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1930 Mercedes-Benz SSK 'Count Trossi'

The ultimate Porsche-designed Mercedes-Benz, the ‘S’ or ‘W-06’ class cars were powered by a supercharged, in-line six-cylinder engine with overhead camshaft, two updraft carburetors, and dual ignition. Approximately 372 of these Sport models were produced between 1927 and 1934. Forty-two of them were SSKs (for Super Sport Kurz or Short), short chassis two-seaters which could reach 115 MPH with the Sindelfingen factory body. The first vehicle specifically created to be driven on the road and on the racetrack, it proved to be remarkably successful at such venues as LeMans, Monaco, and the Mille Miglia.

The factory racing program was over when this chassis was completed in 1930, leaving some components available for installation on the last of the road cars. Engine 77644 was built with the higher compression pistons and the renowned ‘elephant blower’, or supercharger. The factory commission papers show that chassis 36038 was shipped to Tokyo as a chassis only in February 1930, where it was unable to attract a buyer and returned to the factory. In October it was delivered to the Mercedes-Benz sales agent in Milan, Carlo Saporiti.

When we completed this restoration in 1993, the information we had at the time indicated that Sr. Saporiti had sold the SSK directly to Count Carlo Felice Trossi. Further research by Historica Selecta, compiled in 2009, has revealed that the chassis was first sold to Sr. Antonio Maino. He had a spyder two-seater body built for the chassis at Carrozzeria Touring. From December 1930 to 1933, chassis 36038 was raced at various venues, from the Mille Miglia to hillclimbs, and newly uncovered ACI PRA (Automobile Club d’Italia del Pubblico Registro Automobilistico) documents show that ownership changed multiple times. When Count Trossi purchased it in June 1933, he had his own body built for it. During our research for the restoration the Trossi family archives yielded two renderings: one from an unknown, independent coachbuilder, and the Count’s personal sketches of an open roadster without top, the ‘Count Trossi’ SSK.

The magnificent car you see here could not have been authentically restored without the generous enthusiasm of prior owners and other collectors. For example, the dashboard layout is unlike any other SSK. Thanks to historical documents saved by Count Trossi’s daughter and grandchildren, we are able to see the layout of the dash in a photo taken in front of their family home. We also have early photographs kindly supplied by Miss Mary Schaub, daughter of the man who owned it from 1954 to 1963. From these sources and others, we were able to verify that the hand painted reference marks on the tachometer have been there since before the 1950s.

Chasing leads and digging for information is one of the most important and least acknowledged aspects of any restoration project. Upon disassembly of the engine we noted that many of the parts had been numbered RB 1420-14 (an internal work order number) by the factory. However, the number stamped on the oil pan was not a match. With the help of noted German collector Fritz Grashei, we conducted an extensive search through many private collections and found the original oil pan. Ultimately we negotiated an exchange in order to return the correct oil pans to both this SSK and to the engine in Germany.

We accomplished this challenging restoration in collaboration with the current owner and his vision for this dramatic road-going sports car. This joint effort was rewarded with Best of Show at the 1993 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and at the 1995 Meadow Brook Hall Concours d’Elegance. The Count Trossi SSK has since been honored by its inclusion in the ‘Moving Beauty’ exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1995, the ‘Speed, Style & Beauty’ exhibit at the Boston Museum of Arts in 2005, and the ‘Art of the Automobile’ exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in 2011.

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1930 Mercedes-Benz SSK 'Count Trossi'

Massimo Delbò, “Mercedes-Benz SSK Count Trossi”, photography by Michael Furman
Genroq, October 2013 [Japan]

Ivar Engerud, “Sort Juvel”, photography by Rune Baashus
Finansavisen Motor, January 15 2011 [Norway]

Massimo Delbò, “Il Cigno Nero”, photography by Michael Furman
RuoteClassiche, May 2011 [Italy]   English Translation

Chris Eckermann, “Out for the Count”, photography by Chris Eckermann
Mercedes Enthusiast, July 2008

Alan Boe, “Villa d’Este Concorso d’Eleganza: Through the Eyes of a Concours Judge”
Auto Events Magazine, July/August 2008

Ronnie Krabberød, “Verdensberømt Mysterium”, photography by Ronnie Krabberød
Right On, 2008 [Norway]

Paul Russell, “Restoration’s World Series”
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance: Celebrating Fifty Years of Automotive Style, 2000

Massimo Delbò, “Una regina per il conte”
Classicar, Nov/Dec 1997 [Italy]   English Translation

Mark Gillies, “Beauty of the Beast”, photography by Martyn Goddard
Classic Cars, May 1997

Christian Descombes, “Les Tribulations d’une Perle Rare”
Automobile Classiques, December 1996 [France]

Rich Taylor, “Chariot of the Gods”
Sports Car International, June 1995

Mark Gillies, “Black Beauty”
Supercar Classics, Winter 1994 [Japan]   English Translation

Ivar Engerud, “Mercedes-Benz SSK Trossi Speedster ’32”
Right On, March 1994 [Norway]

Mike Riedner, “Schwarze Magie”
Motor Klassik, March 1994 [Germany]

Brian Redman, “1930 Mercedes-Benz SSK”, photography by Bill Warner
Road & Track, September 1992

C. S. Schaub, “The Trossi SSK Mercedes”
Road & Track, September 1959

“ ...it doesn't take long to get it up to more than 90 mph in third gear, and occasionally I'm pulling more than 100 mph. Once rolling it's very fast, and it's easy to believe that this car would exceed the 120 mph that less-powerful SSKs managed in tests in the 1920s. Prod the throttle hard at speed - - and the supercharger comes in with a banshee wail that signifies the arrival of even more motive force. At full tilt, with supercharger engaged, the wind rasping over the screen and into your eyes, and with the maelstrom of engine and exhaust noise, the SSK is an utterly stirring machine. ”

Mark Gillies, “Beauty of the Beast”, Classic Cars

The Mercedes-Benz factories sustained massive damage from Allied bombing during World War II. Utility vehicles were the first post-war product, and helped the company toward recovery. But something more spectacular needed to be done to attract the world’s interest. In 1951, it was decided to re-enter the racing circuit. In order to do so with the least financial strain, a sports car was developed using the existing 300 engine. Because of the relatively heavy weight of that engine and drivetrain, an unusually light body needed to be constructed. And so, the tubular steel framed, aluminum bodied 300SL (Sport Light) was born. Approximately fifteen of these race cars were made, winning many events and earning the world sports car championship.

In 1952, the 300SL caught the interest of racing fans in the United States. New Yorker Max Hoffman was one such enthusiast, who used his car dealership to bring many of the European makes into this country. One might even say that he is responsible for the creation of the 300SL, as his order for 1,000 cars convinced the Mercedes-Benz officials to go ahead with the production of a street car based upon the 300SL racing sports car. The prototype 300SL was shown at the International Motor Sports Show in New York City in February 1954.

The first production car with a fuel-injected gasoline engine, the 300SL was one of the most reliable sports cars of the ’50s and ’60s. The proven 300 engine was tilted to the left to accommodate a lower hood line. The body style was designated Sport Leicht (Light) due to its aluminum doors, hood, decklid, rocker panels and belly pans, though the main body shell was constructed from steel. Unusual for the period, 300SLs came equipped with dependable heat, defrosters, and wiper motors.

Ultimately, three different versions of the 300SL were offered. The 300SL Coupe was produced from August 1954 to May 1957, during which time twenty-nine all-aluminum bodied cars were made as well. Production of the Roadster version was between February 1957 and February 1963. Whichever style is your preference, they are now highly valued for their pure driving pleasure in the Mille Miglia, Colorado Grand, and other vintage events.

Factory photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Archives.

Pininfarina or Pinin Farina? In 1930, Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina founded Carrozzeria Pinin Farina. This company designed and built car bodies for a number of manufacturers, including Alfa Romeo, Hispano Suiza, Lancia, Fiat, and, most notably, Ferrari. Battista is quoted as saying “The interrelation between the body of a beautiful woman and that of a Farina-designed car is that both have simplicity and harmony of line, so that when they are old one can still see how beautiful they were when they were young.”

In conjunction with Battista’s retirement in 1961, the President of the Italian Republic authorized the family name to be changed to Pininfarina “in consideration of his achievements in social and industrial activities”. As a result, the correct usage of the family name as Pininfarina or Pinin Farina depends upon the year it was used.

The Mercedes-Benz factories sustained massive damage from Allied bombing during World War II. Utility vehicles were the first post-war product, and helped the company toward recovery. But something more spectacular needed to be done to attract the world’s interest. In 1951, it was decided to re-enter the racing circuit. In order to do so with the least financial strain, a sports car was developed using the existing 300 engine. Because of the relatively heavy weight of that engine and drivetrain, an unusually light body needed to be constructed. And so, the tubular steel framed, aluminum bodied 300SL (Sport Light) was born. Approximately fifteen of these race cars were made, winning many events and earning the world sports car championship.

In 1952, the 300SL caught the interest of racing fans in the United States. New Yorker Max Hoffman was one such enthusiast, who used his car dealership to bring many of the European makes into this country. One might even say that he is responsible for the creation of the 300SL, as his order for 1,000 cars convinced the Mercedes-Benz officials to go ahead with the production of a street car based upon the 300SL racing sports car. The prototype 300SL was shown at the International Motor Sports Show in New York City in February 1954.

The first production car with a fuel-injected gasoline engine, the 300SL was one of the most reliable sports cars of the ’50s and ’60s. The proven 300 engine was tilted to the left to accommodate a lower hood line. The body style was designated Sport Leicht (Light) due to its aluminum doors, hood, decklid, rocker panels and belly pans, though the main body shell was constructed from steel. Unusual for the period, 300SLs came equipped with dependable heat, defrosters, and wiper motors.

Ultimately, three different versions of the 300SL were offered. The 300SL Coupe was produced from August 1954 to May 1957, during which time twenty-nine all-aluminum bodied cars were made as well. Production of the Roadster version was between February 1957 and February 1963. Whichever style is your preference, they are now highly valued for their pure driving pleasure in the Mille Miglia, Colorado Grand, and other vintage events.

Factory photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Archives.

In March of 1926, Felice Bianchi Anderloni founded Carrozzeria Touring in Milan, Italy. A “gentleman” race driver and coachbuilder for 1930s Isotta-Fraschini and Alfa Romeo, Felice was well respected for creating beautiful, aerodynamic designs. He developed the patented “superlight” Superleggera construction method, a marvel of metal tube frames welded to a solid chassis, then skinned with aluminum body panels.

When Felice died suddenly in 1948 it was up to his son Carlo Felice, known as “Cici”, to save the business. Cici did so in no uncertain terms, when he presented his 1/10-scale model of the distinctive Barchetta to prospective client Enzo Ferrari. Enzo accepted the “little boat” design as presented. The superleggera concept became so closely associated with Touring that it was incorporated into the name of the company, becoming Touring Superleggera Milano in the 1950s.

Pictured: Cici Anderloni proudly displays the original Barchetta model to Paul Russell. Lake Como, 1998.

Scraping is done with a long, wood-handled chisel. First, the surface is cleaned, made level, and marked in pencil with a grid pattern. The chisel is held with both hands, with further pressure applied by the shoulder pushing against the wooden handle. As the blade of the chisel digs into the aluminum surface, the chisel is pushed and ‘flicked’ with a rotating motion. Once this is repeatedly accomplished in one direction, the part is turned 90 degrees and the entire process repeated again. Finally, the part is hand-sanded with a very fine-grade paper to remove the aluminum shards and burrs.

For many years, conventional wisdom had it that there were 3 Atlantics built. Fortunately enthusiasts like L.G. Matthews and historians like Pierre-Yves Laugier continue to study all things Bugatti, and new information and analysis becomes known and shared. The revival of the Bugatti Marque in the ownership of the Volkswagen Group has facilitated a reorganization of the company historic archives, in the hands of the esteemed Julius Kruta.

It is now acknowledged that there was a prototype (pictured here) named the Aerolithe built on a modified T57 chassis and later disassembled to form the basis for the first production car, now on the S chassis number 57374. This first car was labeled the Aero, and resides at the Mullin Automotive Museum.

Chassis 57473 was the second car produced and the first to be called the Atlantic. There were two more Atlantics made, one of which has not been seen since it disappeared in Belgium in the 1940s. The last of the Atlantics produced is chassis number 57591.

Professor Ignacio Barraquer who owned the Autobahn-Kurier for more than 60 years, was not just any eye doctor, but possibly the most famous ophthalmologist who ever lived. He developed procedures and surgical instruments that are standard to this day, mostly associated with cataract surgery, and many named after him. His father was Professor of Ophthalmology at the School of Medicine in Barcelona, Spain, a position Ignacio was appointed to following his father’s retirement. Ignacio’s son, José, developed the keratomileusis, or LASIK operation, today a common surgical procedure.

Born into an Italian banking family, Count Carlo Felice Trossi was an amateur inventor and a noted motor sportsman of the 1930s. Known as ‘Didi’ to his friends, he enjoyed racing boats and airplanes in addition to his pursuits in the field of engineering. As an early financial backer of Enzo Ferrari, he become President of Scuderia Ferrari in 1932 while continuing to be a primary driver for the team.

Reproduced here is a picture dated 1932, and supplied by his family, of his SSK in front of Castello di Gaglianico. The records of the Automobile Club of Italy show that Count Trossi sold and bought back this singular car several times from 1931 until his death in 1949.

In March of 1926, Felice Bianchi Anderloni founded Carrozzeria Touring in Milan, Italy. A “gentleman” race driver and coachbuilder for 1930s Isotta-Fraschini and Alfa Romeo, Felice was well respected for creating beautiful, aerodynamic designs. He developed the patented “superlight” Superleggera construction method, a marvel of metal tube frames welded to a solid chassis, then skinned with aluminum body panels.

When Felice died suddenly in 1948 it was up to his son Carlo Felice, known as “Cici”, to save the business. Cici did so in no uncertain terms, when he presented his 1/10-scale model of the distinctive Barchetta to prospective client Enzo Ferrari. Enzo accepted the “little boat” design as presented. The superleggera concept became so closely associated with Touring that it was incorporated into the name of the company, becoming Touring Superleggera Milano in the 1950s.

Pictured: Cici Anderloni proudly displays the original Barchetta model to Paul Russell. Lake Como, 1998.

For many years, conventional wisdom had it that there were 3 Atlantics built. Fortunately enthusiasts like L.G. Matthews and historians like Pierre-Yves Laugier continue to study all things Bugatti, and new information and analysis becomes known and shared. The revival of the Bugatti Marque in the ownership of the Volkswagen Group has facilitated a reorganization of the company historic archives, in the hands of the esteemed Julius Kruta.

It is now acknowledged that there was a prototype (pictured here) named the Aerolithe built on a modified T57 chassis and later disassembled to form the basis for the first production car, now on the S chassis number 57374. This first car was labeled the Aero, and resides at the Mullin Automotive Museum.

Chassis 57473 was the second car produced and the first to be called the Atlantic. There were two more Atlantics made, one of which has not been seen since it disappeared in Belgium in the 1940s. The last of the Atlantics produced is chassis number 57591.

In March of 1926, Felice Bianchi Anderloni founded Carrozzeria Touring in Milan, Italy. A “gentleman” race driver and coachbuilder for 1930s Isotta-Fraschini and Alfa Romeo, Felice was well respected for creating beautiful, aerodynamic designs. He developed the patented “superlight” Superleggera construction method, a marvel of metal tube frames welded to a solid chassis, then skinned with aluminum body panels.

When Felice died suddenly in 1948 it was up to his son Carlo Felice, known as “Cici”, to save the business. Cici did so in no uncertain terms, when he presented his 1/10-scale model of the distinctive Barchetta to prospective client Enzo Ferrari. Enzo accepted the “little boat” design as presented. The superleggera concept became so closely associated with Touring that it was incorporated into the name of the company, becoming Touring Superleggera Milano in the 1950s.

Pictured: Cici Anderloni proudly displays the original Barchetta model to Paul Russell. Lake Como, 1998.

Born into an Italian banking family, Count Carlo Felice Trossi was an amateur inventor and a noted motor sportsman of the 1930s. Known as ‘Didi’ to his friends, he enjoyed racing boats and airplanes in addition to his pursuits in the field of engineering. As an early financial backer of Enzo Ferrari, he become President of Scuderia Ferrari in 1932 while continuing to be a primary driver for the team.

Reproduced here is a picture dated 1932, and supplied by his family, of his SSK in front of Castello di Gaglianico. The records of the Automobile Club of Italy show that Count Trossi sold and bought back this singular car several times from 1931 until his death in 1949.