After an extensive restoration and reconstruction, the 540 K streamlined car from 1938 experiences its global public debut on the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

Pebble Beach 2014.

Mercedes-Benz Concours d’Elegance.
Photos: Royce Rumsey
Text: Gary Anderson
  • Pebble Beach 2014.

  • Summit of motorsport legends.

    The events that now fill the Monterey Classic Car week started in 1950, when owners of the new sports cars organized a race in August through the scenic roads of the Del Monte Forest on the Monterey Peninsula. Today, that core tradition carries on with the Monterey Motorsports Reunion, though it is held on the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Track that replaced the Pebble Beach course in 1956.

    Historically significant racecars, such as this Mercedes 18/10, one of five that were built to compete in the 1914 French Grand Prix, are often raced before they appear in other Pebble Beach events.

    At the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance 2014, the legendary streamlined car Mercedes-Benz 540 K celebrates its 100th birthday.

    “Legends of the Autobahn”

    The 1914 Mercedes car, now part of the George Wingard Collection, races on Saturday afternoon, with a driver and riding mechanic aboard, just as it did when it was driven by Christian Lautenschlager to the victory in 1914. Participants wear modern safety gear because the races take place at the same speeds, and with nearly the same competitiveness as when they were new. But it includes not only events for significant classic cars from major collections, but also shows that individual enthusiasts can take part in with their own cars. A very popular gathering is the “Legends of the Autobahn,” organized by the national Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi clubs which takes place on Friday.

    Set against the backdrop of California’s Monterey, the classics of motorsports history present themselves at their best.

    Legends attract over 300 cars for the concours d’elegance judging and member corral this year, with over one thousand spectators coming to admire the cars. The visitors will be spoiled for choice between a filler of various social events, which take place often in parallel.

    The Mercedes-Benz 540 K Streamliner.

    With so many classic car enthusiasts gathering in one place, all of the major automobile auction houses, like Bonhams, stage auctions at the weekend. Shown here, in the display area preceding the RM Auction in Monterey, is a brother car to the 540 K Streamliner, also built by the Special Vehicle Production Unit in Sindelfingen. This 1936 540 K Special Cabriolet was built to the special order of an American millionaire. Distinctive with its one-off sloping grille – Mercedes-Benz never built another one like this – the car sold for $1,540,000 on Friday night.

    Not only on the Cours d'Elegance but also on the track of Pebble Beach the Streamliner attracts the attention of the audience.

    The lists of cars that sold over the weekend for a total of nearly half a billion dollars included the entire range of interesting cars, from recent English sports cars selling for less than $50,000 to the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta which sets an auction record at nearly $40 million including taxes and premiums. And for every buyer in the audience, there are many more spectators who just enjoy the close-up chance to see this wide range of desirable automobiles.

    Pure elegance.

    The centrepiece is the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. From the “Dawn Patrol” at 5:30 a.m. for hard-core fans who want to see the cars driven onto the field without the crowds, to the peak of the show when the field is so crowded that it is often hard to see the cars, over 100 thousand spectators will become part of the spectacle. The Pebble Beach Concours culminates in the awards ceremony. This year the trophy presented by Mercedes-Benz USA and Daimler AG for the most significant Mercedes-Benz, the Star of Excellence, is awarded to the 1927 630 K Hibbard & Darrin Convertible exhibited by the Keller Collection at the Pyramids in Petaluma, California. It was a satisfying end to a glorious week of classic cars.

    The visitors remain in amazement - Pebble Beach 2014 is a truly successful event.