In the world of vintage Mercedes Benz cars, the 540K is the Holy Grail. Produced from 1936-1943, the Mercedes 540K featured a 110-hp 5.4 liter straight-8, with an (optional) synchronized 5-speed transmission. However, if you flicked a switch, or stomped the Go-Pedal, a massive supercharger kicked in, giving the you 180-hp…very suddenly. In its day, the Mercedes 540K was the fastest production car on earth (110 MPH top speed). And 336 of the 406 that were made, were built to order by Mercedes’ in-house coach building team (which consisted of 1,500 skilled tradesmen) in Sindelfingen.
One of those bespoke 1936 540K Spezial Roadsters was built for the von Krieger family, which were Prussian Royalty. Their son Henning took delivery of the custom-built supercar (think 1936 Bugatti Veyron), but his 23 year old sister Gisela, basically took it from him.
The 1936 Mercedes 540K von Krieger Special was designed by Hermann Ahrens, who was the head of Mercedes’ Special Vehicles Department. It featured a 2-seat high-door long-tail body, with an exposed spare tire. Cognac colored hides were used on the interior, and the von Krieger family crest was hand painted at the top of the driver’s door.
Gisela moved among Europe’s social elite, often staying at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, or the Hotel Martinez in Cannes. After the war broke out, the Third Reich ordered that all of the aristocracy return to Germany, so they could be protected by the SS. Gisela however, had strong English ties, and even attended King George VI’s coronation. Soon after returning to Germany, the Baroness fled to Switzerland, and had the 540K shipped to her from France.
Once the family reunited after the war, Gisela & Hermann decided to move to New York and start a new life. The car was shipped to America aboard the Queen Elizabeth, and Gisela kept the car garaged at her summer residence at the Homestead Inn in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Baroness von Krieger returned to Switzerland in 1959, and remained there until her death in 1989. In 1992, attorneys for her estate contacted Christies auction house, and spoke to a young auction rep named David Gooding. The car had been sitting the Greenwich garage ever since Gisela left America, and the ashtray still contained her lipstick stained cigarettes. Her silk gloves and roadmaps were also in the glovebox.
Though Gooding tried to get the listing for Christies, a private buyer beat him to the punch. Now 20 years later, that same buyer consigned the fully restored von Krieger 540K to Gooding’s auction house (Gooding & Company). And it will cross the block in August at Gooding’s Pebble Beach sale.
Gooding is hoping that Baroness von Krieger’s 1936 Mercedes 540K Special Roadster will eclipse the ‘World record price paid for a Mercedes Benz at auction’ ($8.8 Million), which RM Auctions achieved last year for a silver 1937 Mercedes 540K Special Roadster.
This 1936 Mercedes Benz 540K is beautiful car, that was owned by a beautiful woman, and driven to some of the most beautiful places on earth. Commanding more than $8.8 million dollars would be fitting for such a car. We’ll let you know how it turns out in August.