The 12 million dollar car.
2 long seconds of silence.
On the evening of 19th August 2012, the auction house at California’s Pebble Beach is silent for two long seconds – Then the sound of the gavel followed by the call “Sooooold”. Thunderous applause fills the auction house and the auctioneer, Chris Ross, also claps proudly and in relief. With the option of the Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster, the British auctioneer has set two world records. Firstly, he achieves the highest amount paid for Mercedes-Benz at an auction in 2012. At the same time, the car thus becomes the most expensive pre-war vehicle ever sold at an auction. The price: 11,770,000 US dollars.
“I have never seen so many people at an auction. I wonder whether I will ever sell another vehicle as beautiful as the 540 K Special Roadster again?”
40 years of beauty sleep.
The 500 series replaces the 380 series in 1934. Customers demand more powerful engines and thus between 1936 and 1937 only 25 of the elegant two-seater are constructed. One of these is purchased by the Prussian Baroness, Gisela Josephine von Krieger, for 28,000 Reichsmarks, which would amount to approximately 115,000 euros today. In 1942 she first moves the luxury car to Switzerland, bringing it into safety from the Nazis. The Hitler regime intends to prevent the Prussian nobility from leaving the country with all of its millions. When she goes to New York a number of years later, her 540 K accompanies her across the Atlantic. The Baroness dies in Europe in 1989. However, the car remains in the United States, stored in a garage in Greenwich, Connecticut. Forgotten for 40 years.
As though reborn.
The series celebrates its premiere in March 1934 in Berlin as the “Type 500 with compressor”. In October a more luxurious version of the car appears. In the beginning of October 1936 the 540 K with an enhanced 5.4 L compressor engine is presented at the Pariser-Salon. One year later it is followed by the 540 K Special Roadster. For von Krieger’s Special Roadster, its beauty sleep comes to an end in 1990. The doors are opened and the Mercedes-Benz 540 K stands exactly as it had been parked in 1950: With roadmaps in the side pockets and carefully folded gloves, cigarette butts with lipstick marks in the ashtray. An unexpected time capsule which wonderfully preserves the spirit of its era. However, the vehicle itself remains just as well preserved.
The 40 year grace period allows it to retain its original condition in the present. After only a few weeks of restoration work, the exceptional vehicle essentially celebrates its second birthday.
Keeping the quality promise.
Those vehicle parts which feel the ravages of time are replaced with original spare parts, maintaining the same standard of quality – more than 70 years after production. A quality standard which is part of the Mercedes-Benz Classic work ethic. A standard based on the numerous company documents which also record the numerous model variants of the 500 series: A four-door sedan, different two-seater roadsters and open touring cars, cabriolet variants and an exquisite range of custom designs. Using original documents from the company’s own archives and the technical expertise of the specialists at the Fellbach Classic Center, analyses of the vehicles and their conditions can be carried out for every vintage and classic Mercedes-Benz. An important requirement to prepare the historical Mercedes-Benz vehicles for the future.
Der 540 K Special Roadster: Data.
Production year: 1936
Series premiere: Paris Motor Show, October 1936
Power output (kW/PS): 116/180
Engine capacity: 5,401 ccm
Maximum speed: 170 km/h
Price (1936): 28,000 Reichsmarks
Root wood writing table
Family coat of arms on the driver’s door