The full glory of the Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star was on display at Bonhams' second annual classic car auction for the marque in Stuttgart at the weekend. Held at the Mercedes-Benz Museum, six individual cars sold for more than a million dollars, with the highlights being a 1931 model 770 Cabriolet D which sold for €2,311,500 (US$2,516,987), a 1938 540 K Cabriolet A which sold for €2,760,000 ($3,005,357) and a fully-functioning 115-year-old Benz Ideal Vis-a-Vis Motor Carriage which fetched €212,750 ($231,663).
Beyond those three star attractions, four Mercedes-Benz 300 SLs sold for more than a million apiece, and a 1925 Mercedes TYPE 8 Ladies' Bicycle fetched €10,925 ($11,896), which must represent a record of some sort.
The Vis-a-Vis and Ladies bicycle are all that much more remarkable in that they were produced prior to the joining of Benz & Cie and Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG) in 1926. Given the constituent halves of Mercedes-Benz were founded in 1886 (with the patent for the first motor car as we know it) and 1890 respectively, the company can rightfully claim to be the world's oldest automobile manufacturer, and the strength of the single marque sale can attest to the well-being of the brand a century and a quarter later.
For those who have taken the time to attend in person, the Mercedes-Benz Museum charts the history of the world's oldest car manufacturer superbly well, with 1,500 exhibits and 160 landmark vehicles.
Following on from the inaugural Bonhams Mercedes-Benz sale last year, the sale of six million dollar cars augurs well for the development of another major international classic car auction event in conjunction with the fast growing four-day Retro Classics event in Stuttgart.
This year the 15th annual Retro Classics event expanded to a mammoth 120,000 square meters of exhibition space, featuring 1,500 exhibitors across eight fully booked halls like the one above, creating a vintage automobile enthusiast's heaven. Last year the statistics showed more than 80,000 visitors, 40 percent of whom had traveled more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the show.
Stuttgart is also the home of the Porsche Museum, which was one of several museums exhibiting at the Retro Classics' Marketplace of Museums along with the August Horch Museum, the Zündapp Museum and the Historic and Classic Cars Museum of Meßkirch.
As the press materials of the self-proclaimed "classic car convention" went to great pains to point out, "classical vehicles are much more than just investments and collectors' items. This belief means that Retro Classics has always regarded itself not just as a sales exhibition, but also as a platform for the automobile as a cultural artefact."
Be that as it may, there's little doubt that the people who bid six cars into seven figures were fully aware that the vehicles they were purchasing are now well recognized and entirely legitimate instruments of wealth creation, and as Bonham's (another premium brand of considerable longevity having been established in 1793) auction description of the next car noted, "It's unsurprising that a (film) director such as Charell would have been the owner of such a fantastic car: these were clear symbols of success, status and style." The million dollar cars
1931 Mercedes-Benz 770 Cabriolet D
Introduced at the 1930 Paris Motor Show where it was among the highlights of the day, the Mercedes-Benz 770 was the largest model the company had produced to that time, and swiftly gained the sobriquet "Großer." The 770 was powered by an eight-cylinder inline engine displacing 7.7 liters and producing an impressive 150 hp, while the optional supercharger boosted output to 200 hp. When new, it cost 47,500 RM (Reichsmark), roughly the price of a family home.
One of 18 produced, this Mercedes-Benz 770 Cabriolet D was originally the property of German actor, producer and director, Erik Charell (1894-1974).
Charell curated some of the more glamorous and risqué stage performances of the 1920s and 1930s, and is credited with challenging the conservatism that dominated German theater by, among other things, introducing artistic nudity to his stage productions. His later reviews featured famous names such as Marlene Dietrich, Claire Waldoff, and Louis Armstrong, who starred in a jazz version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
The 770 Cabriolet D was delivered to Charell in Berlin on 18 August 1931. Charell fled to the USA soon after the Nazis came to power, working for the Fox Film Corporation in Hollywood. He returned to Germany after the war and in 1950 enjoyed an enormous success with the musical comedy, Feuerwerk, from which came the worldwide hit song O mein Papa. In 1969, Charell received the German movie prize, the Filmband in Gold, for his outstanding contribution to the German film industry.
1938 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Cabriolet A
The most expensive sale on the day was a 1938 540 Kompressor Cabriolet A. The beautiful art deco 540 K sculpture on wheels sailed through its estimated price range of €2,000,000 to €2,500,000 to eventually fall for €2,760,000.
Restored to Concours condition, the truly magnificent two-seater is extremely rare, with the 540 K Spezial Roadsters among the world's most valuable automobiles. A quick look through our top 100 most valuable cars list will yield numerous examples of this model, with the most expensive, formerly the property of Baroness Gisela von Krieger, having sold for $11,770,000 at Pebble Beach in 2012.
1960 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
The most expensive of four 300SLs to sell on the day for more than a million dollars, this 1960 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster has had just two owners from new, one being the vendor, and the first being German industrialist Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach (1907-1967), of the prominent 400-year-old German dynasty. The family became famous for the manufacture of steel and armaments, and infamous for their brutal use of slave labor during World War II. The family business was the largest company in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century.
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL 'Gullwing'
1961 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster
1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster with hardtop
Other significant Sales
1900 Benz & Cie Ideal 41/2 HP Single Cylinder Vis-à-Vis
Carl Benz developed and patented the first internal combustion-engined car in 1885, a three-wheeler. By 1892, Benz cars had four wheels and the Vélocipede (Vélo) introduced in 1894 had a single-cylinder engine developing 1.5 hp, and was the best-selling car of its day, and amidst growing competition from the new Système Panhard and De Dion Bouton, the species quickly evolved.
The "Ideal" was introduced in 1898, with the coachwork sitting atop a flat platform, as opposed to the multi-level Velo frame. Across from the main two seats was a small additional seating space which faced the driver, hence the name, Vis-a-Vis. In this form, the Benz Patent Motorwagen would survive through to 1902, when its concepts gave way to more modern designs.
One of the many modern features of the Ideal of 1900 was an intermediary mechanical gearbox, which provided three speeds and reverse in the belt and chain final drive system. Solid tires were still the order of the day in 1900, but suspension was good with full elliptic front and semi-elliptic rear springing and also a full elliptic transverse front spring.
As attested to by its vendor, this late series Benz is a far more practical and usable automobile than its earlier brethren. Specifically, its three speed gearbox allows for a true intermediary gear, in addition to a crawl gear for hills and a direct drive for level ground options.
Matched to the large, sturdy single cylinder 4.5 hp engine, it is reported to "bowl" along the road happily at speeds in excess of 20 mph, which is more than ample relative to its stopping capabilities! For the purist, it is also worth noting that the car runs "beautifully" on its vaporizer and using Hexane fuel. The full and fantastic story is on the Bonhams' auction page.
1931 Mercedes-Benz 15/75 PS Mannheim 370 S Roadster
1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 S Cabriolet A
1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SC Coupe
Four signed postcards of 1930s Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Drivers
The biggest superstars of the 1930s were movie stars, selected aviators and motor racing champions and Mercedes-Benz had a full team of the latter. These autographed postcards went for over $200 each.
1925 Mercedes TYPE 8 Ladies' Bicycle
The Treaty of Versailles which followed WWI specifically forbade the production of anything of a military nature, forcing those German companies engaged in the aeronautical industry to convert their factories to the creation of peacetime goods.
BMW and Mercedes had been making aircraft engines and that production capacity was turned over in the case of BMW to household utensils and motorcycles, while the Mercedes plant in Marienfelde began producing bicycles.
Built by Mercedes Fahrradwerke GmbH, this Type 8 ladies' bicycle has been restored to a very high standard. The machine remains in essentially its original specification, retaining the Mercedes three-pointed star to the front, to the saddle (very rare) and to the chain wheel. In addition, there are Mercedes transfers on the frame tubing and rear mudguard, while the chain guard and luggage carrier are accessories made by Hebie.
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