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26/120/180HP Type S Supercharged Sports Tourer by Cadogan
Germany’s post-World War I depression necessitated a merger between Daimler and Benz, a process that began in 1925 and was formally consummated on June 26, 1926; the joined companies’ product lines, manufacturing, and management were integrated and rationalized. Most importantly, the marques’ competition in racing ended, and the combined companies’ performance-development efforts were placed squarely behind the Mercedes, resulting in some of the most exciting, famous, and successful automobiles ever built. The immediate result of the renewed focus and the concentration of the engineering talents of Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, Hans Nibel, and Fritz Nallinger was the Mercedes-Benz Typ S. Developed as a successor to the 6,246-cubic centimeter Model K, it was an automobile that would forever establish the credentials of Mercedes-Benz at the pinnacle of high performance luxury automobiles. As the post-war recession faded, it was succeeded by an era of prosperity and a new social freedom, the Jazz Age. The Typ S, developed as a successor to the Model K, was vigorous, powerful, vibrant, and purposeful. It became a signature of the times and the pinnacle of aspirations that, in the Roaring Twenties, seemed accessible to all.
Displacing 6,789 cubic centimeters, the all-new Typ S engine had larger valves, dual carburetors, a modestly increased compression ratio, and a larger supercharger that delivered 7 psi boost when engaged. Rated 26/120/180 horsepower, the numbers denoting the engine’s taxable, naturally-aspirated, and supercharged horsepower ratings, it owed little more than its single overhead camshaft and six cylinders to the earlier K and its predecessors. The design ingeniously deals with one of the major problems of 1920s automobiles, flexible chassis. For the S, the Mercedes team designed a “unit” engine and transmission with rigid mounts, providing cross bracing and a jointed torque tube drive to the back axle. The massive power plant contributed its own rigidity to the chassis structure, which was completely revised.
The frame rails now kicked up over both the front and rear axles, with semi-elliptic leaf springs at all corners. The radiator was lowered, making it barely higher than the massive engine, which was moved a foot to the rear for better weight distribution. Despite the refined, massive construction, the Typ S rolling chassis was 510 pounds lighter than the K. Further, the Typ S, with its seven-tier radiator, had a 3½-inch lower hood and a much sleeker profile than the later Typ SS model, which used a higher eight-tier radiator.
Fitted with streamlined, lightweight, two- and four-seat open coachwork from Sindelfingen and Europe’s finest coachbuilders, it was a sports car for select, successful owners who prized quality, flair, and performance above all else. It also was exclusive, with only 124 Typ S and 114 Typ SS built.
The SSK was the last car designed for Mercedes-Benz by the engineer Ferdinand Porsche before he left to found his own company. The SSK was based on the earlier Mercedes-Benz S, but with the chassis shortened by 19 inches (480 mm) to make the car lighter and more agile for racing, especially short races and hill climbs.
Fitted with a supercharged single overhead camshaft 7-litre straight-6 engine producing 200–300 metric horsepower (150–220 kW) and over 500 lb·ft (680 N·m) of torque (depending on the state of tune), the SSK had a top speed of up to 120 miles per hour (190 km/h), making it the fastest car of its day. The supercharger on the SSK's engine was operated by a clutch that was engaged by fully depressing the throttle pedal and then giving the pedal an extra push. Backing off the throttle pedal disengaged the supercharger clutch.
The SSK was driven to victory in numerous races, including in 1929 the 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.
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