The Mercedes-Benz SSK is a roadster built by German automobile manufacturer Mercedes-Benz between 1928 and 1932. Its name is an abbreviation of Super Sport Kurz, German for "Super Sport Short", as it was a short wheelbase development of the earlier Mercedes-Benz S. The SSK's extreme performance and numerous competitive successes made it one of the most highly regarded sports cars of its era.
Design and achievements
The SSK was the last car designed for Mercedes-Benz by the engineer Ferdinand Porsche before he left to found his own company. The SSK was based on the earlier Mercedes-Benz S, but with the chassis shortened by 19 inches (480 mm) to make the car lighter and more agile for racing, especially short races and hillclimbs.
Fitted with a supercharged single overhead camshaft 7-litre straight-6 engine producing producing 200–300 metric horsepower (150–220 kW) and over 500 lb·ft (680 N·m) of torque (depending on the state of tune), the SSK had a top speed of up to 120 miles per hour (190 km/h), making it the fastest car of its day. The supercharger on the SSK's engine was operated by a cluch that was engaged by fully depressing the throttle pedal and then giving the pedal an extra push. Backing off the throttle pedal disengaged the supercharger clutch.
The SSK was driven to victory in numerous races, including in 1929 the 500 Miles of Argentina, the 1929 and 1930 Cordoba Grands Prix, the 1931 Argentine Grand Prix, and, in the hands of legendary Grand Prix racing driver Rudolf Caracciola, the 1929 British Tourist Trophy race, the 1930 Irish Grand Prix, the 1931 German Grand Prix, and the 1931 Mille Miglia.
The S/SS/SSK line was one of the nominees in the penultimate round of voting for the Car of the Century award in 1999, as chosen by a panel of 132 motoring journalists and a public internet vote.
Authenticity and value
Fewer than 40 SSKs were built during its production span, of which about half were sold as Rennwagen (racing cars). Many were crashed while racing and subsequently cannibalised for parts, and as a result there are now almost 100 replicas using components donated from original vehicles. Only four or five entirely original models remain, and their scarcity and rich heritage make them among the most sought after cars in the world; a 1929 model was auctioned at Bonhams in Chichester in September 2004 for £4.17 million (US$7.4 million), making it the second most expensive automobile ever sold at that time. Another SSK, a streamlined "Count Trossi"-bodied version owned and restored by fashion designer Ralph Lauren, has won best of show at both the 1993 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and the 2007 Concorso D’Eleganza Villa d’Este.