A 1928 Mercedes-Benz Saoutchik S Type claimed Best of Show honours at the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on California's Monterey peninsula last weekend.
The Pebble Beach Concours is the most prestigious Classic Car show and competition in North America and arguably one of the best of its type in the world, in terms of both stature and the quality of its entries.
The winning car takes its name from Jacques Saoutchik, the renowned French coachbuilder who designed and built the low-windscreen, ‘torpedo’ bodywork that so impressed the judges (see sidebar).
According to Mercedes-Benz Classic Archives, the car was originally ordered by Mercedes-Benz Comp. Inc., New York, for a Mr. Charles Levine of New York.
The chassis was delivered to Saoutchik in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France on August 2, 1928, where the sports two-seat body was manufactured and installed.
Saoutchik charged Daimler-Benz AG 72,327.25 French Francs (equalling 11,572.35 Reichsmark) for the bodywork in December 1928.
The exact date of delivery is not documented, but it is supposed to have happened in December 1928.
The vehicle had been kept in storage for about 30 years before its current owners, Judy and Paul Andrews of White Settlement, Texas, had it extensively restored for presentation at Pebble Beach.
Mercedes-Benz cars have won Best of Show seven times and collected more than 120 First in Class and Special Awards at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance since its inception in 1950.
S Type history
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. Thosee 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 and dual ignition. Each cylinder had two spark plugs, one fired by a battery ignition and the other by a high-voltage magneto ignition.
The 6.8-litre engine of the S Type, on which all the other models were based, had an output of 120 horsepower without a supercharger and 180 horsepower with the blower engaged.
That power output 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, with Rudolf Caracciola driving his S Type to 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, 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. They are now among the most valuable cars in the world.
A Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster from 1936 was sold for $11.8 million at a Gooding & Company auction held at Pebble Beach.
"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 540 K has a fascinating history. It was bought first by an aristocratic Prussian family, then transferred to Baroness Gisela von Krieger.
During the Second World War, she took the Special Roadster first to Switzerland, then to the U.S., where it remained unused in a garage for more than 40 years until her death. The car was then restored to its current immaculate condition.