Being agriculturally inclined to build barns in the country, we don't expect barn finds to turn up in the middle of a high-turnover metropolis. Yet that's been happening more regularly of late, and writer Michael Mraz has found another example in South Central, Los Angeles: a one-of-one Mercedes-Benz 1935 Caracciola 500K built especially for Silver Arrows race driver Rudolph Caraccioloa. It is pictured above in better days, after having been restored and displayed on the lawn at the Pebble Beach concours in the late 1970s.
What's amazing about the Caracciola 500K, and tragic for car lovers, is that it has a good deal of company: in a piece called "Wheels of Fortune" in the February issue of Town & Country magazine, Mraz found scaffolds full of vintage metal in awful condition, rusting outside in a parts yard called Porche Foreign Auto. They include:
Porche Foreign Auto was started in 1967 by a German butcher named Rudi Klein, who bought the Caracciola 500K after it was shown at Pebble in 1978. He took it to a Mercedes show in Newport Beach in 1980, and when it wouldn't start he loaded it on a trailer and took it home. It hasn't been seen since, outside of the parts yard.
...a pair of one-off prewar Maybachs; one of two Iso Grifo Spyders (designed and engineered by Giotto Bizzarrini, who also has the Ferrari 250 GTO on his résumé); one of 29 alloy-bodied Mercedes Gullwings...; a couple of BMW 502s and 507s; a half-dozen or so Lamborghini Miuras, with their mighty V12 engines; and the last surviving example of the seven Horch 855 Spezial Roadsters ever built, a specimen once owned by Eva Braun that was for a time on loan to the Audi Museum in Germany. (Audi was founded by August Horch.) Parked one on top of the other are dozens upon dozens of Porsche Carrera carcasses....
Klein passed away, and his salvage yard is overseen by his sons, who won't let any gawkers into to view the cars. Even Mraz was denied entry. But he spoke to folks who have seen the collection, and one said that there are vehicles people have sought for decades and thought had been destroyed. The head of the Mercedes Classic Center in Irvine believes the Caracciola 500K could be worth more than the 1937 540K Spezial Roadster that was auctioned for nearly $10 million at last year's RM Auctions at Pebble. But we might never know.
Town & Country doesn't have a proper website, so pick up the magazine to read the piece and see what the automotive world is missing. There's a sample of it in the attached gallery, but be warned, it's not pleasant to see.