This week’s Ride of the Week is a 1929 Mercedes SSK Gazelle Roadster owned by Joe “Guido” Marsola from West Wyoming, who bought it in 2006 from a car dealer in Williamstown, N.J.
The Mercedes was factory rebuilt in 1982 by the Classic Motor Carriage Company. Marsola says that it includes matching engine and body serial numbers with a certification plate. He says that because of the excellent condition of the vehicle, he has not had to restore any parts of the car, which he primarily uses the car on weekends and special occasions. He also enjoys entering the Mercedes in local car shows, where it has won numerous trophies. Marsola says that he also likes taking his children, Quinn and Thomas, out for rides in the Mercedes whenever possible.
Even though he didn’t have to restore any parts of the car, Marsola says the he has added some of his own personal touches to the Mercedes, including an authentic German license plate, driving lights and two air horns.
Marsola’s Mercedes now features a Ford Motor Company 2.3 liter engine and a three-speed automatic transmission. The exterior of the car is white with burgundy fenders, features a white removable soft top, a tonneau cover, a chrome luggage rack and it also features six side pipes (three on each side). The interior of the car features burgundy leather seats.
The Mercedes SSK was introduced 80 years ago, in 1928. The car was built by the German manufacturer Mercedes for only for years, from 1928 until 1932. At the time, the SSK was commonly referred to as “the mighty Mercedes” and “the fastest sports car in the world.” The name “SSK” stands for Super Sports Kurz (kurz is the German word for short). The SSK usually also has numbers associated with the name, such as 700 and 710. If the SSK is a 700 that means a 7.0 liter engine, a 710 would mean 7.1 liter, and so on. The SSK uses a modified version of the Ferdinand Porsche designed S-type chassis that, when compared to the Mercedes SS models of the time, was 19 inches shorter (which is why the K for kurz was added). The car was made shorter to make it lighter and more agile for racing. The SSK was the last Mercedes designed by Ferdinand Porsche before he left the company to found his own car line, the Porsche.
During the SSK’s production, it was capable of a top speed of more than 120 miles per hour, which made it the fastest car of its time. Even though it was only produced for four years, the SSK remains historically popular — in 1999 it finished as one of the nominees for Car of the Century.
Since the SSKs were primarily used as racing cars, many of them were involved in crashes on the track, and the parts were then reused to build replicas (such as Marsola’s). Marsola’s Mercedes replica is also rare — there are only about 100 of them in existence around the country (including one owned and restored by famed fashion designer Ralph Lauren) and only five of the original models that remain entirely intact.