Monterey | Lot 246
1936 Mercedes-Benz 500 K Offener Tourenwagen by Sindelfingen
$1,540,000 USD | Sold
| Monterey, California
19 August 2017
- Class award-winner, 2015 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
- One of four extant examples of this highly sporting design
- Previous single-family ownership for 63 years
- Restoration by noted marque specialists
- Rakish and dramatic; the true Art Deco heir to the S and SS
The grandly named Offener Tourenwagen was Mercedes-Benz’s name for, in its literal translation, a four-passenger open tourer. This design on the 500 K chassis was one of the few bodies for that model to share obvious visual DNA with the powerful S and SS models that had proceeded it in the 1920s. It had a light, sporting look, with long fenders and a low-slung beltline under its jaunty fabric top, and it is instantly, visibly a classic supercharged Mercedes in every line and curve. In many ways, even more so than the vaunted Spezial-Roadster, this was the performance model of the 500 K line, for the sporting gentleman or lady, and the true heir to the great brutes of the previous decade.
By the time that this body style was introduced, open cars were steadily declining in favor, and historian Jan Melin notes that only 16 examples of the Offener Tourenwagen were produced on the 500 K chassis. Of those, four are known to have survived, all of them held in private collections.
CHASSIS NUMBER 123724: THE HONEYMOON 500 K
The example offered here, chassis no. 123724, was delivered by the Daimler-Benz branch in Munich on 19 November 1935, carrying engine number 123724 and Sindelfingen body number 814102, as it does today.
Dr. Ralph W.E. Cox, an early American car enthusiast, aviator, and overall colorful figure, visited Munich on his honeymoon in 1951. He spotted the 500 K on a local used car lot and decided that it would make a splendid addition to his growing collection back home. It was shortly acquired from its owner, a Mr. Unholzer, and driven to Paris, then to the port at Le Havre, from which it was shipped to New York and eventually home to New Jersey.
Dr. Cox eventually opened the Frontier Village Museum at the Cape May, New Jersey airport, and there the 500 K was exhibited for many years. Eventually it was transferred to the Museum of Automobiles at Petit Jean Mountain in Arkansas, where it remained on exhibit until finally being sold by Dr. Cox’s heirs in early 2014 to the consignor.
While the car had received a restoration by Dr. Cox’s son in the early 1990s, it was found to be largely cosmetic, and the car remained in very original order, including what appeared to be its original 1936 leather upholstery. A comprehensive fresh restoration was undertaken by well-known Mercedes-Benz expert, Jim Friswold, in which the car was finished in this beautiful color scheme of medium oak green with a tan leather interior and corresponding green canvas top. It retains several of its most distinguishing features, including Bosch headlamps, fog light, and dual horns, and a handsome Munich-built Hopako touring trunk, which has been with the car since it was found in 1951 and perhaps earlier, and contains a two-piece set of fitted luggage. Satisfyingly, the car retains what appear to be the original engine number tag and stamping, and the original body number is still visible stamped into the body near a front frame rail, testament to its life spent in good hands as a largely unmolested machine.
The owner has exhibited the restored car only selectively, including at the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it was bestowed a Class award, and that year’s Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance, where it was the poster car, Best in Class, and Best of Show. It is therefore available for many further concours opportunities at the hands of a new owner, who will surely appreciate and treasure this rare 500 K just as much as the late Dr. Ralph W.E. Cox.