Mercedes-Benz 680 S Torpedo-Sport Avant-Garde: the excellence of the 1920s

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The economic crisis in Germany after the end of the First World War led to the merger between the Daimler and Benz companies. This process began in 1925 and officially ended on June 26, 1926, with the sharing of technologies between the two merged companies and the rationalization of product lines. But in the world of motorsport in Europe, Germany’s hopes are now pinned on Mercedes models, encouraging the brand to develop technologically advanced and high-performance cars. These are then broken down into luxurious and powerful production vehicles, which are especially appreciated by the elites. The Mercedes-Benz Type S is typical in this timepiece. The car, developed by talented engineers Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, Hans Nibel and Fritz Nallinger, must succeed the K-model, which already had a 6,246 cc six-cylinder in-line engine that developed to about 140 hp with its compressor.

With displacement increased to 6,789 cc, the new 1928 Type S engine was equipped with larger valves, twin barrel carburettors, a slightly increased compression ratio and a larger supercharger, which allowed higher air pressure to be sent into the cylinders. The model name is also expressed as follows: “26/120/180”, for 26 hp (tax hp), 120 hp power without compressor and 180 hp peak power once the compressor is turned on. The rigid design of the Type S 680 chassis and one-piece engine-transmission group solved one of the biggest problems of 1920s cars: the flexible chassis. This model is one of the flagships of the brand at a time when Germany is emerging from the recession.

Bodywork by J. Saoutchik

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Mercedes-Benz 680 S Torpedo-Sport Avant-Garde | Photos of the vehicle

Mercedes-Benz 680 S Torpedo-Sport Avant-GardeCredit photo – Daniel Olivares – 2017 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

At the end of the 1920s, the Mercedes-Benz Type S 680 could be fitted with a streamlined and lightweight open body with two or four seats from Sindelfingen or other prestigious coachbuilders across Europe. Very exclusive, the car was only bought by fine connoisseurs who are looking for performance and above all have a well-filled bank account. The vehicle presented here, manufactured in 1928, has a low-slung torpedo body designed by J. Saoutchik, coachbuilder in Paris. The chassis technology of the Mercedes-Benz S provided an ideal platform for Saoutchik’s daring designs. Born Iakov Saoutchik in Ukraine, the man founded his eponymous company in Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1906. As a carpenter by trade, he quickly found success as a custom coachbuilder. He established himself by creating elegant designs combined with quality craftsmanship and took a lot of risks with bold designs and materials. His experience as a cabinetmaker is particularly evident in the tight tolerances in the adjustments of the body panels.

Type S chassis no. 35949 was delivered to Body J. Saoutchik in August 1928. It contains some of the most exotic materials available to coachbuilders at the time. The raw material for the interior of the lizard skin was supplied by Alpina, a company that sources products from the French colonies in Southeast Asia. The beautiful prunings, also called “Purpleheart”, also come from the French colonies in South America. The buyer of the new vehicle is listed as Mr. Charles Levine, but it has always been said that it was his wife who placed the order. Commissioned by Dove Gray, the very stylish car was used by Daimler-Benz at the 1929 New York Auto Show and for advertisements in Motor magazine.

This lavish example of the Mercedes-Benz Type S 680 was put up for auction in 2017 and was valued at between 6.5 and 8 million euros and went unsold. In total, only 124 Type S and 114 Type SS were built.

In brief

In a Germany at the end of the recession at the beginning of the Roaring Twenties, the 1928 Mercedes-Benz Type S was the dream sports car for the elites fond of speed and luxury. The car has a huge 6,789 cc six-cylinder in-line engine that develops up to 180 hp thanks to the large compressor and is decorated with high-quality exotic materials such as lizard skin in the passenger compartment or even precious wood for the ornaments. Produced in only 124 copies, such a car is estimated today at several million euros.

Paul Nicocel