8-9 September 2013

Mercedes Collection

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Lot 122

1921 Benz 8/20 HP Doctor's Cabriolet by Forton & Bettens

  • Chassis no. 24782
  • Engine no. 24782

Sold for £53,200

8/20 hp, 2,090 cc inline L-head four-cylinder engine, four-speed manual gearbox with shaft drive, solid front axle and live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and mechanical transmission brake with two-wheel parking brakes. Wheelbase: 2,850 mm

In the years leading up to World War I, Benz & Cie. manufactured no fewer than 25 different four-cylinder models, plus two sixes. The German economy was devastated at war’s end, so this programme was unsustainable.

There were two 8/20s from 1914, with the newer model having a larger, 2,090-cubic centimetre engine. This was the style that continued after the war and through to 1921. Benz began using the vee-type radiator, which had already being identified with then-rival Mercedes, around 1915. The car being offered is an extremely nice, and perhaps unique, doctor’s coupé. The body is by Forton & Bettens, of 51 Horseferry Road, London, SW, about whom little is known. According to Nick Walker’s A–Z of British Coachbuilders, it is apparently one of two known surviving examples of their craftsmanship, with the other being a 1923 Bentley.

Whilst the file contains only a small amount of documentation, it is interesting to note that there is correspondence between a former owner and VSCC member in the UK, a Mr J.R.H. Ealand, and Mercedes-Benz, which indicates that this rare English coachbuilt Benz spent some time in England in the early 1990s.

Subtle yet inordinately pleasing are the polished aluminium side panels on the body. Whilst they would benefit from buffing out, they give a highlight to the ivory paint, which is in good condition, save for a few surface blemishes. Some of the wood in the body has been replaced, but it is believed to be substantially original. The side windows all retract into the body, allowing the hood to be fully lowered. When erect, the lined hood gives the appearance of a fixed-head configuration.

A handsome, varnished wood box on the driver’s running board contains an acetylene outfit by Franz Krühl & Co., of Vienna, itself an interesting period piece. The nickel headlamps, by Solar, appear to have been made for an American Mitchell, but the brass carriage lamps are proper English Rotax units. Possibly a one-off when new, it is certainly unique today, and absolutely charming.


Please note this lot is offered without reserve.

Alexander Weaver

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Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

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Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

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David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

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Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

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Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

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Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

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A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

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Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

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Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

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Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more