Lot 242

Monterey 2016

1934 Mercedes-Benz 500 K Cabriolet A by Sindelfingen


$1,870,000 USD | Sold

United States | Monterey, California



Chassis No.
Engine No.
Body No.
  • Offered from over 25 years in a distinguished private collection
  • Originally delivered in Switzerland to the Bally footwear family
  • Formerly owned by Walter M. Halle and the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum
  • One of only 33 500 K Cabriolet As built; original chassis, engine, and body
  • A wonderful 500 K with limited ownership and well-known provenance

100/180 hp, 4,984 cc OHV inline eight-cylinder engine with Roots-type supercharger, four-speed manual transmission, double wishbone independent front suspension with coil springs, swing-axle rear suspension with coil springs, and four-wheel hydraulically assisted drum brakes. Wheelbase: 129.5 in.

Please note that an import duty of 2.5% of the purchase price is payable on this lot if the buyer is a resident of the United States. Please note that Internet bidding is not available for this lot. Interested parties that are unable to attend the sale may register to bid by telephone or place a commission bid online at rmsothebys.com.

The Mercedes-Benz 500 K was introduced at the Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung, more commonly referred to as the Berlin Motor Show, in March 1934. Although it was produced alongside the 380 K, it was planned as a successor model to satiate the expressed interest of Mercedes-Benz’s wealthy clientele for a luxury conveyance that produced more power. The 500 K succeeded to this end, with the 380 being phased out by the end of 1934.

The 500 K embodied a generously braced chassis with fully independent suspension and, of course, an engine with an increased bore and stroke, which created 4,984 cubic centimeters of displacement. Its output was 100 horsepower in normal operation and an impressive 160 horsepower with the supercharger engaged. This power unit was mated to a four-speed gearbox, with direct ratio in third gear and the fourth gear acting as an overdrive unit. The result was a sensation, and ultimately, 342 clients, mainly from Europe, England, and North America, visited their local Mercedes-Benz dealers to place an order for the new car.


That gorgeous 1935 [sic] Mercedes-Benz that used to collect crowds in front of Halle’s and elsewhere soon will collect them at the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum.

–Marjorie Alge of the Cleveland Press, 19 June 1971

Among the most desirable open body styles for the 500 K, short of the famed Spezial Roadster, was and remains the early Cabriolet A, which retains the best elements of its predecessor, the SSK, including long sweeping front fenders, a low top and windshield, dual rear-mounted spares, and, most stunningly, a passenger compartment moved far back on the chassis frame.

The Cabriolet A offered here is recorded on its factory build paperwork, copies of which are on file, as having been kommission number 16533, originally delivered through Mercedes-Benz AG of Zurich, Switzerland, to 30-year-old Curt Alexander Bally of nearby Schönenwerd on 21 September 1934. Mr. Bally’s family were proprietors of the Bally shoe company, established in 1851 and still a respected luxury footwear brand to this day.

In 1951, the 500 K was acquired in Switzerland – possibly from Mr. Bally himself – by Walter M. Halle of Cleveland, Ohio, for whom it underwent a five-year restoration. The second-generation proprietor of Cleveland’s most prestigious department store, Halle Brothers, Mr. Halle was widely credited with establishing the business into an icon of high-end fashion in the city while also expanding its business into the burgeoning post-war suburbs. He was a sportsman and a socialite who loved Mercedes-Benzes, and who made them part of his public image; the 500 K was joined in his stable in 1956 by a new 300 SL Gullwing. Both cars were finished in the company color, Halle Green, and both could often be admired from a prime parking space in front of Halle Brothers at 1228 Euclid Avenue, as their owner often drove them to work!

It was only when advancing age and illness – as well as the city’s increasingly crowded streets – limited his ability to drive the 500 K in Cleveland traffic that Mr. Halle retired the car from the road. As a longtime supporter of the Western Reserve Historical Society, he gave both the 500 K and the 300 SL to the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in 1971, shortly before his passing, noting, “I’m surprised the kids are so interested in it. I think one reason is because they can see how it functions better than a modern car.”

The 500 K remained on display in the museum for nearly two decades and became a very well-known and much-loved example of its kind, just as the Cleveland Press had predicted. It was with heavy hearts that it was finally sold back into private hands in 1990, when it joined the collection of its current owner, who has maintained it now for over a quarter of a century.

The owner commissioned a restoration of the car later in the 1990s, at which time the car was refinished in its present livery, scarlet with a light tan interior piped in red, a matching top, chrome wire wheels with whitewall tires, and a radiator stone guard. It retains its original data plate, a most desirable feature and reassuring evidence of its authenticity, as well as a FIVA identity card.

Benefitting from several decades of continuous and well-known ownership history, this wonderful 500 K has had only three owners since 1951. It would undoubtedly become a favorite in its new ownership, just as it was a favorite of a lucky businessman and of those Clevelanders of a certain age, for whom the sound of its engine, purring away from Halle Brothers, will not soon be forgotten.