If Thor, the God of Thunder, owned a car it would be a Supercharged Mercedes. Very few cars, before or since, have been so imposing, exclusive, charismatic and simply Wagnerian in conception.

Daimler Benz began development of the supercharged car for road and racing use at an early stage. Starting about 1919, they turned to supercharging in order to gain extra power from the slow-running engines of the period. That they succeeded is shown by a long line of cars from the 1922 Targa Florio winner to the W125 and W154 Grand Prix cars of the last years before the war, passing through the SSK and SSKL, before reaching the 500K and 540K, the last supercharged ‘production’ models prior to current models.

The SSK was from its inception designed to be an out and out racing machine. It was based on the S Type frame shortened by 17.75 inches, fitted with a larger bore SS engine, the combination proving explosive immediately. Success became commonplace with drivers such as Caracciola, Zatuszek and Stuck notching up results at events as diverse as the Monaco Grand Prix in 1929, where Caracciola came 3rd, the Argentine 500 mile race which Zatuszek won in 1935 to the original, highly prestigious Klausen Hill-Climbs which Caracciola won at the wheel of an SSK on several occasions helping him to his first European hill-climb championship

The car pictured here was rebuilt to SSK specification by Ray Jones in the United States in the 1960s. The car converted was an original S-Type to which a plethora of original SSK components were fitted, bringing the car to true SSK specification in much the same way as customer cars were modified in the 1930s.

To emphasize this point, the S-Type chassis was shortened as the originals had been, the engine had an SSK cylinder head, supercharger and induction system fitted and was coupled to an SSK gearbox. Original SSK shock absorbers were fitted to the shortened chassis and original instruments, lighting equipment and steering wheel fitted to the lightweight works-type competition body.

The car was completed in the spirit of the originals and is nearly identical to the cars with which Caracciola and his contemporaries grappled on the gruelling hills of the European hill-climb circuit in the early l930s.

With only a handful of original SSKs extant in the world today and fewer still in competition trim with untarnished histories, this is a remarkable opportunity to acquire a remarkable car. It is a fine example of a recreation of what many believe to be the most desirable sports Mercedes ever built: the supercharged SSK, in excellent condition and ready for use.

SCM Analysis

Detailing

Vehicle:1927 Mercedes-Benz SSK Bitsa
Years Produced:1928-1934
Number Produced:33 (plus pre-war factory conversions)
Original List Price:$24,000 Reichmarks
Distributor Caps:$500
Chassis Number Location:Left front frame rail, not always stamped
Engine Number Location:Engine mount casting, right rear
Club Info:Mercedes Benz Kompressor Club, c/o Mr. Rolf Wagner, Reifen Wagner, Postfach 1134 84004 Landshut, Germany; 49 08 71 68326

The car pictured was sold at Coys’ auction at Klausenrennen, Switzerland on September 26, 1998 for $709,657. (The price includes buyer’s commission and was converted from Swiss Francs at the rate of one franc per US $0.71.)

This project by Ray Jones is not alone in its attempt to revive the legend of supercharged Mercedes automobiles. Parts that were said to have come from the Zatuszek car mentioned above (engine No. 1391/37) were used to recreate an “SSK” that sold at the Terry Bennett auction in New Hampshire on September 21, 1991 for $385,000 (plus commission).

However carefully put together this car was, and however exciting it may be to drive, it is still a re-creation. As a result, it will not match the appreciation of genuine prewar sports cars. Such cars with authentic history will always draw more potential buyers and be easier to sell.

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