A 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster will be among the featured offerings at the Gooding & Company Pebble Beach 2012 auction, scheduled for August 18th and 19th in Pebble Beach, California. Seventy-six years after leaving the factory, the “von Krieger Special Roadster” will be presented for public sale for the first time during this year’s Monterey Classic Car Week.
“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.”
The Special Roadster was purchased new in 1936 by an aristocratic Prussian family who owned some of the finest automobiles of the era. The Special Roadster was initially enjoyed by the von Krieger’s son, Henning, before his sister, Gisela, assumed the driver’s seat for her own use. A natural pairing for the Hermann Ahrens-designed Special Roadster, Baroness von Krieger was widely recognized for her elegant style, and was aptly named one of the ten most fashionable women in the world. Among the elite of international society, the Baroness enjoyed a privileged life for many years, residing at the Ritz and Hotel Le Meurice in Paris, Hotel Martinez in Cannes, and frequenting the best European destinations and social events, including the coronation of King George VI. Suitors adored and admired her, and in one account a devastated gentleman jumped out of a plane to his death after his proposal of marriage was declined.
Unlike many supercharged Mercedes-Benz, which were often stolen or lost during the war, the von Krieger’s Special Roadster remained an important possession of the family, carefully stored and accounted for even while they lived outside of Germany avoiding Third Reich orders. In 1942, at the height of the war, Baroness Gisela shipped the car to Switzerland. After the war ended and the family reunited, Henning and Gisela moved to New York, shipping the Special Roadster on the Queen Elizabeth, in an effort to start a new life. To escape the city’s heat, Baroness von Krieger summered at the Homestead Inn in Greenwich, where she kept her Special Roadster.
Following the death of her brother and mother, Baroness Gisela returned to Switzerland where she lived as a recluse until her passing in 1989. Still among her possessions was the Mercedes-Benz Special Roadster, tucked away in a Greenwich garage for the better part of four decades. 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.
While Gooding & Company has not placed an estimate on the 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster due to the car’s “unprecedented historical significance and provenance,” the auction house is “confident that this rare and exquisite car will realize a world record for the marque.”
The Gooding & Company Pebble Beach 2012 auction will be staged Saturday and Sunday, August 18 and 19 at the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center, located at the corner of Portola Road and Stevenson Drive. Preview days will start on Wednesday, August 15 continuing through Sunday, August 19. The auctions will commence at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. Gooding & Company’s Pebble Beach Auctions catalogues are available for $100 and admit two to the viewing and the auctions. General admission tickets to the viewing and auctions may be purchased on site for $40.