The auction hall beckons for this former Pebble Beach winner, but who’s buying?
Simon Kidston’s explains why it’ll take the right kind of rich to bring home RM’S Pebble Beach-winning Mercedes Saoutchik Torpedo Roadster
The 1929 Mercedes-benz S-type Torpedo Roadster by Saoutchik soon to headline RM’S Villa Erba auction doesn’t lack wow factor. But is there still a market for such cars? We asked K500’s Simon Kidston. ‘Prestige? The three-pointed star needs no comment. Power? 6.9 litres, supercharged for good measure, and the longest bonnet you’ll ever sit behind unless you fly a Messerschmitt. Sex appeal? Two-seater styling by an exotically named Russian émigré, adorned with nickel-plated accessories, trimmed with the skins of 760 lizards set behind an impossibly low ‘pillarbox’ windscreen.
‘Its provenance is pure motoring dinner party heaven. Commissioned by a shady New York aviation pioneer who couldn’t pay for it, bought from the NYC Mercedes showroom by a dashing young heir to the Rockefeller fortune and retained after his death by his family until 2005, every day of its life is known.
‘I’ve participated in two auctions where it was sold – first at Pebble Beach and latterly in Paris – and in recent years it’s called one of the world’s greatest US collections home. Superstar restorer Paul Russell took two years and probably as many millions of dollars to return it to its original perfection, and the result was the ultimate collectors’ trophy – Best of Show at the Pebble Beach Concours d’elegance.’
So why has it been on the market quietly for a year with no takers? ‘After Pebble and Villa d’este, where else do you show it? Too large and pristine for many rallies, too old and heavy for the new generation of buy-to-invest players, and no longer an unseen virgin, it’s not what’s hot today. But for real connoisseurs, who are rare, with very deep pockets – rarer still – this is an opportunity not to miss. Its billionaire owner is known for taking big losses on the chin when required. For Ferrari SWB money, one lucky man will be going home with a unique piece of history.’