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Contrary to the naming system on the previous S-class models, the letter ‘K’ on the new models stood for compressor and not short. Between 1933 and 1934, only 157 units of the 380K model were produced, the majority being Cabriolet types A, B and C. It was then succeeded by the 500K (W24), of which 342 units were produced, which was then finally succeeded by 419 units of the 540K (W29).
Equipped with a ground-breaking 3.8 litre inline eight cylinder engine with a side camshaft and overhead valves, the new top of the range Mercedes distinguished itself mechanically. The engineers fitted independent suspension with sculptured “A” arms at the front and rear, with swing arms, helical springs and hydraulic brakes on all four wheels. The transmission, attached to the chassis via a steel subframe, drove the rear wheels through a fully synchronized four-speed gearbox. All of these innovations on the W22 received very high praise from the automotive world.
After more than 20 years of producing six-cylinder engines, Mercedes-Benz ventured into the production of an eight cylinder in-line unit—substantially expanding its range. This also allowed the German brand to create a solid platform that would enable it to build machinery in the calibre of the MB 540K and the domineering W25 Grand Prix cars.
The 380 range was available with four different versions of the eight-cylinder block—three equipped with a Roots-type compressor and one normally aspirated. The power outputs varied between 90hp for the normally aspirated versions and 120-144hp for the K versions. Several types of Mercedes-Benz 380 were produced at their Sindelfingen factory—convertibles, sedans, Tourers and sports tourers.
There were only 44 units produced of the 380K type C with two doors, four seats and two side windows. Two arrived in Portugal in 1934, and one of those was acquired by doctor Guilherme Pereira Caldas, who won the 1st Estoril Elegance Award in that year. The Museu do Caramulo is very proud to be in possession of such a rare specimen by the German manufacturer.
The file for this vehicle is still kept by the Stuttgart factory, and it shows that the order of the vehicle was placed by Sociedade Comercial Mattos Tavares, Lda, a Mercedes agent in Lisbon. The car was shipped on 30 January 1934 and was duly received on March 24th of the same year.
Purchased by João de Lacerda, on March 12, 1956, the 380K type C was fully rebuilt in the private workshop of Harry Rugeroni, at Rua Tomás Ribeiro, in Lisbon. The restoration work took great care in preserving the original leather upholstery, which was still in excellent condition. Only six automobiles of this type are known to collectors.