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PreWar Mercedes Benz


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We have been posting some MB stuff in other threads and there really should be an appropriate landing spot for some of these pictures and thoughts. Btw, one of the only English speaking websites that I know of where you could find information on prewar Mercedes Benz is the 170-220 forum. There is some great stuff on that site but their focus tends to be around the smaller engined cars so in this thread I would like to concentrate more on the full classic chassis, 290, 320, 380, 500, 540, etc.

I've been lucky enough to see and touch many great Classics but the materials, fit & finish on the 1930s Mercedes was one of the best. Also, MB was a leader in technical advances including 4 wheel independent suspension in the 1933 380. The driver activated supercharger on the K,S,SS,380,500k, 540k and 770k to my knowledge is very unique. Only Stutz had tried a similar system in 1929.

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I will add that I think Herman Ahrens of DB was one of the greatest auto designers of all time. His clean lines and excellent proportions on both the big and small cars are fabulous. The special roadsters and special coupes are incredible cars, as well as normal roadsters and the cabriolets. The lines are great even on the big 770s and the sedans.

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The picture in my first post is a 1936 Model 500k factory Sindelfingen Cabriolet "C" body. As a late 500k, one of the last 9 cars it has a number of subtle 540k features including the bumpers and hood screens. It was originally delivered to NY where it was sold by Mytropia Motors to the son of a Oil Company owner.

Mercedes Benz nomenclature for catalog bodies worked something like this.

1. Cabriolet "A" - 2 seat 2 door conv

2. Cabriolet "B" - 4/5 seat 2 door open rear quarter conv

3. Cabriolet "C" - 4/5 seat 2 door closed rear quarter (victoria) conv

4. Cabriolet "D" - 5/6 seat 4 door conv

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This is a picture of a 1937 540k Cabriolet "C". This is a right hand car that was original one of 2 that was delivered to England. It spent some time in Japan before coming back to the U.S. and being restored again. You can see a video of it running

.

There were two versions of the 540k Cabriolet "C", this being the first with the slopping trunk (or boot) area. The second version has a more rounded trunk. The major differeces between this and the 500k pictured before are the rear hinged doors, and the shape of the fenders and trunk. The interiors are identical. I have the measurements for this car and I need to compare them with the 500k to see the differences. The 540k is supposed to be wider and longer but I would like to confirm that.

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The Cab C looks great. I like the Cab Cs and you seldom see them.

The Cab "B" was produced in the greatest number for both 500k & 540k. There were very few 540k Cabriolet "C" bodies built, I want to say about about 20 but I should look that up.

It's probably a good time to mention the definitive reference on the 500k/540k/770 cars is the two volumes by Jan Melin that are fantastic.

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I will add that I think Herman Ahrens of DB was one of the greatest auto designers of all time. His clean lines and excellent proportions on both the big and small cars are fabulous. The special roadsters and special coupes are incredible cars, as well as normal roadsters and the cabriolets. The lines are great even on the big 770s and the sedans.

+1 on that Dave. The proportions he achieved were fantastic.

have to be one of the great styling achievements in automotive history.

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Edited by alsancle (see edit history)
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I posted a bunch of pictures of red Mercedes Benz in the "Ugly Classics" thread to illusstrate how everyone in the 1980s (including my dad) painted their MB red. I'm not saying all these cars are ugly, in fact some would look pretty good without the whitewalls. I'll go through each and try to identify them. All these pictures were taken at the Arizona auctions in the 1980s.

This is a 540k Cabriolet "B". Like the Cab "C" there was a early style with a sloping trunk and a later style with a rounded trunk.

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1. The first picture is a first series 540k Cabriolet "C".

2. The second picture is my mom standing with Richie Clyne in front of the an English (Mayfair) bodied roadster. I assume Imperial Palace must have owned the car and was selling it.

3. This picture was taken in a private museum with a very uniquely bodied 500k Cabriolet "A". Most 500k Carbiolet "A" bodies had double rear spares. The car is pictured in Volume II by Jay Melin.

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1. This is a 500k "Normal" i.e. Not "Special" roadster.

2. This is a 320n Cabriolet "A". The "n" in the designation indicated the short chassis. The 320 looked very similar to the 540k but utilized a 6 cylinder engine coupled to a 4 speed gear box. In 38 an overdrive was added.

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I remember Don Williams & Richie selling several of these fantastic Classic "K" s at his first Hershey auction just after sept 11 2001 !

Because of the 9/11 terriorist crisis these cars sold very cheapy~~~

That auction sadly turned into a sort of unintended fire sale for both Don and Richie . I felt sorry for them as prices were very soft ! The buyers just did not want to spend money that day just after 9/11 ; and attendance was also very thin .

As I remember at least 2 of the "K" s sold were painted 1980s red also !

Does anyone know what these "K" s sold for that day and where they are today ?

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I remember Don Williams & Richie selling several of these fantastic Classic "K" s at his first Hershey auction just after sept 11 2001 !

Because of the 9/11 terriorist crisis these cars sold very cheapy~~~

That auction sadly turned into a sort of unintended fire sale for both Don and Richie . I felt sorry for them as prices were very soft ! The buyers just did not want to spend money that day just after 9/11 ; and attendance was also very thin .

As I remember at least 2 of the "K" s sold were painted 1980s red also !

Does anyone know what these "K" s sold for that day and where they are today ?

There was 1 500k and 2 540k cars sold. The 500k was a Cabriolet C pictured below (after restoration). One 540k was the Offord bodied Conv Coupe (right hand drive) which I will find pictures of. The other was a very early 540k Cabriolet B as it had the 500k body. As an aside, I met the guy that bought the Auburn Speedster at that auction and like a few other guys attending not planning on buying anything until he saw how things were selling.

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All the 500k and 540k bodies had the same mother of perl dash. The precursor 380 had the same instruments but arranged slightly different. A few of the non Sindelfingen (factory) built bodied cars had custom dashes. The interiors on the Sindelfingen built bodies were mostly similar to this. Leather interior with buckets in the front. They adjust forward and back, as well as the angle of the seat.

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Here are some pictures of the second series 540k Cabriolet A. There were roughly 80 total Cab A of both types made over 4 years. Sometimes this series is referred to as "short tail" and the first series with the rear mounted spares is called the "long tail".

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Edited by alsancle
corrected mistake (see edit history)
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A.J.

I believe for decades now it has been illegal to export any old Antique & Classic autos from India .

In the 50s-60s this was very common as the Maharaja cars, and others, were just sitting wasting away.

I remember well many comming to the USA in this time period.

India now considers these cars to be national treasures and it has been highly illegal to export them.

Some engines & parts have been known to slip out !

Still I have heard many a sad story of large groups of great Antiques & Classics still sitting and wasting away there.

There are several cases where 100+ Maharaja cars are still sitting in these very sad conditions.

Edited by Silverghost (see edit history)
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A.J.

I believe for decades now it has been illegal to export any old Antique & Classic autos from India .

In the 50s-60s this was very common as the Maharaja cars, and others, were just sitting wasting away.

I remember well many comming to the USA in this time period.

India now considers these cars to be national treasures and it has been highly illegal to export them.

Some engines & parts have been known to slip out !

Still I have heard many a sad story of large groups of great Antiques & Classics still sitting and wasting away there.

There are several cases where 100+ Maharaja cars are still sitting in these very sad conditions.

Brad, You may be correct . I believe the picture below shows it after restoration and still in India. Also in India is this nice 500k Cabriolet C (note the lights and the left hand drive).

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Edited by alsancle (see edit history)
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I can't answer that off the top of my head. I can ask Jan though. I think there were two in Detroit - Connie Bouchard and another guy whose name I can't recall. I talked to him and he was restoring a bus (!) and the special coupe was locked away waiting to be restored. He was pretty excited about the bus. People will talk to me just because I know Jan and also show me cars that I wouldn't see otherwise, which is nice. I think the Bouchard car ended up with IP and I am not sure where it is now. A lot of their stuff went to Europe. Maybe Gen. Lyon has a coupe too, but I have lost track of which one - maybe dark red. I will go back through past years photos from Pebble when I have some time.

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Melin Volume I states coupe production as this:

380 - none listed

500k - 3

540k - 7

This body style was actually much more rare then Special Roadster which were produced in much greater numbers, close to 50 combined for 500k/540k.

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Here is a 500k Carbriolet "A". I don't have Melin's book with me here but I think there were around 20 of these built. There were also 3-4 of these bodies built with 540k engine. I go back and forth between this and first series 540k Cabriolet A as to my favorite.

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In Vol 1 Jan lists 33 500K Cab As, and 83 540K Cab As, and a note in the 540 section lists 32 built of the first version. There were subtle changes even after that. I like them all a lot - they are each in the top end of their stying eras. The low windshield and long hood on the 500s is really something. I especially like them with leather tops, they look just that much sleeker with the top up. If you compare them with other cars of the same year, they are just stunning. I also like the 2 door offener tourenwagens shown on page 85 with the disappearing tops.

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William Lyon owns the Bouchard car, which was dark red. The other restored coupe is dark blue. I've never seen the third one, but have heard about it. I think the third one is the car Rudolf Carraciola owned, with plaid seats and all.

The Caracciola car that I posted a photo above of is a 500K special coupe and didn't have plaid interior when new or when I last saw it, but maybe did somewhere inbetween. Maybe he had another one that you are thinking of. The rear treatment of this car is very nice - better in person than in photos.

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Here is a second series 540k. Pictured in 1965 with original paint and then in the early 90s after restoration. Originally purchased by a Mr. Van Wessem of Amsterdam. Delivered on Oct 9th 1937. Brought to the U.S.A in the 1950s, owned in NJ, then Massachusetts from 1965 to 1995, then Germany, Monaco, England and I'm not sure where it is now.

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Here is the Offord & Sons bodied Conv Victoria which I have listed as a 1938 540k. These pictures were taken in the 1980s in Arizona. The car had been painted a very unflattering orange/red when it was sold at the 2001 Hershey auction.

Here it is in its auction colors.

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Edited by alsancle (see edit history)
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In Vol 1 Jan lists 33 500K Cab As, and 83 540K Cab As, and a note in the 540 section lists 32 built of the first version. There were subtle changes even after that. I like them all a lot - they are each in the top end of their stying eras. The low windshield and long hood on the 500s is really something. I especially like them with leather tops, they look just that much sleeker with the top up. If you compare them with other cars of the same year, they are just stunning. I also like the 2 door offener tourenwagens shown on page 85 with the disappearing tops.

Besides the rear mounted spares on the 500k and the first series 540k the big styling difference is that the earlier cars had the optional "set back" radiator position which moved the engine bay backwards 5 or 6 inches. This results in the perspective that the hood is longer although it is the same length as the other body styles. This setback was also employed on most but not all of the Special Roadsters.

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