Project Car Hell, 1938 Edition: Mercedes-Benz or Graham-Paige


Not surprisingly, the 219 beat the 450SL in our-first all-Mercedes-Benz Choose Your Eternity Poll. It's hard for a 70s SL to compete with a big curvaceous Ponton on either coolness or agony. And, really, parts are just too easy to find for the Pontons, since they last about a million miles and all. No, for true Mercedes-Benz Hell, you need to go back, back, way back- back to the era when most examples perished under a rain of RAF and USAAF bombs and Red Army artillery shells. And, just to make things interesting, we'll pit the Benz against an American luxury car from the same year.


Let's face it, there's an unsavory air about late-30s German machinery, what with the stench of the most loathsome regime of the 20th century seemingly embedded in their very sheetmetal. But, really, you can't blame the cars for the horrors of the era... which doesn't prevent them from being tainted with all manner of perceived Bad Juju, thus increasing the Hell Factor. But damn, the Mercedes-Benzes of the era sure looked sharp, and when you see something like this 1938 Mercedes-Benz 170V for only $8,950, it's hard not to imagine yourself having the only 70-year-old Benz in town. The seller claims the car is "complete," and you'd better hope it's true... because parts for this thing isn't going to be easy to find (though there's some interchangeability with postwar models). The interior doesn't look too bad, and maybe the engine and transmission aren't seized solid. Hey, you never know! If the engine isn't salvageable, you can always drop a 6.9 in it...

There's no way a 1938 Cadillac, Lincoln, or Packard is going to be as hellish as their Mercedes-Benz counterpart, because parts aren't impossible enough to locate. That's why we need to go with a Graham-Paige instead! With a supercharged six-banger under its long hood, a '38 Graham-Paige is just the car to make the Benz look low-end... but they're not cheap. Still, we think 42 grand might be a bit steep for this '38 Graham-Paige Touring Special Sedan, especially given its execrably bad somewhat rough condition. From the description, it seems that 1951 was the last year this car moved under its own power, and 20 years in South Dakota followed by 37 years in Texas haven't been kind to its finish. But don't worry, because "just about all pieces are there," according to the seller. If that big Buy It Now price isn't met- and we're pretty sure it won't be- you can swoop in and pick it up for a more reasonable price after the auction closes.

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