Car of the Week: This Unrestored 1934 Mercedes-Benz 500 K Is Just 1 of 5 of Its Kind to Survive
Gooding & Company will bring a variety of fascinating cars from the estate of late collector Mark J. Smith to auction on Friday, April 7, at the Midland Motors museum in Lynchburg, Va. The former Chrysler dealership was transformed by Smith to house his collection of mostly unrestored Classic Era automobiles. Among these treasures is a 1934 Mercedes-Benz 500 K Offener Tourenwagen, which translates to “open touring car” in Mercedes-speak and is a very significant vehicle because of its rarity, highly original condition and provenance.
Estimated to fetch as much as $1,750,000 and being sold without reserve, this important Mercedes-Benz is among the last unrestored supercharged, eight-cylinder models to come to market, and only one of five surviving examples of its style built on a 500 K chassis. Remarkably, it had been in the same family ownership for approximately 50 years before being acquired by Smith in 2005.
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This 500 K wears a sporting body by Singlefingen, the factory coachbuilder known for superb craftsmanship and build quality. Under its long hood, the 5.0-liter inline-eight engine of the 500 K is distinguished by its Roots-type supercharger, which develops 160 bhp at 3,400 rpm, a formidable output for the day. A four-speed gearbox and four-wheel vacuum-assisted hydraulic drum brakes are complemented by front independent double-wishbone suspension with coil springs and a rear swing-axle with coils.
Naturally, the chassis and engine numbers correspond to Mercedes-Benz factory records, as does the original plate affixed to the firewall. Never restored and incredibly well preserved by Smith and its long-term prior owner, most of the interior, including the door cards and rear seat, remain those fitted at Sindelfingen in 1934.
The top-of-the-line Mercedes-Benz models of the era were favored, not surprisingly, by high-ranking German officials of the period. According to its Mercedes-Benz “kommission” sheet, this car was originally delivered in late 1934 to Rudolf Hess of Berlin, by then Deputy Führer and thus, one of the highest-ranking members of the ruling National Socialist German Workers’ Party, known more infamously as the Nazi party.
Hess was taken prisoner during a failed mission to the UK, and convicted to life in prison following the Nuremberg trials. The 500 K became the spoils of war, and was subsequently used by American GIs. Like so many old European cars, it made its way to the United States after the war, where it resided with a rather eccentric owner and remained essentially unseen by the public for nearly a half century. Collectors of “survivors” would be hard-pressed to find a more interesting and original piece of automotive history.
Click here for more photos of this unrestored 1934 Mercedes-Benz 500 K.
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