The Mercedes SSK was a sports car built by Mercedes in 38 examples between 1927 and 1932. Today unaffordable, one example was sold for £4,181,500 (€4,871,385) at Goodwood in 2004 by Bonhams. Hence the need for a more affordable, usable replica. Excalibur was certainly the first to draw inspiration from the SSK for its first models. There was also Fiberfab and the rather ungainly Gazelle.
In 2007, the owner of a Sbarro 540K asked Franco Sbarro to build him a replica SSK, with the idea of being able to drive it more easily than his 540K. The idea was not to create a sports car, but a model for everyday use. Performance was not part of the brief. So much so that a very modest four-cylinder engine (79 hp) was chosen.
For Swiss homologation reasons, Franco Sbarro took a 1953 Mercedes pontoon as his base, grafting a tubular structure onto which the body rests. As usual, the body is made of polyester and fiberglass (with the exception of the steel hood). The proportions are not exactly those of the original, to match the chassis. For aesthetic reasons, Sbarro preferred fenders stretching all the way to the rear, instead of the original mudguards. The car is fitted with real 18-inch spoked wheels, which perhaps raise the car a little too much. A few fake elements adorn the car, such as the side exhausts protruding from the hood or the ignition advance knob in the center of the steering wheel. It's worth pointing out that some photos (notably the one with Franco Sbarro at the wheel) show a pair of extra headlights attached to the bumper, which have now disappeared.
On the road
Auto Rétro magazine tested the car and, unsurprisingly, the Sbarro SSK doesn't have the performance of the original. 79 hp for 1275 kg: that says it all! But then again, that wasn't the point at all. The SSK does very well what it was built to do: ride peacefully without difficulty and with complete reliability. Riding in a unique, road-approved model is surely still a tremendous pleasure. That's the whole point of this fantastic SSK replica.