1928 Mercedes-Benz S-type Saoutchik Roadster

The underbidders stopped bidding when they thought the car wasn’t selling-bad luck, as it was

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The 6.8-liter S-type was produced in four series from 1927 to 1930, with a total output of some 170 cars. This car is from the original 1927-28 series, of which just 26 were built. It was ordered new from Mercedes-Benz Inc. in New York by Mrs. Charles Levine, believed to be the wife of the millionaire Charles A. Levine, backer (and passenger) of aviator Clarence Chamberlain, who flew the Atlantic in 1927 shortly after Lindbergh had made his successful solo crossing.

Mrs. Levine opted not to have the standard factory bodywork on her car, choosing instead a daringly low-slung “Torpedo Roadster” body by Saoutchik of Paris, France’s most fashionable coachbuilder. The Mercedes was fitted with one of Jacques Saoutchik’s finest creations, whose long bonnet and short rear deck make the most of the dramatic proportions of the chassis. Subtle chrome (actually nickel) spears accent the sweeping curves of the fenders, while a daring break with tradition was the lack of running boards.

Nevertheless, when the Mercedes arrived in New York, Mrs. Levine failed to take delivery, apparently because the style and color of the car did not appeal to her “irascible, pompous, difficult” husband. Whatever the reason, the S-type remained in the New York Mercedes-Benz showroom until an enterprising salesman persuaded an existing Mercedes owner, Frederick Henry Bedford Jr., a director of the Standard Oil Company, to buy the car. It remained with his family until 2006, when it was purchased by the current owner.

Romance was in the air for Frederick Bedford, too: when he drove his S-type to Pittsburgh, he met a young lady named Margaret Stewart at a party at the Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier. She abandoned her date, accepted Frederick Bedford’s offer of a ride home in his Mercedes-Benz that evening, and they subsequently married. Perhaps because of its romantic associations, Bedford never sold his Mercedes; he kept it until his untimely death in 1952, after which it was laid up in the family garage.

The 1928 Saoutchik Roadster remained there for almost 30 years until 1980, when his widow was about to celebrate her 75th birthday. Her granddaughter baked a special cake shaped in the image of the Mercedes, which was delivered along with a poem about the car.

This inspired Margaret Bedford to commission a restoration by Gus and Rich Reuter, who had been maintaining exotic European automobiles since 1929. After two years, the S-type emerged from the Reuter shop, carefully restored in its original livery of cream with dark red frame and suspension, red leather interior, and tan cloth top. The only departures from the original specification were the substitution of leather upholstery for the original reptile skin and the omission of the discs that had covered the original wire wheels.

Simon Kidston

Simon Kidston - SCM Editor at Large

Simon is from an old British motor-racing family. He started his career at Coys, leaving to co-found Bonhams Europe in Geneva. Over the next decade, he staged high-profile auctions around the world, branching out on his own in 2006 to found Kidston SA, a consultancy responsible for some of the larger deals you rarely hear about. Simon also judges at Pebble Beach and is “the voice” of the Villa d’Este Concours and the Mille Miglia.

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