To be OFFERED AT AUCTION at RMs Monterey event, August 13-15, 2015. To view this car and others currently consigned to this auction, please visit the RM website at rmsothebys.com/.Chassis No. 190939 Estimate:$500,000 - $700,000 78 bhp, 3,405 cc naturally aspirated inline six-cylinder engine with a Solex 32 JFF downdraft carburetor, four-speed manual transmission with overdrive, independent front suspension with coil springs, rear swing axles with coil springs, and four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 129.9 in.Excellent, recent restoration by Mercedes-Benz specialistsOriginal late-1938 3.4-liter engine with an overdrive transmissionHighly desirable 540 K-inspired stylingNumerous desirable featuresSeldom seen, especially in such superb conditionThe 320 models, introduced in 1937 on the completely new W142 chassis, were the most expensive models available in the Mercedes-Benz catalogue. Only the opulent 500 K and 540 K variants, available to special order, were more costly. The very existence of the 320 was a tribute to how far Mercedes-Benz development had come in the decade since German financiers had forced the merger of Daimler and Benz to survive the economic chaos after World War I.With the support of the new government, the combined company had completely recovered and was not only winning in motorsports but was also producing a complete lineup of models. There was a Mercedes-Benz at every price point in the German marketplace, from the rear-engined 170 H and straightforward 170 V sedans to the glorious 540 K Special Roadsters, and examples were seen in the most fashionable venues of Europe and America.The W142 320 could be purchased with standard and short wheelbases and in a variety of body styles, from practical sedan to sporty cabriolet. With war once again on the horizon, the W142 was even being produced in military trim. Four cabriolet versions were available, including two-door two-seat, two-door four-seat, four-door four-seat, and extended four-door four-seat versions, but these were produced only in very small numbers and only on special order for wealthy and influential customers. Taking into account all civilian body styles, a total of only just over 5,000 units of the W142 320 were built in all.By late 1938, when this example was built, high-octane gasoline was becoming less available to civilian customers; engine capacity in the 320s was increased to 3.4 liters to maintain the 78-horsepower output of the preceding 3.2-liter engine but with lower compression. To take advantage of highway speeds of over 75 mph on the new autobahns, the 3.4-liter 320s four-speed manual transmission was equipped with a planetary-gear overdrive, engaged by a separate lever.This example has the most desirable of the available 320 body styles: the two-door, two-seat Cabriolet A with a flat one-piece windshield sporting three windshield wipers. Built on the W142 chassis, the styling shows the clear influence of the designs of Hermann Ahrens, introduced on the 500 K and 540 K special body roadsters. The seats are set well back on the chassis to create a long hood, allowing for flowing fender lines and a shorter tail, which is accented by an externally mounted spare tire and wheel. As with other low-production cabriolets in the Mercedes-Benz line-up, the panels on this 320 were hand-formed over wood frames.The 320 models were built at both the Mannheim and Untertrkheim production plants, with this body bearing the emblem of the Mannheim Werks. Unfortunately, the Mannheim factory was one of the first destroyed in Allied bombing raids because of its location next to a war-critical ball-bearing factory, and all of the production records have been lost. Consequently, no other information other than that on the vehicle tags is available for this car, and no information exists on how many other 320 Cabriolet As may have been built.According to the owner, this 320 Cabriolet A was recently found in Eastern Europe, where it had sat untouched and in storage for several decades, probably having been hidden away during World War II. Since being purchased from the long-time owner, the car has been the subject of an exhaustive body-off restoration by experienced Mercedes-Benz specialists, with every single component removed and refurbished or replaced as necessary.In addition to completely restoring the chassis frame and suspension components, the work required rebuilding much of the ash framing underlying the metal body panels. The inline six-cylinder engine and transmission were, of course, completely rebuilt to match the attention given to the exterior and interior restoration. Photographs of the restoration process are available in the cars file.A period-accurate, two-tone paint scheme was selected for the car in the subtle but attractive black-over-green colors. The interior trim is done in matching dark green wool carpeting and green leather complemented by a rich finish on the wood trim, which effectively sets off the mother of pearl center-mounted instrument panel, white control knobs, and steering wheel. The cloth top and covering for the externally mounted spare wheel and tire are done in a matching dark green. Wide whitewall Firestone tires, of the sort that an American owner would have mounted, are an effective counterpoint to the dark colors of the 320 Cabriolet A.The car is fitted with an interesting set of period-correct optional accessories, including a folding leather-upholstered seat for a child, or perhaps a maid or valet, in the tonneau area behind the front seats; spotlights mounted on the A-pillars; and a third driving light in front of the grille and externally mounted chrome Bosch horns. A set of matched luggage, in green and black to match the interior, has been fabricated to fit the compartment accessible from the tonneau area.Elegant in presentation, comfortable to drive, and easily capable of modern freeway speeds, this rare and seldom-seen 1938 Mercedes-Benz 320 Cabriolet A will be welcomed on long-distance touring events and at regional concours events.
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