Very few pre-World War II Mercedes-Benz sports cars exist in the world today. However, one of the rare and finest examples of the Mercedes-Benz models would end up at auction at this year's Gooding & Company event at Pebble Beach in August of this year.
Chassis number 35218 is a Mercedes-Benz S-Type 26/180 Sportwagon that had been produced in 1927. It would go on to be delivered brand new to Tuxedo Park, New York. Though not known for sure, it is believed the car's first owner had been Mr. Sloane. Sloane would be better known later as part of the Sloane-Kettering Hospital. Sloane was a favored Mercedes-Benz customer and would have had first pick at the latest. If true, what he would pick would end up being one of the most exquisite of Mercedes' pre-war machines.
The new S-Type chassis was intended to replace its K-Type predecessor. Where the K-Type had been big, heavy and tall, the S-Type was the exact opposite. Engineered and designed by Ferdinand Porsche, the new S-Type was a leap in engineering.
The new car boasted a more-powerful 6.7-liter Inline six-cylinder engine. Combined with two updraft carburetors and a Roots-type Supercharger engine output increased to 180 bhp. The Sindelfingen designed bodies helped to lower the weight, both by shedding pounds and lowering it closer to the ground. Handling and balance of the car was accomplished through the use of live axles, front and rear, and semi-elliptical leaf springs.
In the hands of Mercedes-Benz's Rudolf Carracciola, the S-Type would prove almost unbeatable. Together the pairing would go on to score a number of victories and would spread Mercedes-Benz's reputation even across the Atlantic.
Mercedes-Benz would look to take advantage of all of the success. Porsche had already designed a winner on the race track, the question was whether it would be successful as a Grand Touring car available to the public. Times were changing. Those who had the wealth truly wanted to enjoy it, and part of enjoying the wealth included being able to take control of such an incredible performer for one's self.
Fueled by the on-track success, the solid underpinnings and the powerful engine Mercedes-Benz would end up providing its customers an unparalleled grand touring car. Many would even take the car chassis and would have many different types of custom-built coaches placed on it.
But of all the custom-built coaches offered on the S-Type chassis perhaps none is as aesthetically powerful as Sindelfingen's four-place Sportwagon. What makes the Sindelfingen design so provocative is its authenticity and respect in regards to the very design that made the car so exciting in the first place.
Sindelfingen had decided not to stray very far from what had gotten the car to the level of success it had already achieved. Therefore, the four-place Sportwagon would end up looking very similar to the very same Rennwagons that had earned Mercedes-Benz so much success at the race track. By so doing this, Sindelfingen offered customers not only a very appealing car, but one very close to those that had been driven by the great Carracciola. This way, even the wealthy could pretend. Not only did Sindelfingen's design just look like the vintage sports car, it practically was the same vintage sports car that had gone on to score so many victories. Not many had the talent of Carracciola behind the wheel of a race car. However, Sindelfingen decision would make each and every customer feel as though they had received their own Carracciola-like race car, ready to dominate the competition. And at the time, there really was very little competition. This only added to the desire to own one of the sportwagons.
Presented this year would be one of the best of the surviving S-Types. After being a very noticeable figure around New York in the 1930s and 1940s the car would end up becoming part of Mr. Allston Boyer's collection. Boyer would often be seen enjoying driving the car up and down Manhattan. But then, just prior to 1956, Boyer would sell the Sportwagon. It would end up in the hands of Austin L. Smithers.
Smithers would own the car for a while and then would sell the car to David Tunick. Tunick had something of a reputation for being willing to buy the 'best of the best' and would end up purchasing the truly elegant S-Type.
Mr. Petronis had grown up seeing his first Sportwagon in 1938 and always wanting one from that point on. Then, in the late 1960s the opportunity would present itself and Mr. Petronis would jump at the chance to finally own one. After years of little use, Petronis would send the car for restoration at D.L. George Coachworks, Ltd. Despite going through restoration, the car would fortunately manage to keep the majority of its original parts and components.
The finishing touches of the restoration would end up being a new deep red finish that matched the original finish. The interior and chassis would then be trimmed in black. The interior would also end up being restored with matching, button-tufted leather. When it emerged from restoration the car had been some nine years in restoration but would cause people to pause and see what made the S-Type Sportwagon such a sought after and longed after Mercedes-Benz model.
While the car was quite successful on the race track it still wasn't a car that required a light touch. Its power and size required the driver to truly muscle the car around in order to be fast. And the Sindelfingen model, with its beautiful side pipes, big wood-rimmed steering wheel and simple instrument layout inspired its drivers to muscle the car to the edge and hang it out there.
This particular chassis would foster the same kind of thoughts and feelings of exhilaration and excitement. Despite its rare appearances at Pebble Beach and Amelia Island, the car has remained in relative seclusion as it remains what many believe to be the oldest and just one of about five Sportwagons still known to exist. But in 2011, the car would appear again. When it was all over, this rare S-Type Sportwagon would end up garnering some $5,040,000.
'Lot No. 119: 1927 Mercedes-Benz S-Type 26/180 Sportwagon', (http://www.goodingco.com/car/1927-mercedes-benz-s-type-26180-sportwagen). Gooding & Company. http://www.goodingco.com/car/1927-mercedes-benz-s-type-26180-sportwagen. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
By Jeremy McMullen