The Automotive Afterlife – 1935 Mercedes
1935 Mercedes-Benz T290 SWB Cabriolet A | by Sindelfingen
Written By: Kyle Hyatt Photos by: TED7
Museums live and die by the quality of their collections. For many of these organizations, actively acquiring vehicles is a never-ending process that relies on the largesse of others to constantly improve. The Petersen, in particular, has been extremely fortunate in this regard with incredible donations rolling in regularly from around the world. One of the most recent — and exciting — is the 1935 Mercedes-Benz T290 SWB Cabriolet A bodied by Sindelfingen. This incredible and unrestored vehicle was donated by Dr. Rick Workman of Florida and facilitated by Rob Myers of RM Sotheby’s.
The Petersen’s 1935 T290 Cabriolet A, or W18 as it was known internally, is an incredibly rare pre-war German automobile, being the only W18 Cabriolet A bodied by Mercedes’ in-house coachbuilder. The Type A Cabriolet is unique in that it is much lower than the other W18 body styles, 7.5 inches in fact, which gave it a much more sporting appearance as did the unique, deeply curved front fenders. These fenders were found on no other W18. The T290 was a highly advanced vehicle for its day with features such as hydraulic brakes, coil spring suspension, and a smooth 60hp inline six-cylinder engine.
The Petersen’s T290 is an unrestored and heavily patinated example that bristles with originality. This car has been preserved in its original condition, including an all-original interior, engine, and convertible top, and is an impressive example of pre-war Mercedes-Benz luxury. It was built to order in 1936 for a French vintner and delivered to Burgundy. The car was originally ordered in a deep red hue, suiting its owner and locale. In 1957, an American working in France purchased the car from a mechanic in Arles for approximately $200. The American drove the car throughout France, Switzerland, and Germany before importing the Benz back to New York.
Eventually, the car ended up in the collection of dentist and renowned collector Dr. Rick Workman. Dr. Workman has won numerous Concours with his cars and though the Mercedes certainly fit his collection in spirit, its originality meant that restoring it would be a bit of a shame. Enter Myers, the Canadian gentleman behind one of the world’s top automotive auction houses, RM Sotheby’s. Myers put Dr. Workman in contact with the Petersen Museum and a deal was struck. Now the Mercedes has a permanent home alongside the museum’s other historic Benzes such as the 600 Laundaulet formerly belonging to Saddam Hussein.