Maybach SW38: One Of The Most Prestigious Marques In Automotive History

Images: Anamit Sen & Karl Bhote

One of the founding geniuses of the automobile industry, Wilhelm Maybach was Gottlieb Daimler’s talented protégé. He later quit Daimler and joined Ferdinand von Zeppelin to develop airship engines.

The M-within-an-M was the very distinctive badge and radiator ornament of Maybach

But when the Treaty of Versailles forbade the German Weimar Republic from manufacturing dirigibles, Maybach turned to the automobile industry. He founded Maybach Motorenbau and launched the Maybach W1 in 1921, followed by the W3 in 1922, and then the W5 in 1926, powered by a 7.0-litre, in-line six.

More imperious and elegant than beautiful, this Spohn coachbuilt Maybach used to be part of the Patiala princely family stable of exotic cars

The ultimate though, was the V12-engined Maybach DS7, unveiled in 1929 and badged a Maybach Zeppelin from 1930. It was soon complemented by the DS8 (in 1930), a spectacular 200bhp, 7.9-litre V12-engined monster. Less than 200 of the DS7s/DS8s were ever produced.

Even from the rear its the car's Teutonic splendour that dominates

The volume leader for Maybach in the 1930s was the SW series, so named because it boasted a swing axle (SW) with independent suspension. Powered by a newly developed 140bhp 3.5-litre six-cylinder engine, Maybach added the SW 38 in 1936, which offered a bigger 3.8-litre version of the same six but designed to address the issue of poorer fuel quality, without compromising on performance.

The MM badge on the boot lid

Maybach’s range of advanced, luxury cars didn’t go unnoticed in India. In 1935, the royal mews of the Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh, had a very impressive addition: a magnificent Maybach Zeppelin DS8, gifted by the Reichsmacht, on behalf of Adolf Hitler (to buy his neutrality?).

Beautifully finished instrumentation has wonderful patina

The Maharaja followed that up by acquiring another Maybach the year after, a SW 38. The car on this page is the SW 38 and is one of three Maybach SW 38s extant in India. Of the other two, one is at the Auto World Museum, near Ahmedabad, and the other is with the erstwhile princely family of Kolhapur.

An off-centre angled Maybach logo on the radiator grille identifies the marque

As for Patiala’s Maybach Zeppelin, it was spirited away in the 1970s. The car still survives, but with an all-new body.

That's the view from driver or passenger's seat

The SW 38 on this page remained with the Patiala family until the 1960s, when one of India’s pioneer car collectors Ramchander Nath acquired it. The car is now part of the Ramchander Nath Foundation collection.

The Maybach featured the very best of German componentry; here is a Bosch-badged headlamp

Coachbuilt by Carosseriebau Hermann Spohn (founded in 1920 in Ravensburg, just 20km from the Maybach works), this Maybach embodies Teutonic splendour at its best.

Though Spohn did body other luxury brands such as Hispano-Suiza, Cadillac and Veritas, it had become Maybach’s favoured coachbuilder, with this fine example once again showcasing those very elegant lines since its last restoration in 2011.


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