As a crippling economic depression loomed over much of the global economy, the world’s premier automakers faced an uncertain future. Yet, firms including Packard, Cadillac, Rolls-Royce, Hispano, and many others continued rolling out increasingly glamorous, sophisticated, and exclusive motorcars. Mercedes-Benz carried the pride of Germany with their magnificent eight-cylinder supercharged models, starting with the 380 of 1933. Nearly as soon as the 380 hit the market, engineers in Stuttgart began developing its replacement, the mighty 5-liter, 160-horsepower 500 K. The ultimate evolution of the series arrived in late 1936 as the 180-horsepower, 5.4-liter 540 K. The 500 K and 540 K are among the most coveted of all 30’s classics, with breathtaking performance, exquisite quality, and abundant style.
The 500 K was the German answer to cars like the Duesenberg Model J or Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental – a powerful, high-performance machine built to take full advantage of Germany’s all-new high-speed autobahn system. Customer demand for Mercedes’ flagship was sufficient to see the production of 342 500 K chassis and another 419 540 Ks. The vast majority of these cars were bodied at the factory’s own Sindelfingen body works, a facility renowned for impeccable build quality and excellence in design. Of the 342 500 K chassis produced, the vast majority, 301, were clothed at Sindelfingen, reinforcing the integrity of the factory designs. Just 90 of these featured the four-passenger Cabriolet C body, a blind-quarter four-passenger convertible, which American manufacturers often called a Convertible Victoria. Marque historian Jonathan Sierakowski estimates that only 20 of these 90 cars still exist, of which 16 are original left-hand-drive examples.
The example offered here, car number 113715, is one of those surviving Cabriolet Cs. Recorded by Mercedes-Benz under Kommission number 209800, the factory archive indicates it was delivered on 12 October 1935 to a customer in Hamburg. While little of the car’s pre-war history is known, it resurfaced around 1980 when it was discovered in the ownership of the late collector Izzy Dupont of Columbus, Ohio. Marque experts have recalled that the car was still in fine condition at the time. It was then acquired from Mr. Dupont’s estate by collector Richard Wesselink of Thousand Oaks, California. Mr. Wesselink recalled purchasing the car and commissioning its restoration by the renowned Hill & Vaughn between 1984 and 1985, noting that at this time, partner Phil Hill was still actively involved and personally participated in completing the work.
Finished in a striking two-tone scarlet livery with a beige interior piped in maroon, the 500 K participated in the 1985 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, winning its class. Mr. Wesselink recounted that Mercedes-Benz was sufficiently impressed with the 500 K that they asked to use it in their 100th-anniversary celebrations, and Wesselink subsequently loaned it to the factory for display and to use in their advertisements.
The most recent collection acquired the 500 K in the mid-1980s and maintained it in their private collection until 2022. There is little doubt why Hill & Vaughn is regarded as one of the finest restoration shops of all time, as the 1980s restoration has aged remarkably well, and the car still presents in superb condition, even after more than 35 years. Appropriate to the quality of their work, the cosmetics are still highly appealing, with the paintwork and chrome largely holding up very well. The handsome coachwork featured dual side-mount spares in skirted fenders, correct Bosch headlamps, a central fog lamp, and a neatly integrated trunk. It rides on chrome wire wheels with signature large-diameter center hubs and black wall Dunlop Sport tires. The beige upholstery remains highly attractive and in good order, with just some light age and stretching apparent in the leather. The woodwork remains gorgeous, and the mother-of-pearl instrument cluster inlay is a work of art. Under the hood remains clean and attractive, with extensive engine-turned finishes adding an appropriately flamboyant touch, and the car retains its original chassis and motor stampings corresponding with factory records. Following a long period of static display, additional sorting is recommended to return it to its full capabilities.
Sindelfingen’s handsome Cabriolet C is a beautiful match for the 500 K chassis, offering the practicality of a family-friendly four-place interior with the beauty of a blind-quarter top and all the performance and excitement of a supercharged pre-war Mercedes-Benz. This lovely example is sure to impress, however, and wherever it is enjoyed.
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