1935 Mercedes-Benz 500K Cabriolet by Saoutchik

1935 Mercedes-Benz 500K Cabriolet by Saoutchik

Mercedes-Benz 500 K chassis 123696 was delivered just in time as a bare chassis to Mercedes-Benz Paris on 1 October 1935, where it was displayed at the Paris Salon which ran from 3 - 13 October. For the show, the factory had performed extra chroming, polishing and preparation of the chassis. Dr. Charles Crocker, out of a wealthy California banking family, attended the Salon with a friend, Mr. Lawrence Copley Thaw. In a friendly "duel" to outdo each another, Thaw bought a Rolls-Royce chassis, and Crocker bought the specially prepared 500 K chassis off the Mercedes-Benz stand.

Dr. Crocker then sent chassis 123696 to the Carrosserie J. Saoutchik, and it is reported in family correspondence that Jacques Saoutchik told Crocker that he would build a body for the Mercedes that would be "as handsomely received half a century from now as it will today." Dr. Crocker stayed in Europe to monitor the design and construction of the car, and then brought it to San Francisco, where it remained in the Crocker family until 1959.

Scott Newhall, Executive Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, acquired it that year from the Crocker Estate and enjoyed the car over the next four years. In the mid-1960s, he sold 123696 to Robert Burkholder, a San Francisco investment executive, who often referred to it as the "magnificent vehicle". In early 1967, inventor and real estate investor Richard C. Adams acquired the car from Burkholder and brought it to San Diego, where it remained for the next 22 years. In the summer of 1989, this astonishing automobile was sold to the present owner from the Adams Estate. Although 123696 has been restored, the car remains complete and authentic, down to the exquisite Art Deco vanity set lodged in the instrument panel.

The style is signature Saoutchik. It is an important masterclass example of what Jacques was doing on his most flamboyant styles in 1935 - 1936, where the contrast color on the hood flowed into a free-form sculpture on the side of the car. The concept is congruent with a famous 1935 Saoutchik Hispano-Suiza K6 (chassis 15060) known as La Rognon, which featured a different but aesthetically similar sculptured beltline and side treatment. As opposed to the Hispano, the side sculpture on the Mercedes is further echoed and enhanced as painted scallops on the fender-sides and the striking side-mount casing. It is an artistic and playful expression of the carrosserie as a canvas where the coachbuilder can exercise his artistic vision.

Desxriptions & pictures by bonhams

Production Start 1935
Country of origin Germany