Shortly after the debut of the legendary 300 “Adenauer” sedan, Mercedes-Benz followed up with an opulent, hand-built coupe/cabriolet variant. These flagship grand touring cars were the most expensive and exclusive motorcars in the company’s vast portfolio in the 1950s and were considered by Mercedes-Benz as successors to the legendary pre-war 540K. Internally designated as the W188, the car utilized the M199 3-liter inline-six with iron block and alloy OHC cylinder head, shared with the Adenauer sedans. The initial production run utilized triple Solex carburetors for a 150 horsepower output. Buyers had the choice of a four-place Cabriolet A, a handsome fixed-roof coupe, or a sportier two-place roadster. The somewhat conservative styling reflected that of the sedan, yet it belied the car’s sophisticated, over-engineered underpinnings. Handcrafted at the Sindelfingen works, these cars were built with vault-like precision. The painstaking assembly process included leading and filing body panels by hand to ensure precise, consistent gaps. Each piece of chrome trim was hand-fitted in bare brass, reshaped as necessary, then matched to the car before being sent off for plating.
With such an exhaustive production process, it is no surprise that between 1952 and 1955, a total of only 560 W188 300 S models left the factory. For the second half of 1955, Mercedes made several refinements to the car, and changed the designation to “300 Sc.” First and foremost was the addition of Bosch mechanical fuel injection shared with the exotic 300SL sports car. Output jumped from 150hp to 175hp, improving flexibility and high-speed performance. Alfin brakes and with revised boosters improved braking performance along with the bump in horsepower, and subtle refinements improved the ride and handling characteristics. The car remained enormously costly to build and to buy. In America, the 300 Sc cost an astounding $12,500, which put it well above its nearest American rival, the $10,000 Continental MkII, and nearly twice the price of a Cadillac Eldorado. Except for some Hollywood stars who appreciated its glamorous looks, Americans didn’t warm to the 300, citing the eye-watering price tag as much as the lack of a V8 engine or automatic gearbox. In the end, the second generation W188-II 300 Sc sold in even smaller numbers, with just 200 cars built in total. Today, these opulent and beautiful cars stand proudly among the most desirable post-war Mercedes-Benz automobiles, second only to their mechanical cousin, the 300 SL.
Presented in unrestored condition is this highly desirable, fuel-injected 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 Sc Cabriolet A. The Cabriolet A is the rarest of the three body styles offered by Mercedes on the W188-II chassis, with just 49 constructed in total (vs. 53 roadsters and 98 coupes). This incredible motorcar has had just two family owners from new, and it presents in unrestored condition with its original interior and numbers-matching engine with Bosch injection intact. A hand-written letter by the previous owner recounts how he acquired the car from a wealthy couple in the 1960s. The first owners, Mr. and Mrs. James McDonald III, purchased the car while living in Germany in the late 1950s, using it there for a brief time before shipping it to their new home in California. They enjoyed the Mercedes-Benz at home in the Bay area and on their ranch in the Napa Valley. At the time, the McDonalds became friends with the gentleman who would become the second owner, an in-home physical therapist who treated Mrs. McDonald. When the McDonalds announced they were moving to Hawaii and could only take two cars, they sold the Mercedes-Benz to their friend, the therapist, and it has remained in his possession ever since. In the same letter, he describes having the car serviced at the British car dealer in Van Nuys, California, before finding happier arrangements at a Mercedes dealer near Stanford University. He continued to use the car for some time, all the while taking great care to maintain it in excellent condition. At one point in the 1970s, the car was put up for storage in their new home in the upper Midwest, where it remained quietly tucked away until only recently.
Now emerged from long-term storage, this Mercedes-Benz 300 Sc Cabriolet is quite possibly one of the most original examples of this highly desirable model extant. It presents in its original color of DB 180 Silbergrau Metallic over a red leather interior and factory black vinyl top. Considering its time off the road, it is in remarkable condition overall. The silver-gray paintwork shows some fading, and it appears to have had respray in the original color, likely following repairs made to the left rear fender early in the car’s life. There is also some very minor damage to the rear bumper and under the license plate area. The paint is fair and presentable for an unrestored car, although it will require attention in the future. The body is primarily sound, with some corrosion evident on the inner sills and along the trailing edges of the front wings. The doors shut with precision and display tight, consistent gaps. The exterior fittings are remarkably complete and in excellent condition, with only a couple of minor trim pieces lost to time.
The highly original red interior is a particular highlight. The front and rear seats, door panels, and headlining are beautifully preserved and show a marvelous patina; more than suitable for further preservation work. Similarly, the wood dash and door caps are excellent, displaying some moderate cracking in the lacquer finish, but appearing to have very good veneer and structure. The instruments, controls, and factory Becker Mexico radio are in superb original condition.
After coming out of storage, the original, numbers-matching engine (per the factory data card) was carefully checked to ensure it was free and sound. The fuel injection pump received similar care before startup. Following a basic service, the engine fired up quickly and now runs beautifully, with strong oil pressure. Compression is good, and likely to improve with gentle use. The clutch is free and feels sound, the gearbox operates smoothly, and the exterior lights, turn signals, and dash lights work as they should.
The gorgeous 300 Sc is among the most desirable of all post-war Mercedes-Benz production cars. Emerging from nearly 50 years of quiet slumber, this marvelous Cabriolet A is a prime candidate for a straightforward restoration or more selective preservation of its superb original features. Available for the first time on the open market, this 300 Sc is sure to please the most passionate of Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts.
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