Chris Savaglio's

Mercedes-Benz Cabriolet

From the time of its introduction in the seventies, the Pocher version of Mercedes-Benz #130859 has been something of a mystery. The chassis number might have helped Pocher enthusiasts to track the origin of the kit design, but lacking the Mercedes chassis number Pocher sleuths had only Pocher’s word for what the kit represented. True, it was a 500 K and it was a cabriolet, but it was also a one-off, custom-built by the factory for a fellow named Arturo Lopez which incorporated special features from the Spezial Roadster version of the 500K. The Pocher instructions make mention of a 7-liter engine and a sister chassis, but no details were offered. Scores of hapless Pocher builders have found few facts in the enthusiast press, and books on the subject were not much help, concentrating as they did on the more glamorous 25 Spezial roadsters. When our Swedish hero Jan Melin published his lovely Mercedes-Benz—the Supercharged Eight-Cylinder Cars, American Pocher builders may have breathed a sigh of relief, but they had a long wait for an English translation, which finally arrived only to erroneously identify the 130859 as a 540K. Finally, nearly a decade later, Volume 2 of Mr. Melin’s wonderful book set the record straight, named the car a “Spezial Cabriolet”, and explained that it was a one-of-a-kind. Elsewhere in his book, Mr. Melin points out the unlikelihood of there being any 7-liter versions. Celebrations over this treasure trove of data were extended when in 2007 RM/Sothebys auctioned off #130859 which, we learned, has been ensconced in the Bernie Ecclestone collection, a fact well-known by anyone with any contacts in the classic car world, but hidden from the view of most struggling Pocher builders. There, in their lovely and pricey catalog, is #130859, in the same colors as the Pocher version right down to the tan wheels, selling for a piddling $1.4m US (London, 2007) and crossing the block a few spots after #4086, a 540K Spezial Roadster which hammered at $8.2m US. Perhaps this auction positioning is a metaphor for the standing of this remarkable car—Rare, custom-built, but doomed to be upstaged by its more swoopy siblings.

But fame is fleeting, and what matters to us Pocher folk are the nitty-gritty details given to us by our Pocher friends. For fifty years, the Pocher Mercedes-Benz Cabriolet has been generously giving huge challenges to would-be builders. It is often said, any Pocher that is up on its wheels is proof of a hard-fought battle—well, we often say this—and we are right. The wire wheels alone should earn any builder special merits in the kit-builders’ hall of fame. The rear suspension with its cockamamie transverse springs and its penchant for positive camber is enough to send some builders back to wood carving. But the challenge of all challenges is the folding top. Good heavens, what a task. Between the flimsy windshield frame and the missing top framework, any builder who takes on this challenge will surely have plenty of tales to tell. And since the kit’s introduction, all of these struggles have been faced with very few photos of the prototype to sustain us.

Take a closer look at Chris Savaglio’s rendition of this venerable kit, and two things are apparent: Mr. Savaglio has patience, and Mr. Savaglio has a good eye for details. From the meticulous leatherwork to the bristling engine compartment, the model is a testament to determination and careful work. The working top, however, is proof that Mr. Savaglio is a man of integrity and imagination. A man of determination and resourcefulness. And a man who can read between the lines of a Pocher instruction book. Well done.