2001 Best of Show Winner
June 6, 2021
1930 Mercedes-Benz SS Erdmann & Rossi Roadster shown by Arturo & Deborah Keller
When this Mercedes-Benz SS bodied by Erdmann & Rossi was named Best of Show, the Kellers joined the ranks of those few entrants who have earned our top prize multiple times.
Designed by Ferdinand Porsche, the SS was one of three supercharged models that garnered racing fame and fervent support for Mercedes-Benz in the late 1920s and the early 1930s. The model S (for Sport), with a supercharged 6.8-liter engine producing 120-hp, debuted in 1927, and the following year the models SS (for Super Sport) and SSK (for Super Sport Short) debuted in 1928, each with supercharged 7.1-liter engines initially producing 200-hp engines. Though these cars were revered, production of the SS ended in 1930, so very few of them exhibit the beautiful coachwork we now associate with classics from the mid- to late-1930s.
The Keller car, which was rebodied early in its life, in 1934, is one of the few exceptions; it pairs an SS chassis with a unique Erdmann & Rossi special sport roadster body.
On the field at the Pebble Beach Concours, every detail drew the eye: Its deep black finish and snow-white leather interior provided a striking contrast. Its large chrome wire wheels of split-rim variety featured copper brake drums polished to an opalescence that radiated light. (And there were not merely four of these wheels but six! At the back, twin spares were mounted deep, flush to the car’s body.) The V-shaped radiator, the graceful turns and tapers, the black leather rumble seat, the dash with turned aluminum.
Of course, this particular SS (chassis number 36348) has more than style; it has a distinguished pedigree. It was created in June 1930 by special commission, and it was clearly built to be raced: it bore a two-seat racing body with lowered radiator, pointed tail and abbreviated fenders. The factory initially loaned the car to famed Mercedes-Benz team racer Rudolf Caracciola, and the following year, it was passed to Caracciola’s teammate Hans Stuck. Thereafter, in 1932, it was formally sold to Wilhelm Merck in Germany, and two years later, Werner Lüps, also of Germany, bought the car and commissioned Erdmann & Rossi to build a new body for it—a two-seat special sport roadster. A few years later, an Englishman purchased the car and installed a right-hand-drive engine.
In the 1930s, the car was shown at the Cannes Concours d’Elegance, where it won the “Prix d’Honneur.” Soon thereafter, Bud MacDougall purchased the car for his private museum in Canada, and there it remained for nearly six decades. Arturo Keller, who has perhaps the world’s best collection of Mercedes-Benz cars, had long sought the car, and was finally able to purchase it in 1999.