A Mercedes-Benz Saoutchik S Type has won this year’s Best of Show title at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The car, whose ‘torpedo’ bodywork with low windscreen was designed by French coachbuilder Jacques Saoutchik, captured the hearts of the judges, who named it the finest vehicle on display at the prestigious event.
The Mercedes-Benz Classic Archives have information on the winning car to offer. It was originally ordered by Mercedes-Benz Comp. Inc., New York, for a Mr. Charles Levine, New York. On 2 August 1928, the chassis was delivered to Saoutchik in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. The company manufactured and mounted the sports two-seater body and charged 72,327.25 French Francs (equalling 11,572.35 Reichsmark) to Daimler-Benz AG in December 1928. The exact date of delivery is not documented, but it is supposed to have happened in December 1928.
Current owners Judy and Paul Andrews of White Settlement, Texas, had the car extensively restored before presenting it to the panel of judges in Pebble Beach. Before that the vehicle had been kept in storage for around 30 years.
The Mercedes-Benz S Type – also known as the 680 S because of its 6.8-litre engine capacity – was launched in 1927 as an evolution of the Mercedes-Benz Model K super sports car. It established the legendary family of heavyweight supercharged cars that included the SS and SSK models from 1928. The cars dominated racing history over the years, but could also be bought as conventional road vehicles. All vehicles in this family had a six-cylinder in-line engine with a supercharger to increase output. Power was also boosted by the dual ignition. Each cylinder had two spark plugs, one fired by a battery ignition and the other by a high-voltage magneto ignition.
Exclusive high-performance sports car
The 6.8-litre engine of the S Type, the model on which all the others were based, produced an output of 120 bhp (88 kW) without a supercharger and 180 bhp (132 kW) with the supercharger engaged. This made the S Type one of the fastest and most sought-after sports cars of its time. Its debut public appearance at the opening race at the Nürburgring in 1927 ended with a threefold victory for Mercedes-Benz. Rudolf Caracciola drove his S Type across the finishing line in first place.
Only 146 of these exclusive high-performance sports cars were ever made, the vast majority of them sold as open-top four-seaters with a Sindelfingen body. A select few, however, such as this year’s Best in Show winner at Pebble Beach, were delivered as a chassis to have their bodywork made by the most famous coachbuilders of the era. For many years now, the Mercedes-Benz S Type has been one of the most popular collector’s cars and also one of the most valuable.
At a Gooding & Company auction held at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, a Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster from 1936 was sold for $11.8 million. “Mercedes-Benz vehicles always achieve top prices at international auctions,” says Michael Bock, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic. “And the Special Roadster is one of the most coveted cars among prominent collectors.” This particular vehicle has an fascinating history. First bought by an aristocratic Prussian family, it soon passed into the ownership of Baroness Gisela von Krieger. During the Second World War, she took the Special Roadster first to Switzerland and from there to the USA, where it remained unused in a garage for more than 40 years until her death. The car was then restored to immaculate condition.
The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in the USA is among the world’s most prestigious classic car shows. This year there was a separate class for the creations of Jacques Saoutchik. Originally from Russia, the cabinetmaker had emigrated to France and established a coachbuilding company that enjoyed widespread fame in the 1920s and 1930s. He produced many extravagant designs for Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
Mercedes-Benz cars have a very special place on the hallowed turf of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, winning Best of Show seven times and collecting more than 120 First in Class and Special Awards as part of a long list of successes since 1950.
Did you know …?
At the Goodwood Revival (14-16 September 2012) Mercedes-Benz Classic will be represented by five original Silver Arrows from the 1930s – and is organising a staged race for them together with Auto Union which will be the biggest gathering of Silver Arrows for a number of decades.
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