MERCEDES S-TYPE

Feel that fat wooden steering wheel! Smell the leather! If these joyous sensations make you itch to get your hands on this magnificent, one-family-ownership 1928 Mercedes-Benz S-type, then be there when it comes up for auction at Bonhams’ Goodwood Revival sale in the UK on 15th September. If its appeal to you is as a challenging restoration project, however, then please stay away.

Designed by Ferdinand Porsche after the Mercedes merger with Benz, the S-type was the first of a series of low slung, supercharged 6.8-litre sporting cars intended to re-establish the company’s name for ultra-high speed excitement among patrician buyers worldwide. Many were sold with rakish coachwork by in-house Sindelfingen and other German designers, but this one, imported as a chassis under order number 38130 by British Mercedes Ltd, the London agents, was bodied for their client to his precise requirements by Cadogan, a firm by that time based in Fulham, London, and well known for relatively restrained sporting bodies on Bentley, Invicta, Packard and OM chassis.

Painted in dark battleship grey with blue leather, this was not an extrovert device intended for driving in the Mr Toad tradition. The panels, like those of many a Three Litre or 4½ Bentley, were of lightweight stretched fabric, a practice borrowed after WW1 from the aircraft industry, with four doors, twin side-mounted spare wheels and full weather equipment. The spacious interior contained big, comfortable seating for four adults, the front ones having adjustable backrests. Luggage could be accommodated in a large trunk at the back, and there were commodious leather door pockets for everyday items.

This splendid old car’s condition is just as we at Oily Rag love to find ‘em. We asked a leading UK dealer if, in his view, it would be worth more or less than that if subjected to a nut-and-bolt concours restoration. “Less,” was his unhesitating response.

Kept in the same dry garage since the 1930s, and properly laid up for more than half a century, it retains its original buff logbook, original paint, original lush leather interior, elaborately stocked instrument panel and all its top quality electrical equipment. The original scuttle-mounted identification plate is still in place, informing us that the car carries chassis number 1396, engine 1395, with 26 nominal horsepower developing 120bhp.

Later examples of this prestige model went on to achieve great success in international racing. The 7.1-litre SS, SSK and SSKL triumphed in the Ulster TT in 1929, the Irish GP in 1930, the Mille Miglia and the Eifelrennen in 1931 and the Avus race in the same years. The first examples, however, of which this is one, are treasured as being the most practical and by far the most pleasant to drive. Let us pray that this magnificent gentleman’s motor carriage is never subjected to the indignity of a full-scale restoration.

- Douglas Blain


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