Mercedes-Benz 540K Leads Academy of Art Collection Sale
Richard A. Stephens, former Academy of Art University president, always had a penchant for cars, a sentiment that has been passed down to his daughter and current president of the Academy, Dr. Elisa Stephens. Desiring to offer automotive design at the Academy, Mr. Stephens wanted to give students a design perspective that they would not be able to receive anywhere else. With access to a museum of rare and classic vehicles, students could study exquisite design and apply that sense of craftsmanship to their own artistic pursuits.
The school’s automobile museum preserves and pays homage to these classic fixtures of international automotive innovation and also provides inspiration and a sense of history to students that attend Academy of Art University. Special guests, student groups and the general public are now able to observe, admire and study this rare collection, in San Francisco, California.
Mecum Auctions has been selected to offer seven cars, from the museum, for sale at is August 23-25 sale, in Monterey. These seven vehicles include:
The 540K took the baton from the 500K, which was an evolution of the earlier SSK, a true dual-purpose road/racecar. The 540K offered large levels of refinement over its predecessors not only in handling and power, but in build quality and refinement as well. Like so many high-end cars of the era, the 540K could be fit with a number of bodies ranging from a two-seat roadster to a fully armored limousine. Arguably the most elegant of the group was the 540K Cabriolet with its elongated wheelbase, slightly longer body, seating for four and carefully crafted exterior styling. The interiors were remarkably luxurious not just for their cradling seats, but also for the materials that were used to craft them. Each 540K was ordered to specification by the customer, so each 540K is essentially unique. Costing around 25,000 Reichsmark, roughly the cost of a nicely appointed home, they were absolutely for the pinnacle of the well-to-do.
Initially purchased through Mercedes-Benz Berlin, via Internal Order No. 257645, this 540K was first used as a demonstrator and registered on August 24, 1937. The subject of a comprehensive restoration, this car features its original engine, chassis and body, which were carefully refurbished to an astonishing level of fit and finish.
The newly organized Duesenberg company introduced the Model J in December of 1928, at the New York City Car Show and then in Paris in 1929. The original goal was to sell about 500 cars per year, but, thanks to the Great Depression, only 300 orders were initially taken. This 1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Sedan—Chassis No. 2284 with Engine No. J-262—is one of 31 convertible sedans with Murphy coachwork. This exquisite motorcar’s known ownership history is quite impressive. This beautiful example was purchased new in 1929, and the car’s second owner in 1933 was Reverend J. A. Hawkins. Rev. Hawkins retained the car until May 16, 1939, when the car was sold to Ernest S. Hennessey. Hennessey owned the car until 1945, where it then went through a known of chain of owners until it was sold to real estate investor Paul Lapidus of Great Neck, New York, in 1981. In December of 1989, Lapidus decided to sell the car to well-known car collector, Sonny Abagnale of Cedar Grove, New Jersey. Mr. Abagnale finished the restoration, and in 1991, the car achieved AACA Senior honors. In January of 1996, noted collector John Groendyke of Enid, Oklahoma, purchased it. Two years later, the next owner purchased the car and retained ownership until 2006. It was acquired by another collector who maintained the car for four years. In 2010, the car was sold to its current owner.
One of only two 1936 Packard Super Eight Dual Cowl Sport Phaetons known to exist, this one has been awarded both Best American Classic and Best in Class at the Meadowbrook Concours d’Elegance. Having undergone a comprehensive, five-year restoration, the body was lifted off the chassis and components were taken apart, cleaned, inspected and restored or replaced as needed. The car received a mechanical overhaul including the brakes and differential. The interior was restored with correct materials and patterns. The body was sprayed a rich red-burgundy color and detailed with a golden pinstripe which blends well with the tan top and interior. Rated at 150 HP, the inline 8-cylinder engine is No. 757663 and displaces 384 CI; 1936 marked the final year for this engine. A 3-speed manual transmission with a floor-mounted shifter feeds power to the rear wheels and 4-wheel drum brakes with vacuum assist help ease the 139-inch wheelbase car down from speed. Highly optioned, the car is equipped with dual side-mount spares with metal cases and accessory mirrors atop, chrome wire wheels, wide whitewall tires, the Goddess of Speed mascot, twin spotlights, a luggage rack and, of course, dual cowls. Formerly owned by collectors Dave Kane and Tom Crook, professional golfer Gene Littler was also once a caretaker of this Phaeton.
Other vehicles being offered include:
For more details on the Academy of Art Collection visit Mecum Auctions