REVIEW: CMC Mercedes SSK "Black Prince" (Count Trossi) •

REVIEW: CMC Mercedes SSK “Black Prince” (Count Trossi)

“Speed, Style, and Beauty” is the motto under which Ralph Lauren displayed this (and some of his other cars) in the world´s leading art galleries. Few other cars unite all of these elements better than Count Trossi´s unique Mercedes SSK “Black Prince”. The supercharged Mercedes SSK range had proven its Speed in many races, e.g. scaring Tim Birkin into making the Blower Bentleys for LeMans. Chassis #36038 and engine #77644, too, had seen their fair share of racing before Carlo Felice Trossi bought it in 1933 (not 1932 as CMC advertises it), adding Italian Style, and Beauty to German engineering by having his own flamboyant roadster design body made by an otherwise unknown coachbuilder. It is this Style and Beauty that sets it apart from “ordinary” SSKs in the more utilitarian race liveries, both in scale and real life, in both of which again Trossi´s creation won numerous prizes.

So there was a Trossi SSK in scale before? Oh yes! And I don´t mean the KK scale. With this model here CMC celebrates their 25th anniversary and revisit their first-ever model, though that originally was in 1:24th scale and aimed to compete with artisanship like Danbury Mint and Franklin Mint, while 1:18 models were very toyish things – CMC still doesn´t see other 1:18 manufacturers as competition from what they told me on the phone. So with (for now!) only themselves to transcend, how much justice do they do themselves as a manufacturer and, more importantly, the real car?

The general shape is captured superbly, the long bonnet, flaring fenders the shiny super-smooth piano lacquer black paint contrasting with the more shiny chrome metal, all of which IS real metal, no plastic (take that, all you plastic manufacturers that must not be named!). That a KK literally cannot hold a candle to this becomes apparent in the headlamps interior details: An empty shell for the KK versus this, cables running from the lamps to the bottom of a perforated photo-etched, metal radiator grille. Of course, the bonnet is louvred metal, the shiny exhaust pipes emerging from the engine bay on the right, real metal. Both sides of the bonnet can be correctly opened by unlatching the front and rear of the spring-loaded hooks on either side, but instead of unbuckling the real leather strap, it is unhinged from the bonnet´s top. Folding up the bonnet reveals the familiar SSK engine that this beauty shares with its ordinary racing siblings and it’s absolutely worth admiring the detailed engine, its plumbing and wiring. With this engine detail, you feel you could just add coolant, oil and petrol and let it run. The coolant cap on the radiator can be unscrewed, which comes as no surprise on a CMC, but is finished in wood veneer unlike what we see in pictures of Lauren´s car.

Refuelling is a more complicated process, another hint of this chassis´ racing days being over: First, you have to unlatch the metal locks on both sides of the rear which therefore needs must be quite a bit clumsy in scale. Then you need to push up the rear end. Now the German and English versions of the manual do not agree: One says, the centre rod underneath the rear will lock into place by itself, the other says you need to push it into place to hold the rear open. Well, I cannot bring mine to stay open either way, hence the opening tool in the pictures, apologies. Only then can you unlatch (to one side) and open the fuel lid (to the opposite side). So neither refuelling nor accessing the spare wheel is something to be done in a hurry (in which you probably are in a race). But once you have the rear open, you could perform a wheel change as both the spare as well as all of the wheels are detachable. On the rear wheels, the necessity of removing the covers in the rear fenders does not make this possible at modern pit stop speed either, so I have decided not to demonstrate this.

The rear exhaust end is done nicely, held up in a clamp that is held in place by a giant nut. On the left, you get a very nice replica of the original Rome registration and the rear light assembly. While these lights certainly look nice with the Mercedes star flanked by amber and a red transparent lens credibly pointing backwards horizontally, this is the only point where KK´s model is closer to Ralph Lauren´s real car that has an LED ring in the middle and points towards the sky at the same angle as the rear number plate.

Hopping behind the steering wheel – there are no doors and there are only metal footplates to help you surmount the lowered sides – we find ourselves on real black leather. This resembles the original more accurately than CMC´s original 1:24th (which was green) and, I am sorry to say, CMC´s 25th – anniversary edition of this model that has golden leather instead here. From what I see in Paul Russel´s pictures, all the levers and pedals in the footwell are correct, but with the dashboard, CMC has taken some liberties: The general layout and the sizes of the gages and organ stops are correct, but he brush-circles diameter in the brushed aluminum are far too big to be on scale. The rev counter (it legibly says “Umdrehungen in der Minute”= revolutions per minute) and speedo (topping out at 200 km/h) seems correct, the clock on the right is different from what the real car´s restorers present: Lauren´s car does not add the hours in a smaller 13-24 format inside the 1-12 layout, but has a Mercedes logo, the clock manufacturer´s logo (Junghans) and a small embedded dial counting the seconds. The top gauge between speedo and rev counter is incorrect, too, in that Lauren´s car has the scaling almost going all around the gauges face, while the model is scaled only around the top. The organ stops seem a little flat, like buttons, and I am not sure if they could be pushed in so far in the 1:1. The steering wheel, its markings and levers seem entirely correct.

It goes without saying that this is a very impressive model of the Mercedes SSK “Black Prince” showcasing CMC´s strengths as a model maker in the best way possible, thus being a worthy anniversary monument. This (like any) CMC model is probably best appreciated by watchmakers for its real metal functionality, including the air vents opening. Even if you don´t dare do these things – most of us never open our watches either – they are beautiful. Whether this is enough for this model to reap this year’s “Best of Show” award here on and elsewhere remains to be seen. But although there is lots of scope in between this and the KK with other contenders clearly capable of filling any gaps, this “Black Prince” will most likely continue to wear the Trossi-crown unchallenged.

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26 Responses to "REVIEW: CMC Mercedes SSK “Black Prince” (Count Trossi)"

  1. DS Team says:

    Lovely model this Mercedes SSK “Black Prince” is! CMC still proves they can execute a brilliant piece. You stated you were on the phone with CMC, tell us it wasn’t a Q/C item or two you were trying to solve?

    PS, whenever we see someone wearing gloves handling a model we cringe. No way you didn’t pull an intricate part off or damage the model? Put those gloves away!

    • Karsten says:

      No, fortunately no QC issues at all. The phone call was to CMC´s own webshop in an attempt to get the model as a review sample at a discount, but no, they don´t do that kind of thing as they consider their models as unrivalled, other manufacturers are no competition in their view. Well, all the more independent the review.

      I have to admit, the gloves did get caught up with a little spring underneath, but that was easy to put back. Any other intricate parts on the surface like handles, hinges and hooks are not decorative plastic, but functional real metal and cannot break off. Yet I had to take the gloves off, to operate them.

      • DS Team says:

        “they don´t do that kind of thing as they consider their models as unrivalled”

        It’s not only them. Many brands are quite selfish we may add, and do not understand the value of the exposure for their brand. DS constantly sees 250K in unique users each month. As many would believe we don’t always get free samples… We just recently had to pay for a sample of the AutoCult Audi PB18 e-tron Concept :)

  2. Nordschleife says:

    I received mine three days ago. It looks fantastic, and the craftsmanship is outstanding. No other manufacturer does it as good. What need to be mentioned is, that it is very tricky to lock the trunk on the left side. The snap lock collides with the rear lamp.

    • Karsten says:

      Unfortunately true, perhaps this is the reason why the rear lights are upright. Faithful replication would have made things worse. The operation of the engine cover is fiddly, too. That´s why I jestingly said … clockmaker´s joy.

  3. Pier Paolo says:

    Amalgam, please, watch and learn …

  4. Kevin says:

    Great review! Is the suspension working on this masterpiece?

    • Karsten says:

      Thank you! As to be expected from CMC, the leather-wrapped real steel leaf springs are fully functional. You will have guessed from the picture of the models underside, where the mechanism is exposed. That’s exactly the sort of functional detail that has been defining CMC’s mission. And these vintage cars offer themselves to that true-to-original treatment in scale better than modern cars.

      • Kevin says:

        That’s good to hear! Will buy one myself, can‘t sleep on the model before the price will be unaffordable. The details are great like on every CMC model, especially the hinge work at the back is fascinating in that scale!

        • Karsten says:

          Yes, if you like it, now is the time to buy. The cheapest I’ve seen is 445 Euros. The black Pullman has doubled its price since I bought it.

  5. Razorblade says:

    I bought mine few days ago and I am very happy with the execution of the model. I have a question though, in the manual there is a picture of the back wheel covers that says they can be removed and that a “tool” is included in the package. I couldn’t find it in the box, and was wondering if I am the only one. My model is from my local dealer and I was the first to buy they actually opened the big box that came straight from CMC Europe.

    • Karsten says:

      You are right, no such tool was supplied, but isn’t required for the knock-off wheels. In reality this tool would have been a HAMMER. So I guess, this was accidentally carried over from a model like the Pullman or Porsche.

      • Atalante says:

        I think what Razorblade meant is a screwdriver to remove the back wheels covers. I don’t recall there was a screw driver included with mine. Not that I want to remove these cover but usually I don’t trust too much their tools and instead use mine since they’re better quality.

        • Razorblade says:

          Yes Atalante this is what I meant. The wheel covers are shown on the picture and they mention a tool to remove them, but it was missing in the box. Can you tell me what kind of tool you are using and where can I buy it? They are not “cross” screw, so a screwdriver won’t work.

    • Karsten says:

      Sorry, I misunderstood that. I phoned CMC today (manufacturer, not shop this time) – they DO know DS, DO follow what we say here and DO care – and was kindly given the decisive hint: Turn the styrofoam shell upside down to find the hexagon screwdriver, an opening tool for the latches and a pair of tweezers underneath the bottom half of the shell. Mystery solved!

  6. Luis Cantu says:

    I was not sure the rear wheel shields are removable, although the manual suggest so. Mine did not include any tool, and yes, the manual refers to a special one to remove the hexagon screws to detachthem. We should fin out what happned.

    On the other and, let me tell you that TSM Models manufactured a very nice 1:18 closed version of this car some years ago, which included a leather like base and a silver plate, all in a luxurios “Collecion d’Elegance” Black box. I got it , and just sold it to a friend for US $600

  7. Nordschleife says:

    Mine has the tool. As Karsten explained, it is accommodated in the bottom outer side of the styrofoam box.

  8. Vitaliy D says:

    This is a great review of a great model! I’ve seen a lot of other enthusiastic reviews and photos of this model, and people are saying that real high quality CMC is back!
    I finally received my example and I am very happy with it. And also I recalled a phrase: “for this kind of money, a model must be perfect”. So let’s look how perfect my example is.
    The first thing I noticed is the fact that nice three metal pipes that stick out from the engine and are connected to the exhaust pipe are actually not pipes but are spiral springs which are empty inside! And a careful person can notice that it is possible to look through them! I immediately thought that it would be much better to put a plastic pipe inside of each of the spiral springs to make them look more like a real tube, more realistic. Would it be complicated to do? No. Would it be costly to do? No. Why CMC didn’t do it? I don’t know. To me, it’s rather a design failure.
    The trunk has very detailed hinges mechanism that looks complicated and does not close the trunk to its original closed position – so each time you close the trunk you need to additionally adjust its position because of this complicated hinges mechanism. Is it good or bad? I don’t know, but maybe a simplier mechanism that would not need regular adjustments would be better?
    Going to the engine, I noticed that the pipe connected to the radiator is actually not connected to the radiator on my example! The end of the pipe does not reach the radiator by few millimeters, so I can clearly see a small hole in the radiator and a small jut at the end of the pipe that is expected to be connected to the radiator. A QC issue? I think so.
    The metal frame of the windshield at the driver side does not tightly join the car body on my example, demonstrating a gap of almost a millimeter. A lack of glueu? A QC issue? I think so.
    Without the things mentioned above, I would call my example perfect. Since they are present, can I call it perfect? CMC guys, are you reading this?

    • Vitaliy D says:

      The model is amazing on details, and I’m still continuing to explore it. And, guys, I have to say I’ve found another so-called design-shortcut – i.e. something that could be done better but wasn’t by CMC. This time I’m talking about cables between the dashboard and the engine. Previously we saw pretty nice cables coming from the dashboard to the engine in CMC’s Talbot Lago Coupe. In CMC’s Black Prince, with its openable vents at the top and on the sides, it is possible to see literally everything between the dashboard and the engine by looking through different vents and using a flash. And what additional details are demonstrated to us by CMC? First: no cables from the dashboard, at all. Second: three short fragments of copper cables stick out from the engine compartment and are not connected anywhere at driver’s side (I guess, they are not connected to anything because they are just too short to reach anywhere).
      So, just two questions: why no cables from the dashboard are present, while the model provides all abilities to see them if they exist, and why these three bits of copper cable from the engine compartment coming nowhere?

  9. Charly77 says:

    Bis auf das beschriebene Detail der Windschutzscheibe Fahrerseite sind die beiden QCs auch bei mir vorhanden. Das Nachjustieren der Kofferraumabdeckung ist mir sofort aufgefallen, das freie Rohr habe ich erst nach Lesen des Artikels bemerkt. Das sind zwei oder drei Kleinigkeiten die mich anfänglich ärgern können, aber das Gesamtbild des hervorragenden Modells m.E. nicht schmälern.

  10. Peter says:

    Great review of a beautiful model! The one thing I wish CMC would change is their use of jeweler’s screws – that really ruin the look.

  11. Eric Green says:

    The hex screws on the fender skirts do not work. Obviously I located the driver. I read on another review that these were stripped. Agreed. Anyone else?

  12. Eric Green says:

    On further examination, the nuts on the fender skirt do work on one side and not on the other. Further review: what amazing black paint! AS to VD’s criticism above. If CMC had made the hatches fixed, you would not be able to complain, right? Would you prefer that? That said, I feel the Prince is not up to the level as certain earlier cars kike the Maserati birdcage or F1 car where innards were built that are never seen. Still, it is a beautiful model. I think the exhaust hoses are brilliant. CMC creates a situation where people love to complain because their models are way beyond others.

  13. Eric Green says:

    The radiator hose issue is easily solved with tweezers. Simply pull down the offending hose and push it into the radiator.

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