The Salon Privé Sale 2017

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1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 Adenauer Cabriolet

Lot No.: 223

Registration: OXP 2
Chassis Number: 186 014
Engine Number: 3501949
Number of cylinders: 6
Year of Manufacture: 1954
RHD/LHD: Right Hand Drive
Estimate (£): 325,000 - 375,000
(+buyer's premium of 15% including VAT @ 20%)

More expensive than the 300SL sports car and almost double the price of the contemporary top-of-the-range Cadillac, the Mercedes-Benz 300b was one of the world's most exclusive automobiles. It is also historically significant as one of Mercedes-Benz's first all-new designs of the post-war era, debuting at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1951. The 300's arrival re-established Mercedes-Benz in the front rank of prestige car manufacturers, marking as it did a return to the marque's tradition of building high-performance luxury automobiles of the finest quality.

Although Mercedes-Benz would adopt unitary chassis/body construction for its lower and mid-priced cars as the 1950s progressed, the retention of a traditional separate frame for the 300 enabled a wide variety of coach built body types to be offered. The 300's cross-braced, oval-tube chassis followed the lines of the 170S and 220, with independent suspension all round and four-wheel drum brakes, but incorporated the added refinements of a hypoid bevel final drive, dynamically balanced wheels, and remote electrical control of the rear suspension ride height.

Initially developing 115bhp, the 3-litre, overhead-camshaft, six-cylinder engine - used in fuel-injected form in the 300SL sports car - was boosted in power for the succeeding 300b and 300c models, finally gaining fuel injection in the restyled 300d of 1957. 

Custom built by Mercedes-Benz's most experienced craftsmen, the 300 was luxuriously appointed and trimmed with materials of the highest quality. Fast and elegant, it was one of the very few contemporary vehicles capable of carrying six passengers in comfort at sustained high speeds. The 300 was the car of choice amongst West German government officials, and throughout Europe and the USA, it was widely favoured by businessmen, financiers and politicians. Indeed, 'Adenauer' became the 300's unofficial model name, after German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, its most high-profile customer. The conservatively styled 300 Saloon was soon joined by the 300S (Super), a model which succeeded in recapturing all the elegance of the pre-war 540K. Introduced at the Paris Salon in October 1951, the 300S was built in two-seater coupé, cabriolet and roadster forms on a shortened 300 saloon chassis. The roadster was the more sporty of the three, featuring a relatively simple hood that was almost totally concealed when folded down, whilst the cabriolet was more luxurious. Indeed with its lined hood erected the cabriolet was every bit as quiet and comfortable as the fixed-head coupé. Unlike some of its spartanly furnished contemporaries, the 300b boasted a lavishly equipped interior featuring supple leather upholstery, beautiful burr walnut trim, chromium-plated dashboard instrumentation and precision-made switch gear.

This absolutely fabulous 300b Cabriolet D was built in late 1953 and its build sheet shows that it was right-hand drive, finished in Gloss Black with a Red leather interior, and was to be delivered to London. There may seem nothing remarkable about that until you consider that it was only nine years since the end of the war, the embargo on German cars had only just been lifted, and at 24,700 DM it was probably the most expensive car in the world at the time. It must have taken a certain disregard for sensibilities to drive a plutocratic German Cabriolet around the war ravaged streets of London which is probably why, during 1953/54, only seven Mercedes were built in right-hand drive.

The story moves forward to 2013 when our vendor agreed to purchase OXP 2 in a stripped down state from a restoration company in the Midlands who were ostensibly restoring the car. However, over the following 12 months, very little appeared to be done, and the standards weren't right, but the bills remained substantial. Our vendor took the decision to remove the car to his own premises and start from scratch, stripping the car to the bare bones again.

He identified that various parts were missing, and luckily, found the man who had sold it to the restoration company and who had stripped it in the first place, having bought it complete. Fortunately, he still had the missing items and our vendor managed to re-acquaint them with the rest of the Mercedes. The next hurdle was to assess the physical state of the car and the only real area of concern was the floor which had rusted out and would need substantial amounts of new metal. His preferred solution was to look for a sound donor car and a 300 Saloon was located in Poland (having previously belonged to Baron von Houstenberg). The car was inspected, purchased, trailered back to the UK and the floor pans united with OXP2.

The rest of the restoration was fairly conventional. All the body parts from both cars were dipped stripping them to bare metal, and the chassis was sandblasted and powder coated along with all other painted chassis and suspension parts. All nuts, bolts and washers were galvanised and restored and, where new parts were required, they were supplied by Neimoller in Germany. The engine and gearbox were totally stripped and rebuilt, as were the brakes, and a new radiator core was formed so as to retain the original cowl.

The ethos of using the original parts applied throughout the whole of this restoration and the complete interior, all the glass and all the chrome date from 1953, although returned to shining health. There are some marks on the rear bumper and the number plate plinth where originality was preferred over a non-genuine new item. The headlights and spot lights are original Bosch and the renovation of these alone cost over £5,000.

The fabulous, lake deep, gloss black finish was a labour of love and took over six months. The roof cover and lining are newly made from original materials and were located by a Mercedes specialist in the States.

All in all, it has taken almost four years for our vendor to feel that he is at last finished and he daren't even think about the vast cost and thousands of man hours involved. This is an important car. The moment it rolled off the ship in 1954 marked the beginning of the end of many years of hostility and the start of sixty years of a growing relationship between two great industrial nations. It is difficult to look out of your window now and not see a sleek example of  German style and advanced Teutonic automotive engineering and this dramatic Mercedes Cabriolet, with its film star looks and advanced technology, was one of the handful of cars that took that first step.