The Legendary 1929 Mercedes SSK Gazelle

The first thing to know about the Mercedes SSK's were that only forty were ever built. Today's replicar models are called the Gazelles and while there's some disagreement as to what company built the first Gazelle replicar, Tiffany Motor Cars does appear to be the first company to advertise them. SSK was an abbreviation for Super Sport Kurz or Super Sport Short.

mercedes gazelle 1929

1929 Mercedes Gazelle SSK

It's thought today that only five of these original Mercedes SSK models survive. As you can imagine they rank at the top for car collectors. These are some of the most revered sports cars in all the world and are as close to priceless as you can get.

The Mercedes SSK was designed by Ferdinand Porshe with a six cylinder supercharged engine putting out 300 horsepower. This made the Mercedes SSK one of the fastest cars in the world. The SSK models were essentially a shorter and lighter version of the Mercedes S model. Along with being one of the world's fastest sports cars it also was one of the world's most beautiful. The car was a masterful piece of work by Porshe before he eventually went on and began his own auto company.

Daimler-Benz and Ferdinand Porsche During the 1920's

The creation of the Mercedes SSK as shown in the 1929 Mercedes Gazelle replicar featured in this article goes back to Daimler's racing efforts during the mid 1920's.

In 1923 Ferdinand Porsche left the Austro-Daimler organization and moved to Stuttgart  where he joined the Daimler German company. Daimler in Germany had entered a supercharged racer in the 1923 Indy 500 which did not perform. It failed so bad that Porsche took on the task of correcting the supercharged car so that Daimler wouldn't have to go through that embarrassment again.

dashboard mercedes gazelle

Mercedes Gazelle dashboard

As strange as it might sound, Germany had some eighty six separate automobile companies in 1924. This was a mere five years after the end of World War One.

The only possible outcome would be consolidation and this did involve Daimler. Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft and Benz et Cie signed an "Agreement of Mutual Interest." Two years later, in June of 1926 this association became an official merger which formed the new company Daimler-Benz Aktiengesellschaft. The hyphenated brand name Mercedes-Benz was established after the merger.

Probably the biggest boost for Porshe's efforts was when Daimler-Benz management in 1926 decided to scuttle the two cylinder race engines in favor of 6.0 liter engines. On top of that, cost was not a consideration. This gave Porsche a lot of creative leeway.

The Birth of the Mercedes-Benz S Models

The Mercedes S models as well as the SS, SSK and SSKL's were expensive cars and were limited edition models. Just as the surviving models today are priceless, the limited edition models built in the late 1920's were for only the wealthiest of individuals.

Porsche was directly responsible for the S, SS and SSK's whereas the SSKL came out after Ferdinand Porsche departed Daimler.

The new Mercedes-Benz S models with their large supercharged engines made it big on the racing circuit from 1928 to 1931. The cars weighed nearly 4,000 lbs which made steering a physical challenge nevertheless they were a great racing success.

History records that Porsche's departure from Daimler had to do with his desire to make automobiles for the workingman (family sedans)  whereas the Daimler's board was happy to just make and sell expensive automobiles. Even though the board tried to keep Porshe around and point him in a different direction, his well known temper didn't make that remotely possible. Ferdinand Porshe left Daimler and went to join automaker Steyr in Austria.

1929 mercedes ssk replicar

Rear view of the 1929 Mercedes Gazelle

1929 Mercedes-Benz SSK Specifications

The Mercedes SSK had a 7 liter inline six cylinder supercharged engine. Top speed was rated at 120 MPH.

Transmission was a four speed manual.

Brakes were four wheel drum.

Suspension included a sold front axle and a torque tube rear axle and front and rear half-elliptical leaf springs.

The cars dimensions include a 116.0 inch wheelbase, an overall length of 167.0 inches, a width of 67.0 inches and height of 68.0 inches. The curb weight was 3,750 lbs.

As mentioned above, only forty of the Mercedes-Benz SSK models were built and half of those were sold as racing cars. Many of those racing models ended up in crashes and some of those were used for parts. This demonstrates just how rare those five surviving vehicle are.

You may also enjoy the AutoMuseumOnline articles on the links below...

A 1964 Sunbeam Tiger 260 V-8

A 1962 Porsche Carrera 2

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A good read we would recommend is Ferdinand Porsche and the Legacy of Genius by author Laurence Meredith.

1929 mercedes-benz ssk

Mercedes-Benz Gazelle

The 1929 Merdedes SSK Replicars

With only five original Mercedes-Benz SSK's estimated to be around today, if you want to drive or collect one of these beautiful automobiles you'll likely need a replicar.

You'll likely find a good number of these Mercedes replicars offered for sale and they're usually priced reasonably. The replicars have been built of a variety of platforms along with a variety of engines and transmissions. As of this writing we see several used Mercedes SSK replicars priced in the $7,000 to $12,000 range.

 

(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)

 

 

The Very Rare 1929 Stearns-Knight / Cleveland’s Luxury Automobile

The 1929 Sterns-Knight automobile featured in this article is one of the unique American automobiles from the 1920's. Stearns-Kinight competed against Rolls Royce, Mercedes and Duesenberg for a piece of the luxury car market.

1929 stearns knight

1929 Stearns-Knight S

F.B. Stearns Company

Manufactured in Cleveland, Ohio, the Stearns-Knight was a product of the F.B. Stearns Company and was one of the fastest American automobiles of it's time. This was a car that weighed over 5,000 lbs but could attain a top speed of 110 MPH. The F.B. Stearns Company was started in 1898 in an old barn that was converted into a machine shop. The company built automobiles from 1898 until 1929.

Frank Ballou Stearns decided to retire in 1919 and sold the company to J.N. Willys in 1925. Willys operated the company as a completely separate affiliate of Willys-Overland until 1929 when the company was liquidated.

The car featured here is among the last Stearns-Knight built. It's a very rare automobile.

stearns knight j-8-90

1929 Stearns-Knight J-8-90 Sedan

Sleeve-Valve Engines

In 1911 the F.B. Stearns Company came out with a sleeve-valve engine. The sleeve-valve was developed by Charles Yale Knight which explains the hyphenated name of the automobile. In fact, any automaker that contracted with Knight for his sleeve-valve mechanism was obligated to add his name to the automobile nameplate. There was the Willys-Knight, the Daimler-Knight and the Sterling -Knight to mention just a few of the Knight engine automobiles.

The sleeve valve was a mechanism Knight worked on that replaced the poppet valves with sleeve valves. The problem was engine heat warping the. The sleeve mechanism went up and down on a film of oil and on the sleeves were holes that matched ports in the intake and exhaust manifolds. Each cylinder had two iron sleeves with one inside the other. The result of Knight's mechanism was that the engine heat was controlled and the engine ran smoother and with less noise.

stearns-knight nameplate

Sterans-Knight nameplate

Stearns-Knight Engines

The F.B. Stearns Company had a colorful and productive past in engine building and design. Frank Ballou Stearns was born into a wealthy family. At seventeen years old the young Stearns left school to build cars , converting the family basement in Cleveland Ohio into a machine shop. To give you an idea of just how fast Stearns progressed building engines in the real early years, he went from a one cylinder in 1896 to two cylinders in 1902 and to four by 1905. Four years later in 1909 his model lineup consisted of the four-cylinder Stearns 15-30 and 30-60, a hill climb favorite, and the limited production 45-90 six.

The company offered a 6.8 liter straight eight engine as early as 1914. They came out with a V-8 in 1917, one of the few companies to offer a V-8 at that time.

The Stearns-Kinight Automobile

Stearns-Knight automobiles were luxury cars and they were some of the highest priced of their time. As mentioned above the first Stearns-Knight automobile was built in 1911 and had the new Knight engine. The model featured in this article is the Stearns-Knight J-8-90. This model is a seven passenger sedan. One of the coach builders for the 1929 Stearns-Knight was the Rollston Company. Other Stearns-Knight coachbuilders included  Brunn and Rauch & Lang.

See these AutoMuseumOnline articles on the links below...

The Rare 1933 Duesenberg Model J

 The 1929 Cord L-29 Luxury Car

Location of VIN Plates and Stamps on Vintage and Classic Vehicles

 A Sleek Restored 1934 Plymouth Business Coupe

1929 Stearns-Knight Specifications

The Stearns-Knight J-8-90 was built with a 385 cubic inch straight eight that delivered 120 horsepower. This was the largest sleeve-valve engine built to date. Top speed was over 100 MPH.

1929 stearns knight photos

1929 Stearns-Knight front end and grille

Brakes consisted of four wheel mechanical internal expanding. The Stearns-Knight 7 passenger sedan had a wheelbase of 145.0 inches.

Suspension were semi-elliptic leaf springs both front and back.

The Srearns-Knight J-8-90 Convertible cost about $10,000 new. Sedans in the $5,000 to $6,000 range depending on the model. There were only a total of 295 Stearns-Knight vehicles built in 1929, the last year for the company and model. To give you an idea of the 1929 Stearn-Knight new car price in 1929...a 1929 Cadillac Convertible had a price tag of around $3,600. The Duesenberg Model J was priced at near $20,000. The chassis along before coachwork was around $8,500.

Comparison of other 1929 new car prices has the Ford Model A averaging about $600, a 1929 Dodge Brothers Six at about $1,000 and the 1929 Studebaker Dictator Tourer about $1,150.

stearns-knight dashboard

Dashboard on the 1929 Stearns-Knight Sedan

Stearns-Knight Collector Cars

Some have never heard of the Cleveland built Stearns-Knight automobiles. To be sure, these are rare cars. With less than 300 produced during the company's last year in 1929, there simply are not a lot around today. One was in the Harrah's Auto Collection before it was auctioned off. If you find a fully restored 1927-1929 Stearns-Knight come up for auction you'll likely see sale prices in the $125,000 to $150,000 range. The convertible model if one ever comes to auction likely above that amount.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)

 

A Beauty of a 1923 Ford Model T Coupe

The 1923 Ford Model T Coupe featured in this article is a beauty. Total 1923 Ford Model T production was 1,831,000 vehicles of which the coupe model accounted for 313,000 units. Although Ford never produced a coupe with the designation "Doctor's Coupe" these Model T Coupes were occasionally referred as coupes for the doctor who would travel making house calls.

1923 ford model t coupe

1923 Ford Model T Coupe

The Simplicity of the Model T

If there’s one description to place on the Ford Model T it was simplicity. This was a simple yet extremely useful automobile. The engine was cast in one block and the four cylinder engine delivered 22 HP. Three pedals and a hand lever operated the transmission. In a large way, the simplicity of the Ford Model T was something cherished by the elder Ford. History tells us that Henry Ford was a man who generally resisted change. As an example, during the 1930′s when his competitors were adding technical improvement to their cars, such as hydraulic brakes, Henry Ford resisted until the last. Much of the credit for convincing the elder Ford to eventually agree to changes was given to his son Edsel Ford.

The Low Cost Ford Model T

Henry Ford was not responsible for inventing the automobile or the assembly line. What Ford did accomplish was using an assembly line technique to produce cars which could be afforded by everyone. The Model T was Ford's Universal Car.

model t coupe

Ford Model T Coupe front end view

The Model T was considered a low priced vehicle by comparison to other early automobiles. A 1923 Ford Model T Coupe was priced new at about $540. The affordability, the cars availability and it's reputation for dependability, made motoring possible for many people who had initially been priced out of the market. Ford's use of mass production techniques allowed the company to produce automobiles for the common person at a price they could afford. Ford's mass production techniques were adopted by it's chief competitors one after the other.

Times were changing during the 1920′s. Ford’s Model T managed to become the best selling car year after year however their share of the market was shrinking. Competition increased and General Motors made a lot of progress with their assembly line production methods. The car that was first built in 1908 at the Piquette Avenue plant in Detroit Michigan would finally make way for another model in 1927.

model t wood wheels

Ford Model T wood spoked wheels

While Henry Ford was resisting change, his chief competitor General Motors as actually afraid that the automobile market was hitting a saturation point. GM then introduced the annual model change who's purpose was to boost sales by urging buyers to regularly trade in their cars for new ones. If new models were introduced annually, a certain amount of buyers might determine that their cars were outdated and needed to be traded in on a new model. The plain fact is that this sales tactic was effective.

The Model T Spurred the Aftermarket Industry

The Ford engines were so durable that people found uses for these as twenty horsepower power sources for tasks outside of transportation. Some were made into farm tractors. There has never been a car built that had so many utilitarian purposes than the Ford Model T. Many believe that the Ford Model T started the car aftermarket trade.

1923 Ford Model T Specifications

Up until 1926 Ford Model T engines delivered about 22 horse power. The engine was an 177 cubic inch inline four cylinder. Top speed for the Model T was about thirty mph on a smooth road.

ford model t interior

Ford Model T steering wheel

The Model T's transmission was a planetary gear type. This was a three speed but actually a two speed as we know today because one of the three gears was reverse. The transmission was operated using three foot pedals and a lever.

The wheels were wooden spoke and the brake was operated by a right pedal that put a band around a drum in the transmission that stopped the rear wheels.

The Model T Coupe weighed just over 1,500 lbs. When all steel bodies were introduced in 1926 the car's weight increased about 300 lbs. The wheelbase was 100.0 inches, the width 66.0 inches and the overall length was 134.0 inches.

See the AutoMuseumOnline articles on the links below...

The 1927 Ford Model T Coupe

The 1931 Ford Fordor Town Sedan

Model T Serial Numbers 

1934 Ford Model 40 V-8 Tudor Sedan

 

IMG_3631One of the best books available on the subject of Henry Ford, the Ford Model T and Ford’s influence on early 1900′s society is Wheels For The World by author Douglas Brinkley.

Another good book on the Ford Model T is The Legendary Model-T Ford: The Ultimate History of America’s First Great Automobile by author Tom Collins.

Collecting Ford Model T's

The value today of a Ford Model T can best be determined by researching no reserve auctions. Obviously, condition, originality and degree of restoration will determine final price. Generally, Ford Model T's in good condition sell above $10,000 with the average price being in the range of perhaps $12,000 to $16,000.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)