1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet ASOLD

One French gentleman owner from new

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Estimate 1,250,000 - 1,650,000 Euros
Result (incl.) 1,221,250 Euros

Dark blue over cream with matching two tone leather interior and black leather soft top

Engine: straight eight, in-line, overhead valve, 5,401cc., 115bhp or 180bhp with supercharger engaged at 3,400rpm; Gearbox: four-speed manual; Suspension: independent coil spring suspension front and rear; Brakes: four wheel drum. Left hand drive.

Model History

At the end of the 1920s, the magnificent old Mercedes S, SS and SSK models still enjoyed enormous success both as road and racing cars, notably at the German Grand Prix and the European Hillclimb Championship which went to Rudolf Carraciola's SSK in 1930. But plainly something was needed to revive the regular German motor industry, where the eighty-six different firms in 1924 had dropped to seventeen in 1928. Mercedes-Benz responded by transferring production from the old Benz factory to Stuttgart-Untertürkheim and developing new smaller models, of which the 170 and rear engined 130 are best known.

The large luxury cars were now selling in very small numbers, but prestige demanded that both these and a racing program should not be ignored. The redoubtable Silver Arrows were the result of the commitment to racing, while the eight cylinder 500 which appeared in 1933 was the first of a new breed of exotic grand touring and formal motor cars. A supercharged version of the 500 soon arrived, but even so sales were extremely limited and in 1935 accounted for only 190 cars. Top speed was 160 km/h and new chief engineer Gustav Rohr, well known for the advanced Rohr cars of the era, progressively improved the car. He was also involved with the awesome Mercedes-Benz racing cars of the time, which saw Hermann Lang, Manfred von Brauchitsch and Rudolf Caracciola sweep virtually all before them.

An enlarged 5.4 litre version was developed in 1934/5 and made its first appearance at the Paris Salon in October 1936. Daimler-Benz was without doubt very proud of their latest achievement and their publicity material sums up the aura of the model: "The name conjures up visions of breath-taking exploits of racing cars and drivers of international fame, but also of superlative comfort and coachwork of exquisite beauty, fine paintwork, brightly polished metal, the finest hardwoods and leather - massive and yet outstandingly attractive bodies - in short: the car for the connoisseur."

The eight cylinder 540K engine developed 115bhp, or 180bhp with the supercharger engaged, giving the car a top speed of approximately 170km/h. Other improvements over the 500K included chassis refinements, uprated suspension and a better braking system. Factory records indicate that some 419 examples of the 540K were produced between 1936 and 1939. However, only ten of this particular highly desirable 'interim' 540K Cabriolet A version with 500K bodywork were produced and only in 1936.

History of this car

Chassis number 130946 is a quite magnificent ultra rare 'interim' 540K Cabriolet A that was ordered on June 3rd 1936 with internal order number 226106. In the car's file there is a fax by DaimlerChrysler A.G. from 2002, confirming that indeed a mere ten cars left the factory built to this 'interim' specification. Its bodywork was finished at the Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen factory on July 13th, 1936. On October 12th 1936 its proud first and current owner, collected the finished car from Mercedes-Benz Paris. He can be seen in an archive shot posing with his new acquisition in front of the well known Parisian nightclub - Bar Americain 'La Roulotte', which he owned together with his sister. Hosting world reknowned artists such as Edith Piaf and Django Reinhardt the Mercedes parked outside must have caused a sensation even in period! The car remained in France throughout the war and to the best of our knowledge has never left French soil since being delivered new to Paris.

In 1993 the owner decided to undertake a full nut and bolt restoration to original specification and colour scheme, down to the smallest detail such as the leather bonnet strap ordered from new. This meticulous restoration was carried out to the highest standards by Dominique Tessier near Tours, hugely respected for his restoration work on the highest calibre of collectors' motor cars. The bodywork was removed from the wooden frame and restored where necessary. Nothing was overlooked on the mechanical side and the engine, gearbox, axles, brakes, suspension and starter were all fully rebuilt. Cosmetically no details were left untouched and the car received a new top, upholstery and interior, the instruments were rebuilt and all chrome parts were redone. The result is truly stunning and since the restoration, partly due to the owner's age, the car has been driven over relatively short distances but on a regular basis by Mr. Tessier himself, accompanied by the owner at least once a year.

This superb Cabriolet A retains all of its original major components: chassis, engine and bodywork having remained in the same ownership from new. The radiator on this example is positioned back behind the front axle and the twin spare wheels are mounted at the rear. These features are also found on the 540K Special Roadsters, thus these two body styles are among the most sought after of all the factory coachwork. With such striking bodylines these cars had a far more sporting appearance than the more common production cars. These highly sought after supercharged Mercedes-Benz were among the ultimate cars that money could buy in the late 1930s.

The beautiful proportions exude both power and grace. Appreciation of such fine machinery can really only be done in person and we thoroughly recommend that prospective buyers take the opportunity to view the car. This is undoubtedly among the finest restored 540Ks that Christie's has had the pleasure of offering and it is the first time ever to our knowledge that a 540K Cabriolet A has been available at auction offered by its first owner after 70 years. The car comes with archive photographs, an original service invoice dated August 25th 1946 and a fully documented photographic restoration record, together with the relevant invoice. This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity not to be missed.

Reference Number 6931

as of 2/1/2007

Overview
Car 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A
VIN 130 946 
Exterior / Interior Color      Dark Blue 
Configuration Left Hand Drive (LHD) 
Options Exterior: Two-tone paint, Wire wheels
Interior: Leather interior 
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