- High-class restoration, matching numbers
- One of four survivors from 16 built
- Pebble Beach Award Winner in 2005
- 1934 Geneva Motor Show
The Mercedes 380, unveiled at the Berlin Auto Show in February 1933, was an innovative car in several respects. Its engine evolved from that of the 380 S Mannheim but, instead of its predecessor's side-valve engine, it had a larger, eight-cylinder, 3.8-litre engine with overhead valves. It could also be equipped (as an option) with a supercharger to boost power: by delivering 120hp, this enabled the car to attain performances more in keeping with its imposing appearance. Numerous Mercedes models were commercially named 380, so this one is often designated W22 after its works number, to avoid confusion.
Innovations were not confined to the engine: the suspension was completely redesigned, with four independent wheels; double wishbones up front; and swing-axles linked to coil springs at the rear - very modern at the time, when rigid rear-axles were the rule. The 380 therefore offered above-average comfort and road-holding, with hydraulic brakes, four-speed gearbox and Rudge wire wheels. Several 'factory' body-styles were available, including three types of Cabriolet (A, B or C) - the difference depending on the number of seats and side-windows (two or four in each case). Cabriolet A was the most sporty, with two seats and two side-windows.
Thanks to its intelligent design, the 380 served as the basis for the top-of-the-range Mercedes that came afterwards: in 1934 it was superseded by the 500 K, which in turn preceded the famous 540 K.
Our sublime car was delivered new to Zurich in February 1934 for exhibiting at the Geneva Motor Show the following month. It was in exactly the same configuration as today. Its subsequent history remains a mystery until it resurfaced in Poland in the early 1980s - when what remained of the car was bought for restoration by a Belgian collector who spent most of the year in Australia. Tragically his wife died a few weeks later, when the car was already in Australia, forcing him to resell it. New owner Wolfgang Grodd was a German ex-pat who ran a restoration workshop. When we called this elderly gentleman, he waxed lyrical about his memories of this magnificent Mercedes: 'I spent eight years restoring it. I asked Mercedes-Benz Classic in Germany to send me all the information they had about the car and, especially, its original colour. It took me nearly 8,000 hours to complete a perfect restoration, conform to the original: I wanted it to look just as it had at the Geneva Motor Show. Afterwards I showed the car at the Pebble Beach 2005 Concours d'Elégance. When the organizers asked me to bring it on stage to receive second prize in my category, I felt so proud! All that work, rewarded at the greatest Concours d'Elégance in the world It was the best day of my life!'
This splendid, supercharged Cabriolet 380 underwent a complete restoration at Sleeping Beauties, Wolfgang Grodd's firm in Brisbane - it was first dismantled, then all the mechanical elements and coachwork were subjected to a degree of care that left nothing to chance. The supreme quality of this restoration was underlined when the car obtained Second Prize in Class I (Mercedes-Benz Pre-War) at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elégance in 2005. But, with Grodd about to embark on another project and unable to hold on to several cars at the same time, he gave the Cabriolet to Mercedes-Benz Classic with a view to selling it. A copy of the old Britsh V5 in the name of Mr Grodd is coming in the file of the car. Through the good offices of Axel Schuette, it entered the famous Rosso Bianco Museum in Aschaffenburg (Bavaria).
Of the 150 or so Mercedes 380s ever made, just 16 were Cabriolet A's, and only 3 or 4 others are thought to have survived. Our car is luxuriously fitted, with a handsome wooden dashboard and adjustable seats. Since its 8,000-hour restoration it has remained impeccable, with dark red leather upholstery, matching red carpet and classy, two-tone red paintwork. Beneath the bonnet is the original, splendidly sober, eight-cylinder engine with its supercharger at the front. Technically the equivalent of the 540 K (of which 156 were built), but less excessive and also lighter, this 380 constitutes a rare chance to acquire one of the most prestigious Mercedes of the 1930s - in impressive condition and with a prestigious and value-enhancing motor show history.