History and histories

The mystery of the Mercedes Benz SSK “Count Trossi”

Photo credit: Wheelsage

The story of the extraordinary Mercedes Benz SSK Count Trossi” is as special as it is mysterious. Among the forty-two SSKs (short for Super Sport Kurz or Short) built, chassis 36038 is the surely the world’s rarest and most distinctive example.

It was shipped to Japan as a bare chassis in February 1930 but returned to the factory as they were unable to sell it. It was then delivered to the Mercedes-Benz dealer in Milan, Carlo Saporiti. According to research carried out by the American Restorer Paul Russell and his team, who restored this car and reconstructed its entire history, the car was first sold to Sr. Antonio Maino with a two-seater spyder body built for the chassis by Carrozzeria Touring in Milan. From December 1930 to 1933, chassis 36038 raced at several events, including the Mille Miglia. It was finally bought by Count Felice Trossi in June 1933, who decided to build his own special body for this car.

Carlo Felice Trossi, an Italian nobleman who raced as a gentleman driver in the 1930s demonstrating great talent, was rich and passionate but decidedly unlucky. At just 41 years old, shortly after winning the Italian and Swiss Grand Prix for Alfa Romeo, he died of cancer leaving memories and regrets

The person who actually designed this car remains a mystery to this day. Russell unearthed two hand-made sketches of the vehicle during his research: one from an independent coachbuilder, who could be Willy White, an American living in Italy at the time, and the Count’s personal sketches of an open roadster without a top. In any case, the body was commissioned in 1933 and the car as it is today was completed in 1934.

This open SSK (there is no closing mechanism) with its extraordinary design does not have a paternal record. It cannot be ruled out that Count Trossi himself designed the exquisite lines

Thanks to many historical documents saved by Count Trossi’s heirs, the restorers were able to see and capture many important details of the car during the restoration. For example, the layout of the dash in a photo taken in front of their family home, or that the hand painted reference marks on the tachometer have been there since before the 1950s.

Elegant and magnificent, Count Trossi’s SSK was re-bodied after taking part in the 1931 Mille Miglia

This car has been part of the Ralph Lauren collection since the 1980s and, in his possession, has won several recognitions across the globe, including Best of Show at the 1993 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and at the 1995 Meadow Brook Hall Concours d’Elegance. The mystery surrounding this car gives it a unique beauty that melts the heart of every true enthusiast.

In this front view, the racing car soul of this Mercedes that played an important role in pre-war races is all too clear. Note the fascinating way the two front fenders turn into elegant aesthetic lines