sheer insolence of its great power'. Germany's Autobahn programme had begun and the coveted car was one which would speed down these vast roads in style and comfort; the 500K fitted the role admirably.

Thus, the days of aesthetic functionality in German automobile styling had ended; the stark and purposeful SSK was replaced by the aggressive and imposing 500K. It has often been observed that automotive design reflects the culture of the producing nation; certainly the turmoil developing in the German psyche of the mid-Thirties can be visualised today in the chrome and mass of the imposing 500K.

The car's mechanical specification was every bit as impressive as its external appearance. The straight eight engine displaced 5019 c.c., and produced 100 bhp unblown and 160b.h.p. with the supercharger engaged. In order to activate this fiendish device, one pressed down on the accelerator a extra few degrees - the results produced by such action were vividly described by H.S. Linfield of The Autocar in 1936: 'One's foot goes hard down, and an almost demonical howl comes in . . . the rev counter and speedometer needles leap round their dials; there is perhaps no other car noise in the world so distinctive as that produced by the Mercedes supercharger.'

The 500K's chassis complete with helical-spindle steering had been adopted from the preceding 380, though in further refined form with a new double-wishbone axle with coil springs at the front and a double-joint swing axle, complemented by double coil springs and additional transverse balancing spring, at the rear. Slowing this remarkable machine was achieved using powerful vacuum assisted hydraulic brakes on all four wheels, necessary as the complete car could tip the scales at 2,300 kilograms.

No matter which version of the 500K you look at, the elegance of its body sends people into raptures even today. Most were bodied by the ingenious coachbuilders in Sindelfingen with only a few customers opting for bodywork tailored by independent bodybuilders to their own wishes. Chassis No. 113631 is a very rare specimen indeed, as it is a right hand drive example which, according to the Mercedes Benz certificate of authenticity, was exported to Mercedes Benz of Great Britain in 1935 and subsequently supplied with its Cabriolet body by English coachbuilders Windovers, elegant and stylish bodywork which it still carries today. The Reichsmark was comparatively weak against Sterling at the time, so that German cars seemed good value to British buyers, especially when clothed with British coachwork.

This magnificent Mercedes has been in the long term care of a single family and is described by the vendor as being unmolested and to its original specification. Beautifully presented in black with a sumptuous red leather interior, this rare coachbuilt pre-war Mercedes-Benz is described as being in very good condition overall.

Supplied with German historic registration documents, this is one of only a small number of these German pre-war legends fitted with such a high-quality English coachbuilt body from new; clearly a superb investment and is not to be missed.

Lot Details
Auction Fine Motor cars incl. The Jaguar Legend
Coys, Blenheim Palace,Woodstock, Oxfordshire, OX20 1PX
Lot Number206
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)£321000
Condition rating1
Registration number
Chassis number113631
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors2