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