Tag Archives: Max Wagner
Gooding & Company is having their first sale of the New Year in Scottsdale, AZ., on Jan. 18 & 19, 2013. We have picked out several pre and post war automobiles from the catalog to share with you. As always the offerings are always carefully selected and represent the best the market has to offer. For this feature we have picked out this 1935 Mercedes-Benz 500 K Cabriolet A.
Of all the significant automobiles produced by Mercedes-Benz, the supercharged sports and racing cars built between WWI and WWII have assumed an iconic status. The continued development of the supercharger, was one of the great achievements of Daimler-Benz and was instrumental to the success of the firm’s racing programs and production models. The remarkable performance of Mercedes-Benz racing cars in the late 1920s inspired leading sports car manufacturers, such as Alfa Romeo, Bentley, Bugatti, Duesenberg, and Stutz to design their own supercharged models. As a result, supercharged sports cars of the 1920s and 1930s represent the pinnacle of automobile production in the pre-war era.
The first production supercharged Mercedes-Benz, the Model K, featured a six-cylinder engine of 160 hp. The following year, under the direction of Max Wagner and Ferdinand Porsche, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the substantially revised S model. With its low-slung chassis, long hood, gleaming side pipes, and slanted rear spares, the S set forth a paradigm that defined the essential characteristics of future supercharged models. In its debut race at the new Nürburgring circuit, Caracciola drove an S to victory, much to the excitement of 500,000 German spectators.
In 1928, Mercedes-Benz introduced the more refined SS, which found success on the track and, perhaps more importantly, in the showroom. The S and SS were among the finest automobiles of their day and attracted the interest of distinguished motorists. Royalty, movie stars, and captains of industry flocked to the upscale Mercedes-Benz models, as their howling supercharger and fierce acceleration offered the exhilaration of a grand prix car. As the SS became a favorite of well-heeled motorists, Mercedes-Benz continued refining its supercharged model. The development reached its peak with the lightweight, 300 hp SSKL. The SSKL dominated international motor racing in 1931, winning the Mille Miglia, the German Grand Prix, and the European Hill Climb Championship.
When the evolution of the S model ran its course in the early 1930s, Mercedes-Benz turned its attention to the new 750 kg formula, which was to become the official standard of Grand Prix racing for 1934. Facing competition from the new German conglomerate Auto Union, Daimler-Benz launched a devoted Grand Prix program in the interest of maintaining its dominant position at the top of German motor sports.
This 500 K
The 500 K To replace the 380, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the 500 K in 1934, bringing a capacity increase of 1.2 liters to their flagship road car. The chassis was modernized to a high degree, sending competitors back to their drawing boards. The five-liter, supercharged power plant was mated to a rolling frame that featured independent suspension and incorporated an external exhaust, which was not present on the preceding 380. In two years of production, just 342 cars were built using various configurations.
Unlike many other manufacturers of the time, Mercedes-Benz produced coachwork in-house under the “Sindelfingen” moniker. Although a small number of chassis received bodies from outside coach builders, the Sindelfingen catalogue boasted a wide range of body types. The materials chosen were all of the highest quality, and the outfitting was functional, comfortable, and tasteful. The brilliance in the Sindelfingen design was restraint, allowing for lavish simplicity.
The Mercedes-Benz sales literature heralded, “All models of the 500 K are distinguished by the excellence of materials used for the equipment. Proof of the value represented by these cars is afforded on the first glance of the door, the instrument panel, the heads of the cabriolets, the seats and the upholstery. Nothing that might serve to increase the passenger’s comfort has been neglected, because the 500 K is a touring car.”Of the total 500 K production line, just 33 examples were fitted with Sindelfingen Cabriolet A coachwork – the premier grand touring option available at the time. The cabriolet was fitted with only two seats, a trunk at the rear, and dual spare wheels mounted aft. Additionally, its long and low stance was further accentuated by the large hood span, low front screen, and tidy passenger compartment. The end result was a wonderfully proportionate form embodying speed and grace.
As a matter of taste, there are few automobiles from the pre-war era that match the 500 K Cabriolet A for style. The cabriolet remains unquestionably handsome and undoubtedly chic. A vision of 1930s high society, Mercedes-Benz’ primary customers were fittingly the most cultured and high-profile individuals of the time.
This particular 500 K Cabriolet A was ordered new by Baron Silfverschiöld of Gäsevadholm, Sweden, on November 11, 1934. As commission no. 21869, the 500 K, chassis 105379 was a left-hand-drive example specified to order with gray paint and a blood-red pigskin leather interior. This striking 500 K was completed at the end of April 1935 and was subsequently delivered to the baron. Eventually moved and re-registered to the baron’s estate, Castle Koberg in Västergötland, the 500 K found a fitting home.
The car remained with the baron through the war. Following a tire puncture incurred by the baroness in 1948, the 500 K was parked. During the tire repair the rear wheel nut was incorrectly threaded and the car remained unused until September 18, 1950, when it was acquired by Charles-Emile von Oelrich. Herr Von Oelrich had the 500 K repaired and put it to good use on several long-distance outings.
On November 14, 1952, the car was sold to Garage Bröderne Falk Bil & Motor in Köping. The Mercedes-Benz remained with the garage until purchased by music director Birger Ludvigsson of Eskilstuna. On July 27, 1955, the car passed to Allan Karlsson, a resident of Mariefred who used the 500 K for daily transit. Herr Karlsson remarked that the Cabriolet A was a fantastic automobile, and that its only failing was the car’s tendency to attract large crowds.
Gosta Westerberg eventually bought the Mercedes-Benz with the intention of restoring it. The process began in 1962 and by July 4, 1963, the completed car was road registered. A couple of years later, the 500 K caught the eye of well-known collector and hobbyist Sven Härnström. After Herr Härnström finally obtained the car in 1965, it became a regular sight at various club meetings and rallies in Sweden. After nearly 10 years of spirited ownership the car passed to Svante Rosén who continued to partake in collector car events. It was not until 1983 that the 500 K lef t Sweden, having been sold to a collector in West Germany.
Rolf Bunte subsequently restored the Cabriolet A in the late 1980s for its then owner Jürh Heer, setting a new standard by which K-series Mercedes-Benz would be judged. He spent an unprecedented amount of time and energy not only restoring the car, but also seeing to it that everything functioned as intended and all materials used were factory correct. Holding to original order specifications, the 500 K was finished in gray with black fenders and accents with a red leather interior and a black leather top. Today, the condition of the car speaks volumes about the quality of the work conducted. With several decades of gentle use and fastidious care, the 500 K appears as if completely original.
The car remained in Germany until it was sold in 2004 to the consignor, a resident of the Netherlands. The 500 K has remained a staple in this very private collection until coming to sale this January. Recent mechanical tuning has ensured that the 500 K is in fine running order, and cosmetic detailing has returned the car to a high finish. Today, the Mercedes-Benz remains one of the finest restored examples extant, and renowned expert and author Jan Melin has noted that “many believe that this vehicle is the nicest of all Cabriolet A, which were built on the 8-cylinder chassis.”
Featuring the rearward-leaning radiator, the car’s mass begins well behind the front axle. Long sweeping fenders follow the length of the car back to the helmet rear fenders. The hood extends most of the length of the chassis, broken only by the external exhaust. The low and angled windshield rises from the rear half of the car and is met by a low leather top fitted with chrome irons. The rear of the cabin ends just over the back axle and the car is finished with a small trunk and dual rear spares. The perfectly finished gray and black color combination enhances the length and lines of the automobile.
Inside, passengers are met by a host of attractive amenities. The red leather is both inviting and tasteful. The standard mother-of-pearl dash is beautifully offset by the chrome fittings and an abundance of wood trim. The driver of this car is in a position of privilege, as was the intent of the marque’s pre-war efforts.
Enthusiasts with an intimate knowledge of the model have also remarked that this particular car is the finest remaining example of the Cabriolet A, one of just 11 in existence today.
Few cars have such a dynamic presence when seen in person, and those fortunate enough to marvel at the scale, proportions, and presentation of this particular Cabriolet A will realize that the car is simply something special.
All photos and words are courtesy of Gooding & Company and you can see the other 150+ lots in the Scottsdale auction presented on their website.