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Exclusive, expensive and with sumptuous good looks, it is not hard to see how this 300Sc Cabriolet A captured the heart of one of Hollywood’s all time greats. Words & Images Richard Truesdell.
Classic Choice 300Sc Cabriolet A
One of the most iconic actors of his era, William Clark Gable personified everything that was Hollywood in its golden age. The actor, who spoke one of the most memorable lines in screen history in the 1939 epic Gone with the Wind, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” was a man with exceptional taste in automobiles. While his 1935 Duesenberg Model JN Convertible Coupe may be the best known car that he owned during his lifetime, the so-called ‘King of Hollywood’ had an affection for cars bearing the three-pointed star.
The connection between the actor and #Mercedes - Benz includes a 1955 300SL Gullwing that is so famous in its own right, that it is known as the ‘Clark Gable Gullwing’. Shortly afterwards, in 1956, Gable, with his fifth wife Kay, strode into Auto Stiegler, the factory authorised Mercedes-Benz dealership in Beverly Hills and took delivery of this brown painted, tan leather trimmed 300Sc Cabriolet A. It was reported by onlookers that the couple blazed out of the Mercedes dealership for the short drive back to their ranch in nearby Encino.
This 300Sc was the last car Gable purchased in his lifetime, reportedly one of his favourites in a life filled with many exceptional cars. Gable was so fond of this Mercedes that when attending the premiere of 1956’s Giant starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean, shortly after purchasing his 300Sc, he and his wife apparently decided to forego the customary Warner Brothers Cadillac limousine and instead arrived in style and continental elegance in their new Mercedes-Benz 300Sc Cabriolet A.
At a delivered price of $12,500, Gable’s 300Sc cost more than his recently purchased 300SL Gullwing, indeed more than any American luxury car. The only US car that could compare in elegance to Gable’s 300Sc in 1956 would be the Continental Mark II , a limited production coupe that sold for $10,000 – Ford reportedly lost money on each example built. A Cadillac Eldorado was a bargain at just $6,648!
THE LAST AND BEST
The three-litre, six-cylinder 300S (W188) was first exhibited in October 1951 at the Paris Motor Show, production commencing in 1952. It was based on the W186 300 that had debuted earlier the same year at the Frankfurt show in April, Mercedes’ top of the range limousine that soon became popular with VIPs including Chancellor Konrad Adenauer whose name is now associated with the model.
The W188 300S used a 150mm shorter version of the W186 300’s chassis and was offered as a coupe, a roadster and a cabriolet A, the roadster almost identical to the cabriolet A, but with a lighter, fully retractable roof. Until 1955, all three models in the exclusive 300S range were powered by Mercedes’ M188 straight-six that developed 148bhp and 170lb ft torque. Between 1952 and 1955, 203 Mercedes- Benz 300S Cabriolet As were built, along with 216 coupes and 141 roadsters.
At the 1955 Frankfurt show, the 300Sc was presented to replace the 300S range. Thanks to direct fuel injection, power went up to 173bhp, while out back, Mercedes introduced its low pivot, independent rear suspension. One visual change to the exterior was a pair of chrome strips on the front wings, plus ‘Einspritzmotor’ was embossed on the rear bumper, denoting fuel injection. The same three body shapes were produced as before. There was the 300Sc Coupe of which 98 were built between December 1955 and April 1958, the 300Sc Roadster of which 53 were built between January 1956 and February 1958 and this, the most rare, the 300Sc Cabriolet A, built from January 1956 until July 1957, of which just 49 rolled off the production line.
PLAYING THE WAITING GAME
So this is an exclusive classic and one with a superstar owner, only endowing this gorgeous motorcar with yet more kudos. Clark Gable’s beloved 300Sc was stored in a garage at his ranch in Encino for more than 20 years following his death in November 1960 at the age of 59. And this is where this Mercedes’ second owner enters the picture. Bruce Meyer is well known in the United States as a car collector – others in his collection include a 1937 Bugatti Type 57C Ventoux, the first Corvette to race at Le Mans and the first production Shelby Cobra Roadster. Having previously restored another 300Sc Cabriolet A, Meyer knew that Gable’s 300Sc was in storage in Encino and throughout the late 1970s he tried to acquire the car from Gable’s widow. Finally, in 1981, after selling his 300Sc, Meyer purchased the car from Kay Gable.
“What makes this car so special, beyond the fact it was once owned by Clark Gable,” Meyer tells us, “is its originality. Gable took great care with all his cars and the 300Sc was no different. At the end of his life it was his favourite car, you could say that it was his daily driver.”
Driving from one location to another in Beverly Hills, I was struck at just how tight and rattle free the Mercedes-Benz cabriolet is, a car that is just a year younger than I am and that now has a touch over 33,000 miles on its odometer. We pull into the home of Stanley Gold, the former Disney executive and noted Porsche collector whose mansion bears something of a resemblance to Tara’s in Gone with the Wind. “The car is completely original, except for the front seats’ leather upholstery,” comments Meyer. “The paint is as it left the Mercedes factory, as is the top, which I’ve never lowered, and the interior wood is flawless. But the element that sets this car apart from any other 300Sc can be found on the glove box, a St Christopher’s medal clearly engraved with the initials ‘CG.’ I don’t show this car often but I can tell you that I still enjoy every moment behind the wheel. I’ve driven it as far away as San Diego, a round trip of 260 miles.”
The 300Sc cars find themselves at a crossroads in the history of Mercedes-Benz. In terms of design, styling, construction and their hand built nature, they are clearly linked to the great pre-war Mercedes-Benz motorcars. And at the same time, they personify the German economic miracle of the 1950s and its recovery from the devastation of World War Two. It is incredible to think that the company was able to turn itself around and rebuild itself so quickly. Less than a decade after the declaration of peace, Mercedes-Benz was once again producing some of the world’s finest motorcars and attracting some of the world’s greatest superstars, celebrities like Clark Gable, who could afford the very best and naturally gravitated towards the three-pointed star.
The car is just so tight and rattle free, even with a touch over 33,000 miles on its odometer.
This is the most rare variant, of which just 49 rolled off the production line.
This 300Sc was the last car Gable purchased in his lifetime, reportedly one of his favourites.
TECHNICAL DATA #Mercedes-Benz-300Sc-Cabriolet-A-W188 / #Mercedes-Benz-300-Cabriolet-A-W188 / #Mercedes-Benz-W188 / #Mercedes-Benz-300Sc / #Mercedes-Benz-300Sc-Cabriolet-A / #Mercedes-Benz-300Sc-Cabriolet-W188 / #Mercedes-Benz-M199 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-Cabriolet-W188 / #Mercedes-Benz-Adenauer-Cabriolet / #Mercedes-Benz-Type-300-Cabriolet / #Konrad-Adenauer / #Adenauer / #William-Clark-Gable / #Clark-Gable / #Mercedes-Benz-300Sc-Cabriolet-A-W188-Clark-Gable / #Mercedes-Benz-300Sc-Cabriolet-A-Clark-Gable / #Mercedes-Benz-Clark-Gable /
Engine #M199 2,996cc 6-cyl
Power 173bhp @ 5,400rpm
Torque 188lb ft @ 4,300rpm
Transmission 4-speed manual, RWD
Top speed 112mph
Fuel consumption 22.6mpg
Years produced 1956-1957
Rare, beautiful and kept in stunning condition throughout its 56-year life, this classic cabriolet is a very special treat for the senses Figures for car as pictured; fuel consumption determined at of top speed (not more than 110km/h, 68mph) plus 10 per cent.
This archive shot shows #Clark-Gable with this very #Mercedes-Benz .
Since being built in 1956, this cabriolet has only covered a little over 33,000 miles.
Beautifully simple, the chrome trimmed speedo takes centre stage.
The original Becker Mexico radio remains on the car’s dashboard.
The car is totally original, apart from the leather trim on the two front seats.
Fitted luggage secured with leather straps within the curved rear.
This plate is yet to collect dirt and confirms that it is a #1956 car.
Current owner Bruce Meyer has never lowered the fabric roof, preserving its condition.
Earlier W188s had 148bhp, 173bhp for these 300Sc cars.
The St Christopher’s medal bearing the ‘CG’ inscription.
Whitewall tyres and chrome hubs offset the brown paint.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.