Monterey

18-19 August 2017

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Lot 121

1928 Mercedes-Benz 26/120/180 Type S Sports 4 by Sindelfingen

  • Chassis no. 35947
  • Engine no. 71819
  • Body no. 923294

$3,500,000 - $4,000,000

To be auctioned on Friday, August 18, 2017


Please note that Internet bidding is not available for this lot. Interested parties that are unable to attend the sale may register to bid by telephone or place a commission bid online at rmsothebys.com.

  • An exceptional supercharged Mercedes-Benz
  • Originally delivered to legendary American entertainer, Al Jolson
  • Owned for over 40 years by renowned designer Brooks Stevens
  • Documented with copies of its commission paperwork
  • Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Full Classic


Wait a minute, wait a minute . . . you ain’t heard nothin’ yet!
–Al Jolson, The Jazz Singer, 1927

The Mercedes and its successor, the Mercedes-Benz, was among the first foreign automobiles to achieve a major toehold among American buyers. By the 1920s the company’s K and S models were some of the most expensive automobiles being sold in the United States, delivered mainly through the New York distributor to some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country, including General Motors scion Cliff Durant, theatre impresario “Roxy” Rothafel, and Al Jolson, the great comic singing star of vaudeville.

Jolson is best remembered today for his starring role in the first commercially successful “talkie,” 1927’s The Jazz Singer. In his time, however, he was much more than an answer to a trivia question. Known for his passionate, dramatic stage performances of various popular songs, he was one of the U.S.’s major stars of vaudeville in the Teens and Twenties, traveling the world to sold-out shows and turning out over 80 hit records. In many ways he was one of the first major American “pop stars.” He was also a patriot who traveled extensively to entertain troops during World War II and, at the end of his life, the Korean War.

The great performer was also a major automobile enthusiast, whose wealth enabled him to buy the finest cars available. He owned several marques, but was passionate about none quite so much as Mercedes-Benz, and owned three examples during the 1920s. Among them was this 26/120/180 Type S Sports 4, or four-passenger sports tourer, documented in its kommission paperwork as having been delivered to Jolson by Mercedes-Benz Company of New York in 1928. Period photographs, widely featured in the popular press of the time, depicted Jolson and his then-wife, actress Ruby Keeler, proudly posing with the new automobile, registered in California as 5M456.

Jolson maintained the Type S until 1947, when it was sold off his California estate to Brooks Stevens of Mequon, Wisconsin. An heir to the Cutler-Hammer fortune, a young Stevens was able to choose virtually any pursuit he desired. He chose design, and became one of the United States’ most famous and influential industrial designers of the 20th century. Revered as “The Seer Who Made Milwaukee Famous,” he created everything from the Miller Brewing logo to the Wienermobile, as well as numerous important designs for Studebaker. He loved fine automobiles and collected them with a passion, eventually operating the Brooks Stevens Automotive Museum to exhibit various treasures alongside examples of his own designs.

The Jolson Mercedes was a favorite in the Stevens Museum and remained on display there until 1990, a span of over 40 years. It is widely credited for having served for the design of Stevens’ best-remembered automobile, the Excalibur – America’s first and arguably best-quality “neoclassic.” It was also well known in the enthusiast community, inspiring interest from the likes of Automobile Quarterly, whose editor, Beverly Rae Kimes, wrote Stevens in 1977 and received the following intriguing response regarding the original ownership history:

It is an interesting car, in that it was originally owned by Rudi Carraciola. I acquired the car from Al Jolson’s estate in California about 1947. He owned three cars of this type, this phaeton, a Soutchack [sic] convertible coupe, and a town car . . . either a ‘K’ or an ‘S.’

I knew Carraciola in Europe prior to his death and he confirmed that this was his car, given to him by Mercedes-Benz for his brilliant showings with the SSKs.

In 1990 Stevens was finally convinced to part with the S by a California enthusiast, as what was described as “a mint original car.” Nonetheless, a year later the Mercedes-Benz was restored by the late Mike Fennel of Saugas, California, to its present appearance, including a beautiful cream finish, red leather upholstery, and tan soft top. Also at this time, the original dual side-mounted spares were relocated to the rear, visually lengthening the car and dramatizing its appearance.

The car was exhibited at both the 2006 and 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, but has otherwise remained well-maintained in museum display, with recent mechanical and cosmetic freshening undertaken for the current owner of 11 years.

Accompanying the car are copies of its factory paperwork and the letter between Stevens and Beverly Rae Kimes, as well as various other photographs taken of the car during its ownerships by Brooks Stevens and Al Jolson.

Undoubtedly one of the finest early supercharged Mercedes-Benzes offered in many years, with excellent care in American ownership since new, the Jolson S boasts history and provenance that are second to none. Its past is redolent in every nut and bolt, and the siren song of its blown six as thrilling on the straight as it would have been starting up into in the Hollywood Hills of 1928, whispering, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet . . . .

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more