Mercedes-Benz SSK Cabrio The Mercedes-Benz SSK is a roadster built by German automobile manufacturer Mercedes-Benz between 1928 and 1932. Its name is an acronym of Super Sport Kurz, with the last word being the German for “short”, a reference to the fact that the car was based on the earlier Mercedes-Benz S, but with nineteen inches chopped from the chassis to make the car lighter and more agile for racing. It was the last and greatest car designed for the company by the brilliant engineer Ferdinand Porsche, before he left to pursue the foundation of his own company. The SSK’s extreme performance—with a top speed of up to 120 miles per hour (190 km/h), it was the fastest car of its day—and numerous competitive successes made it one of the most highly regarded sports cars of its era. 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.
Fewer than 40 SSKs were built during its production span, of which about half were sold as Rennwagen (racing cars). Fitted with a supercharged seven litre straight-6 engine producing between 200 and 300 horsepower and over 500 ft·lbf (680 N·m) of torque (depending on the state of tune), it was driven to victory in numerous races, including the 1929 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.
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 UK£4.17 million (US$7.4 million), making it the second most expensive automobile ever sold. 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.