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SNAPSHOT 25: Mercedes-Benz

It is assumed that most viewers with an interest in motoring history will recognise this image as that of a sporting Mercedes-Benz of probably the late 1920s, even though the radiator is largely obscured by a cameraman with a movie camera. The multiple holes in the chassis rails could suggest that the car is an SSKL, the L indicating Leicht – light as in weight, but a little delving has revealed that some of its forerunners with only the K, Kurz, suffix, which were the shorter chassis versions of the 7-litre 38/250 SS – Super-Sports – also had quite a liberally-drilled chassis. So it looks to be one or t’other, an SSK or an SSKL. Then the matter of date comes into the equation since the Leicht version did not arrive on the scene until 1931, but the photograph is undated.

It actually appears in a book: The Romance of Motoring,† published in 1933, which only indicates to us that the photo is of an earlier date than that, but the caption to it mentions that it was taken during the filming of a ‘talking picture’ called Flight. This movie was made in 1929, first appearing in cinemas in September of that year, so that rather rules out an SSKL. The film was directed by Frank Capra and made on location in La Mesa and Fallbrook, California.

However, there remain a number of imponderables.

The SSKs were first seen in 1928, but photographs with dates and locations appended show that they lacked chassis lightening holes, these seemingly not becoming a feature of some examples until well into 1929. In pre-airfreight days there was no way in which an advanced version 1929 SSK could have been transported from its native Germany to the West Coast of America in time to be filmed for a movie that hit the screens in September. That the shot was taken in America seems likely, despite the German number plate, as the cameraman perched in front of the radiator appears to be of Afro-Caribbean descent and is wearing plus-fours. Could it be that he travelled to Germany say in early to mid-1929 to do this bit of filming for Flight? Possible but unlikely, and at that time the SSK would not have had a drilled chassis …….

Perhaps the caption in the book is wrong? Or maybe some obvious point has been overlooked? Whatever – it makes for an interesting snapshot!

It is understood that this book has recently been re-published, but the above text was produced before that became known, and, this image was copied from the original 1933 edition, which, as it happens, was bought by the writer in 1958.

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