8-9 September 2013

Mercedes Collection

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Lot 148

1934 Mercedes-Benz 380 K Cabriolet C

  • Chassis no. 103351
  • Engine no. 103351
  • Body no. 806004/34

Sold for £448,000

120 bhp, 3,823 cc supercharged inline eight-cylinder engine with single carburettor, three-speed manual transmission with overdrive, independent suspension with coil spring, front dual wishbones, and rear swing axles, and front and rear hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 3,200 mm

A predecessor to the mighty 500 K and 540 K models, the Mercedes-Benz 380 K was designed to be a luxurious long-distance touring car, as it was well equipped to eat up hundreds of kilometres at a time on Germany’s then new and expanded road network. As a completely new design that introduced a number of technical innovations, this was an automobile that offered everything a driver could have wanted from an automobile: a comfortable ride, ample power, sporty handling, and ravishing good looks.

The mechanical design is elegant and similar to the later 500 K and 540 K models, as all three share the same type of box-section chassis frame, suspension, and similar wire wheels. The easiest way to distinguish a 380 from its successors is by the lack of external exhaust pipes on the passenger side of the bonnet, something that was present on both later models. All 380s produced were coachbuilt by Sindelfingen, who produced a variety of body styles, including three different versions of a cabriolet, a roadster, a closed four-door, and a coupé. No doubt, the 380 K had many admiring onlookers upon its premiere at the Berlin Auto Show in 1933.

The defining aspect of the 380 K was its kompressor, or supercharger, which gave the examples equipped with it markedly increased power over the standard model, in addition to producing a howl which was, and still is, regarded as pleasing to automobile aficionados. Power was rated at 90 horsepower in naturally aspirated form, but with the supercharger engaged, power increased to 120, allowing the new Mercedes-Benz to compete with other supercharged touring cars of the time offered by Bugatti and Alfa Romeo.

Chassis 103351 was delivered new through the Daimler-Benz branch in Hamburg in June 1934. Having been restored some time ago, it displays few signs of wear, including some paint checking on the front wings, but it presents well overall. Painted in a stunning shade of red, this car is equipped with chrome wire wheels that have inserts painted to match the exterior. The tan leather interior and matching carpet display only light wear and contribute to a very nice ambiance, which is augmented by the polished wood trim and mother of pearl dash inlay. The engine bay remains tidy overall and appears to be correct. This example also has dual side-mounted spare tyres with pedestal mirrors.

With a total of just 154 units produced by its second and final year of production in 1934, the 380 K is quite rare and has an important place in automotive history, as it is the predecessor to the 500 K and 540 K. Both cars owe thanks to the 380 K for paving the road for their technical development and for giving birth to one of the most beautiful bodies ever adorned with the three-pointed star. As such, it demands to be included in any collection of pre-war Mercedes-Benz sports cars. This 380 K Cabriolet C would be a fantastic car to drive and enjoy, and it would certainly attract only warm compliments wherever it travelled.


Please note that, contrary to the printed catalog, this car is a Cabriolet C. Additionally, the displacement should have been listed as 3,823 cc.

Alexander Weaver

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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

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