A Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster (W 29) won the prestigious “Best of Show” title at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance 2023. The sporty luxury car prevailed over a top-class field of exclusive classic cars in the jury vote at the final event of Pebble Beach Automotive Week (17 to 20 August 2023). This victory is the tenth “Best of Show” title for a Mercedes-Benz vehicle since the start of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 1950. This means that Mercedes-Benz is now the most successful brand in the history of this crowning event in the classic-car calendar.
The 540 K Special Roadster was originally ordered in May 1937 for Mohammed Zahir Shah, King of Afghanistan, and delivered in September of the same year. The King opted for a particularly fascinating product from Mercedes-Benz: the Special Roadster with a Sindelfingen body is a highly elegant sculpture exuding performance and speed. It is characterised by the high side line of the doors, curved body contours with a recessed radiator and a flowing rear end with concealed spare wheel. After only five changes of ownership in seven decades, the current owner purchased the vehicle at auction during the Pebble Beach Automotive Week in 2022, for $9.9 million.
The current owner of the vehicle is Jim Patterson. The winners of the “Best of Show” at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2015 (Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A Worblaufen Cabriolet, built in 1924) and 2010 (Delage D8 S de Villars Roadster, built in 1933) also come from his collection. The most recent Mercedes-Benz automobiles as winners of the “Best of Show” award were Arturo and Deborah Keller’s Mercedes-Benz 540 K Autobahnkurier in 2021 and Bruce McCaw’s Barker-bodied Mercedes-Benz Type S Touring Car in 2017.
The Untertürkheim plant produced a total of 760 chassis for the 500 K and 540 K models of the W 29 series between February 1934 and November 1939. 354 had the five-litre engine and 406 the 5.4-litre engine used from 1936 onwards. Nine body variants were available; they were completed at the Sindelfingen plant’s special vehicle workshop. About 60 units of the variants with roadster bodywork were produced.
The order documentation in the Mercedes-Benz archives and other documents recount the first steps of this 540 K Special Roadster: the exclusive vehicle was ordered by the Afghan royal court in 1937, and delivered in the autumn of that year. Further history: in the mid-1940s, the French-educated monarch brought the vehicle to the Afghan embassy in Paris. The supercharged sports car arrived in Great Britain in 1950 as a gift for his son-in-law, and was sold to a US collector in 1953. Throughout its long and varied history, the 540 K Special Roadster has always been maintained and preserved in authentic condition. To date, the vehicle has only very few miles on the clock.