Seventy-six years after leaving the factory, one of the world’s most extraordinary Mercedes-Benz motor cars will be presented for public sale for the first time at Gooding & Company’s prestigious Pebble Beach Auctions on August 18 and 19. The 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster once owned by Baroness Gisela Josephine von Krieger is expected to fetch a handsome eight figures price, during the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Fewer than 10 such cars are said to survive in comparable condition, and Gooding, who is now the president of his own auction house, Gooding and Company, believes the completely restored roadster might set the record for the most expensive car ever sold at auction. As one of Mercedes-Benz’ ultra-rare 540 K Special Roadsters, the von Krieger Special Roadster is already a special car, yet it ranks superior to other examples because of its unrivalled condition, history and provenance, says David Gooding, President and founder of Gooding & Company. Its complete restoration, beautiful story and thoroughly documented history make it absolutely extraordinary and perhaps the finest 540 K Special Roadster in existence. It is the most exciting pre-war Mercedes-Benz I’ve ever known.
Von Krieger’s Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster is one of 26 540K Special Roadsters, and was built on special order before World War II. With chassis number 130949, this long-tail, high-door car with exposed-spare, was purchased new in year 1936 by the aristocratic Von Kriegner family for the use of son Henning, but the beautiful Baroness Gisela Josephine Von Krieger, who is described as one of the 10 most fashionable women in the world, as per Gooding, eventually made this car her own. She then saved it from the potential destruction in Germany, first shipped to Switzerland, then to U.S. after the end of war. Though, she lived in Manhattan, but Baroness kept the 540K safely at the Homestead Inn in Greenwich area, even after when she moved back in early 1960s to Switzerland.
In 1989, when she died of a heart attack, she was living in Havishamian squalor, with $320,000 worth of jewels by Cartier and others — later auctioned off by Sotheby’s — scattered around her filthy apartment.
The 540 K remained an undisturbed time capsule, with such items as the Baroness’s driving maps, lipstick-stained cigarette butts and silk gloves intact. After the estate was settled, the Special Roadster was sold to its current owner, who has cared for the car ever since.
Under the guidance of the car’s current owner, the high-door, long-tail Special Roadster was recently restored to its original condition by Chris Charlton, whose restorations have won Best of Show at Pebble Beach. Just as it was upon leaving the factory in 1936, the Special Roadster is finished in black and chrome over a Cognac-colored leather interior and remains distinctively marked by the von Krieger family crest, hand-painted on the upper portion of the driver’s door.
To break the record for a car sold at auction, Gooding will have to outdo himself: Last year, his company sold a 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa for a chart-topping $16,390,000 at Pebble Beach.
Even so, Gooding’s prediction may not be that far-fetched. A similar 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster broke into the top 10 most expensive cars sold at auction last year. That car went for $9,680,000 at RM Auctions’ Monterey event—but that nearly eight-figure purchase price didn’t buy the enchanting history that accompanies Baroness von Krieger’s Benz. [Gooding & Company]