Automotive

Mercedes-Benz 540 K Cabriolet A takes 2021 Salon Privé "Best of Show"

Mercedes-Benz 540 K Cabriolet ...
This 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A was named Best of Show at the 2021 Salon Privé Concours d’Elégance presented by Aviva. Remarkably, it is the third Mercedes-Benz 540K variant to become a finalist in the Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award, each with coachwork created in 1938 by Mercedes-Benz own coachworks at Sindelfingen.
This 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A was named Best of Show at the 2021 Salon Privé Concours d’Elégance presented by Aviva. Remarkably, it is the third Mercedes-Benz 540K variant to become a finalist in the Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award, each with coachwork created in 1938 by Mercedes-Benz own coachworks at Sindelfingen.
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This 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A was named Best of Show at the 2021 Salon Privé Concours d’Elégance presented by Aviva. Remarkably, it is the third Mercedes-Benz 540K variant to become a finalist in the Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award, each with coachwork created in 1938 by Mercedes-Benz own coachworks at Sindelfingen.
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This 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A was named Best of Show at the 2021 Salon Privé Concours d’Elégance presented by Aviva. Remarkably, it is the third Mercedes-Benz 540K variant to become a finalist in the Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award, each with coachwork created in 1938 by Mercedes-Benz own coachworks at Sindelfingen.
The award ceremony at the 2021 Salon Privé Concours d’Elégance presented by Aviva where the 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A took out the Best of Show award
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The award ceremony at the 2021 Salon Privé Concours d’Elégance presented by Aviva where the 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A took out the Best of Show award
The award ceremony at the 2021 Salon Privé Concours d’Elégance presented by Aviva where the 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A took out the Best of Show award
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The award ceremony at the 2021 Salon Privé Concours d’Elégance presented by Aviva where the 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A took out the Best of Show award
The award ceremony at the 2021 Salon Privé Concours d’Elégance presented by Aviva where the 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A took out the Best of Show award
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The award ceremony at the 2021 Salon Privé Concours d’Elégance presented by Aviva where the 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A took out the Best of Show award
Offering elegant two-seater accommodation allied to breathtaking performance, this rare and stylish 540 K cabriolet A is a beautiful example of this classic German model. As its maker said: 'a car for the connoisseur
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Offering elegant two-seater accommodation allied to breathtaking performance, this rare and stylish 540 K cabriolet A is a beautiful example of this classic German model. As its maker said: 'a car for the connoisseur

Offering elegant two-seater accommodation allied to breathtaking performance, this rare and stylish 540 K cabriolet A is a beautiful example of this classic German model. As its maker said: 'a car for the connoisseur
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Offering elegant two-seater accommodation allied to breathtaking performance, this rare and stylish 540 K cabriolet A is a beautiful example of this classic German model. As its maker said: 'a car for the connoisseur

Offering elegant two-seater accommodation allied to breathtaking performance, this rare and stylish 540 K cabriolet A is a beautiful example of this classic German model. As its maker said: 'a car for the connoisseur
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Offering elegant two-seater accommodation allied to breathtaking performance, this rare and stylish 540 K cabriolet A is a beautiful example of this classic German model. As its maker said: 'a car for the connoisseur

Mercedes-Benz's flagship model 540K featured the company's famous Roots-type supercharger system in which pressing the accelerator pedal to the end of its travel would simultaneously engage the compressor and close off the alternative atmospheric intake to the carburettor. The sound that was produced is one of the most distinctive in the history of automobiles.
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Mercedes-Benz's flagship model 540K featured the company's famous Roots-type supercharger system in which pressing the accelerator pedal to the end of its travel would simultaneously engage the compressor and close off the alternative atmospheric intake to the carburettor. The sound that was produced is one of the most distinctive in the history of automobiles.
One of the most beautiful dashboards ever made, we're sad to say that it is plastic and not mother-of-pearl. Indeed, incredibly innovative plastic for its time, and just one of many examples of fine materials technology displayed in the 540K cabin.
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One of the most beautiful dashboards ever made, we're sad to say that it is plastic and not mother-of-pearl. Indeed, incredibly innovative plastic for its time, and just one of many examples of fine materials technology displayed in the 540K cabin.
Even the 540K steering wheel is a work of art. The rim is Bakelite and that's an ignition advance-retard lever in the hub.
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Even the 540K steering wheel is a work of art. The rim is Bakelite and that's an ignition advance-retard lever in the hub.
The straight-8 cylinder engine displaced 5,401 cubic centimetres (329.6 cu in), was fed by twin pressurized updraft carburetors, developing 115 hp (86 kW) in normall-aspirated mode. The Roots supercharger could be engaged manually for short periods, or automatically when the accelerator was pushed fully to the floor, increasing power to 180 hp (130 kW)
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The straight-8 cylinder engine displaced 5,401 cubic centimetres (329.6 cu in), was fed by twin pressurized updraft carburetors, developing 115 hp (86 kW) in normall-aspirated mode. The Roots supercharger could be engaged manually for short periods, or automatically when the accelerator was pushed fully to the floor, increasing power to 180 hp (130 kW)
The best of show car at Salon Prive with and without its top in place. Few cars in history look as balanced in both reposes.
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The best of show car at Salon Prive with and without its top in place. Few cars in history look as balanced in both reposes.
The best of show car at Salon Prive was last on the market in 2015 when it sold for €2,760,000 at a Bonhams' Sale at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. That purchase proved to be particularly astute.
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The best of show car at Salon Prive was last on the market in 2015 when it sold for €2,760,000 at a Bonhams' Sale at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. That purchase proved to be particularly astute.
The best of show car at Salon Prive was last on the market in 2015 when it sold for €2,760,000 at a Bonhams' Sale at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. That purchase proved to be particularly astute.
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The best of show car at Salon Prive was last on the market in 2015 when it sold for €2,760,000 at a Bonhams' Sale at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. That purchase proved to be particularly astute.
This Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A was collected by its first owner on 12 October 1936 from the Mercedes-Benz showroom in Paris. The owner of the well-known Parisian night-club Bar Americain 'La Roulotte', he regularly hosted artists of world renown such as Edith Piaf and Django Reinhardt.
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This Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A was collected by its first owner on 12 October 1936 from the Mercedes-Benz showroom in Paris. The owner of the well-known Parisian night-club Bar Americain 'La Roulotte', he regularly hosted artists of world renown such as Edith Piaf and Django Reinhardt.
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While it has always been overshadowed by the rarer Mercedes-Benz 540K Spezial Roadster, the Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A is still regarded by many as the prettiest of the 540K siblings, with an outright win at the 1973 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance the model’s most celebrated concours achievement. And that is now joined by a Best of Show award at the 2021 Salon Privé Concours d’Elégance presented by Aviva.

Only eight concours events in the world provide the finalists for the Peninsula Classics "Best of the Best" Award, and the Salon Privé Concours d’Elégance held at majestic Blenheim Palace, 60 miles from London each September, is one of them.

In a fabulous twist of fate, there are now three 540K models destined for the Peninsula Classics "Best of the Best" final in Paris next February, as a 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Spezial Roadster won the 2021 Rolex Best of Show award at the Quail, and the Best Of Show at the 2021 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance went to a 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn Kurier.

The three Mercedes-Benz 540Ks will be joined in the "Best of the Best" final by the 1974 Lancia Stratos that took out the Goodwood Cartier Style et Luxe Concours, the 1952 Ferrari 212 Inter Cabriolet Pinin Farina that took Best of Show at the 2021 Cavallino Classic Concorso d’Eleganza, the 1926 Hispano-Suiza H6B Cabriolet that won Best in Show at the 2021 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, and the 1934 Voisin C27 Aérosport that won Best of Show at the 2021 Concours of Elegance on the same weekend as Salon Prive.

There’s only one more big concours event left to complete the finalists and that is Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este on October 3, 2021 as the 2021 Chantilly Arts & Elégance Richard Mille has been moved to 2022.

Offering elegant two-seater accommodation allied to breathtaking performance, this rare and stylish 540 K cabriolet A is a beautiful example of this classic German model. As its maker said: 'a car for the connoisseur
Offering elegant two-seater accommodation allied to breathtaking performance, this rare and stylish 540 K cabriolet A is a beautiful example of this classic German model. As its maker said: 'a car for the connoisseur

The 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Cabriolet A (chassis number 154076) may not be quite as exclusive as the Spezial Roadster, but records show that it is nonetheless an extremely rare beast.

Launched at the Paris Motor Show in October 1936, the 540K had an engine that developed 115 bhp un-supercharged or 180 bhp with the compressor engaged. Depressing the accelerator all the way to the floor engaged the blower, and the sound of the Mercedes-Benz Kompressor is one of the most distinctive and thrilling automotive sounds you’ll ever hear.

The straight-8 cylinder engine displaced 5,401 cubic centimetres (329.6 cu in), was fed by twin pressurized updraft carburetors, developing 115 hp (86 kW) in normall-aspirated mode. The Roots supercharger could be engaged manually for short periods, or automatically when the accelerator was pushed fully to the floor, increasing power to 180 hp (130 kW)
The straight-8 cylinder engine displaced 5,401 cubic centimetres (329.6 cu in), was fed by twin pressurized updraft carburetors, developing 115 hp (86 kW) in normall-aspirated mode. The Roots supercharger could be engaged manually for short periods, or automatically when the accelerator was pushed fully to the floor, increasing power to 180 hp (130 kW)

With the supercharger engaged, the 540K's straight-eight had a top speed approaching 110 mph (177 km/h) and was one of the few genuine 100-mph road cars available in the 1930s.

In May 1938, the 540 K was tested by Motor's rival magazine Autocar and achieved the highest maximum speed of any road-test car up to that date: carrying three passengers, the car reached 104.65 mph (168.5 km/h) on the race circuit at Brooklands, Surrey. "One's foot goes hard down, and an almost demonical howl comes in," reported test driver H S Linfield. "The rev counter and speedometer needles leap round their dials: there is perhaps no other car noise in the world so distinctive as that produced by the Mercedes supercharger."

Although the 500 K/540 K chassis was sometimes sent to the bespoke coachbuilders of the day, the company's own Sindelfingen coachwork left little room for improvement and less than 20 percent of 500K/540K chassis produced were clothed outside the Mercedes-Benz ecosystem.

The best of show car at Salon Prive with and without its top in place. Few cars in history look as balanced in both reposes.
The best of show car at Salon Prive with and without its top in place. Few cars in history look as balanced in both reposes.

The manufacturing record of the 540K shows 97 units were produced in 1936, 145 in 1937, 95 in 1938 and 69 in 1939 before the war ended series production. Just 83 of those vehicles were given Cabriolet A bodywork, and around half of those survive, giving it the ideal number for an ultra-desirable auction block superstar.

The Mercedes-Benz 540K platform was the basis of the most exclusive car in the world during the 1930s. At a time when most of the world’s elite automotive marques failed to survive the Great Depression, the 540K endured and prospered at least partially due to the patronage of Adolf Hitler.

Just shy of 50 Mercedes-Benz 540Ks were developed as armored saloons for ministers and the leaders of countries friendly to Germany. German Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering famously had a blue 540K nicknamed the Blue Goose, and Hitler’s girlfriend Eva Braun also had a Mercedes-Benz 540K. Other celebrities of the day to own one included Grand Prix star Rudolf Caracciola (an earlier 500K) and Jack L. Warner of Warner Brothers film studios. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini purchased one as a present for his son-in-law, Count Galeazzo Ciano, and the model price record of $11,770,000 is held by a 540K Spezial Roadster once owned by Baroness Gisela von Krieger of Prussia.

This Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A was collected by its first owner on 12 October 1936 from the Mercedes-Benz showroom in Paris. The owner of the well-known Parisian night-club Bar Americain 'La Roulotte', he regularly hosted artists of world renown such as Edith Piaf and Django Reinhardt.
This Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A was collected by its first owner on 12 October 1936 from the Mercedes-Benz showroom in Paris. The owner of the well-known Parisian night-club Bar Americain 'La Roulotte', he regularly hosted artists of world renown such as Edith Piaf and Django Reinhardt.

The von Krieger 540 K Special Roadster isn’t that much more special than any other spezial roadster, but as the ultimate representation of the hedonistic lifestyle of society's elite, it has generated stories in the New York Times, Robb Report, Los Angeles Times, and Forbes magazine, not to mention a book.

No-one who can afford a genuine Special Roadster will keep it in anything less than perfect condition and that delicious provenance made all the difference when Gisela's Roadster crossed the auction block at Pebble Beach, elevating her 1936 540 K Special Roadster to a world record price for the model.

Among the very elite of international 1930s European society, the beautiful Baroness was named one of the 10 most fashionable women in the world during the 1930s, led a very colorful lifestyle and kept the car stored untouched for three decades until her passing in 1989.

David Gooding of Gooding & Co saw the car still in storage when he was heading up Christie's automotive department, and recalls her driving maps and one elegant glove in the glove compartment, plus her lipstick-stained cigarette butts in the ashtray.

Rich in both 'cash and looks', Baroness von Krieger's ethereal beauty, which was an ash-blond version combining the facial features of both Garbo and Dietrich, as well as her matchless elegance, bear credence to the account that one desperate admirer threw himself out of his plane over the English Channel when she refused to marry him. As a testament to her popularity amongst the male of the species, Gisela received virtually all of her important jewelry from her numerous admirers. – Esoteric Curiosa
Rich in both 'cash and looks', Baroness von Krieger's ethereal beauty, which was an ash-blond version combining the facial features of both Garbo and Dietrich, as well as her matchless elegance, bear credence to the account that one desperate admirer threw himself out of his plane over the English Channel when she refused to marry him. As a testament to her popularity amongst the male of the species, Gisela received virtually all of her important jewelry from her numerous admirers. – Esoteric Curiosa 

Esoteric Curiosa best encapsulated her lifestyle with this paragraph: Rich in both 'cash and looks', Baroness von Krieger's ethereal beauty, which was an ash-blond version combining the facial features of both Garbo and Dietrich, as well as her matchless elegance, bear credence to the account that one desperate admirer threw himself out of his plane over the English Channel when she refused to marry him. As a testament to her popularity amongst the male of the species, Gisela received virtually all of her important jewelry from her numerous admirers.

The provenance of nearly all of the cars that have gone to auction is steeped in the elite and privileged., which seems to make the Mercedes-Benz Cabriolet A somewhat of a bargain as a concours car – size, presence, elegance, world-leading performance, a sound that will imprint itself forever on the brain, and ... winning world-class concours events such as Salon Prive and Pebble Beach validates the design. Yet, the highest estimate ever placed on a 540K Cabriolet A at auction was "$3,000,000 - $4,000,000" by RM Sotheby's at Amelia Island in 2016. That was for the car which took out Best of Show at the 1973 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance

What's more, the model record for the 540K Cabriolet A stands at just over $3 million. With the success of this car, we decided to have a quick look back at auction prices and below are the 540K Cabiolet A cars that have sold for more than $1 million at auction.

The point of this exercise is to point out that the Cabriolet A sells at a lot lower price point than its performance at auction.

$3,051,370 | €2,242,500 | 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A

Estimate: Not Known
Official Auction Page
Lot 29 | Bonhams | Stuttgart, Germany | 12 July 2014
This car is pictured above in 1936 outside the Parisian night-club 'La Roulotte'.

$3,005,916 | €2,760,000 | 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A

Estimate: Not Available
Official Auction Page
Lot 119 | Bonhams | Stuttgart, Germany | 28 March 2015
Delivered new on 5 February 1938, chassis number '154076' was first owned by a Berlin advertising agency whose proprietor was one Georg Niedermeier. This is the car that won the Salon Prive Best of Show.

$3,001,910 | €2,324,000 | 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Sport Cabriolet A

Estimate: €2,000,000 - €2,400,000
Official Auction Page
Lot 353 | RM Sotheby's | Monaco, Monaco | 12 May 2012
This car also sold at RM Auctions (now RM Sotheby’s) in Monterey in 2011 for $2,970,000.

$2,970,000 | 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Sport Cabriolet A

Estimate: Not Available
Official Auction Page
Lot 167 | Bonhams | Amelia Island, U.S. | 10 March 2016

$2,585,000 | 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Sport Cabriolet A

Estimate: Not Known
Official Auction Page
Lot 257| RM Sotheby's | Monterey, U.S. | 19 August 2017

$2,549,954 | €2,255,000 | 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A

Estimate: Not Known
Official Auction Page
Lot 134 | RM Sotheby's | Essen, Germany | 12 April 2019

$2,145,500 | 1941 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A

Estimate: Refer Department
Official Auction Page (No longer available)
Lot 122 | Gooding & Company | Pebble Beach, U.S. | 15 August 2010

$1,797,248 | €1,581,250 | 1939 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A

Estimate: Not Known
Official Auction Page
Lot 240 | Bonhams | Paris, France | 7 February 2019

$1,602,891 | €1,221,250 | 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A

Estimate: €1,250,000 - €1,650,000
Official Auction Page: Not Available
Lot 318 | Christie’s | Paris, France | 17 February 2007

$1,485,000 | 1939 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A Body Conversion

Estimate: Not Known
Official Auction Page
Lot 1376 | Barrett-Jackson | Scottsdale, U.S. | 30 January 2016

$1,371,084 | £660,000 | 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A

Estimate: £750,000 to £1,000,000
Official Auction Page
Lot 216 | RM Sotheby's | London, U.K. | 31 October 2007
This car was owned by former Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, whose 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster became the most expensive Mercedes-Benz ever sold at the same auction when it fetched £3,905,000 ($8,112,247)

$1,312,500 | 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A

Estimate: Not Known
Official Auction Page
Lot 401 | Bonhams | Scottsdale, U.S. | 17 January 2013

$1,297,500 | 1941 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A

Estimate: $1,500,000 - $2,200,000
Official Auction Page (No longer available)
Lot 163 | Gooding & Company | Pebble Beach, U.S. | 17 August 2019

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Crimsontiger6
So the super rich pay restorers mega bucks to win car beauty pageants for them? Then the cars sit in some climate controlled vault until the next round of auctions. It's a living I guess.