The Mercedes-Benz 540K was one of the most prestigious and most beautiful automobiles of the interwar years. Its combination of power, light weight and sheer beauty made it the master of the road, and it was a testimonial to the astonishing capabilities of the German automotive engineers of the day. It was also breathtakingly expensive, guaranteeing exclusivity amongst its owners. Just 419 chassis were built, and of those, only 25 carried the superlative long-tail Special Roadster coachwork that may well have been the high point of the coachbuilder’s art at Mercedes-Benz’s own “Sonderwagenbau” in Sindelfingen.
The ultimate Mercedes-Benz 540K was the Special Roadster. Exceptional at the time, the 540K Special Roadster has subsequently firmly established itself at the pinnacle of classic cars. The car was priced at 28,000 Reichsmark (about $12,000 in Germany at the prevailing exchange rate). The New York importer charged $14,000 for a 540K Special in the United States — which was about 40% more than the most expensive catalog-bodied Cadillac V16.
Of the 25 540K Special Roadsters, only a few were created in the long-tail style with a cover over the single spare tire recessed into the rear deck, one of which is the car offered here.
Sam and Emily Mann had always wanted a 540K Special Roadster. As owners of some of the finest coachbuilt American and European pre-war cars and, at last count, four-time Best of Show winners at both the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, it was only fitting that a supercharged, eight-cylinder Mercedes-Benz be added to their collection.
Mr. and Mrs. Mann sent noted American restorer Paul Russell to Germany to inspect this car. His positive report, which confirmed the car’s originality, convinced them to buy the car.
Following acquisition in 1998, a collaborative effort in the United States completed the car’s restoration. This work was done by two of the finest restoration shops in the United States: Stone Barn Restorations in New Jersey and Mann’s own in-house team, which was responsible for all his Best of Show awards to that point.
The result was nothing short of spectacular. It has been maintained ever since in the Mann’s private, climate-controlled collection and serviced by the on-site team while being driven sparingly. The car presents beautifully, from the flowing fenders to the lovely interior and stunning dashboard. Just last year, the car was honored with the Best of Show award and “Best Mercedes” at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance — a testament to the quality of restoration and preservation, which was first honored by First in Class and Best Mercedes at Pebble Beach in 2004. Most recently, the car was featured at the gala opening of Mercedes-Benz’s newest, 330,000-square-foot corporate dealership in Manhattan, where it was photographed with celebrities and Mercedes executives.
In preparation for this car’s offering at Monterey, two veteran experts from Mercedes-Benz Classic Germany in Stuttgart personally visited the car at the Mann Collection. After the inspection, they were able to conclude that in their expert opinion, the car’s engine is original to the chassis, as both are correctly stamped 154140. The transmission number indicates that it is not original to this car but is of the correct type.