In 1930-31 Professor Burkitt used some time on the Continent to indulge his automotive interests as The Referee (29 October, 1930) observed;
To See for Himself
According to the latest letter from Professor Burkitt, who is overseas, two of the treats he promises himself are visits to the Bugatti and Mercedes-Benz factories. As the "Doc." has a real enthusiasm for speed work and the worldly goods with which to indulge his hobby, it's a toss-up whether he comes home with an umpteen - cylinder "Bug." or "Merc".
On his return to Australia the good Professor offered his opinion on British and Continental cars which The Referee (30 September 1931) was keen to convey to their readers. The article read in part;
Cars on the Continent
Competition Driver's News and Views - Dr Burkitt Returns
One of the best-known competition drivers in New South Wales, Professor Burkitt, of Sydney University, is back again after year's research work on the Continent.
He was a very busy man abroad - so busy that he was unable to see a single motoring classic. But he has some interesting motoring news. One outstanding impression he brings back is of the Bluebird.
"It's a marvellous car," says the "Doc" - "you cannot appreciate the degree of streamlining unless you see it. For instance even the track rods are stream lined. Altogether it is a thing of beauty"...
Of the Continental "aristocrats" he has the highest opinion of the SS Mercedes Benz, a picture of which was published in this section some months ago. Of course the "Doc" may be prejudiced - he used to own a fine "Merc" - but to hear him rhapsodise over the "SS" is to understand something of this wonderful sports car.
A car similar to the Burkitt Mercedes-Benz at a Pebble Beach Concours (conceptcarz.com)
I’m not sure what became of Arthur Burkitt’s car. However Lex Davidson, winner of Australia’s first Grand Prix, was quoted in Restored Cars No. 74 of January, 1988;
I lived near a 33/180 K, which won I think the 1949 Alpine Rally. This car had been badly bent racing in Australia in the early 1930’s at which time it was driven by the late Professor Burkitt. He too was badly bent on this occasion.
It seems Burkitt had had an accident in his Mercedes-Benz and sold it circa 1930 after a short period of ownership. The Referee article of September 1931 mentions Burkitt owning a Mercedes SS in the past tense. If the car had been badly bent, maybe it was considered past repair and scrapped.
A Maharajah’s Mercedes
Davidson’s quote was part of a feature article on a later Mercedes-Benz, a 38/250 SS. The car, which featured in Restored Cars, was built in 1930 and exhibited at the Paris Salon in the same year. This car has a pale grey body and dark grey mudguards and had been owned by the Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir and restored in England, before being exported to Australia. The owner of the featured car at the time wished to remain anonymous.
Interesting questions remain. Is it possible, despite my misgivings, that the Burkitt car, so fabled in automotive circles in Sydney in the 1930’s, still exist? One hopes it has survived. Additionally, I wonder where the ex- Maharajah’s Mercedes-Benz SS featured in Restored Cars is today? Can anyone in the Australian Mercedes-Benz club community supply further details of these two cars and other cars sold in Australia in this era?
The ex- Maharajah’s Mercedes-Benz SS 38/250 (Restored Cars No. 74, January 1988)