Two ultra-rare Mercedes-Benz automobiles, considered by many to be among the most valuable in existence, will be showcased through April 2018 at the Gilmore Car Museum near Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Both vehicles are German-built Mercedes-Benz 540 K models. The 540 K was introduced at the Paris Motor Show in 1936 and featured a supercharged 8 cylinder that could easily propel it down the German Autobahn at speeds exceeding 100 mph. The car instantly became a favorite of the ultra-wealthy elite.
Included in the list of the prestigious 540 K models’ owners was the Baroness Gisela von Krieger of Prussia, movie mogul Jack Warner of Warner Brother’s Studios, and Actor Clark Gable, best known for his role in Gone With The Wind.
The Mercedes-Benz 540 K models displayed at the Gilmore Car Museum include an original 1936 Special Roadster with remarkably low 10,000 miles driven and a 1938 Sport Tourer that had been hidden away in a basement-bunker in East Germany during the cold war and only discovered decades later.
The 1936 Mercedes 540 K Special Roadster sold new to U.S. resident Reginald Sinclaire, heir to the Corning Glass fortune, a WWI Flying Ace and noted car collector. This 10,000-mile factory issued left-hand-drive Special Roadster has only changed hands three times and is considered the most original survivor in existence.
As one of only six “longtail” Special Roadsters produced—sporting disappearing convertible top, steep “V” split windshield and hidden spare tire—this 1936 is the ultimate 540 K drop-top.
Also joining the Museum exhibit is a 1938 Mercedes Offener Tourenwagen (Sport Tourer) of which only two were ever built. This sole surviving example is on special loan exclusive to the Gilmore Car Museum.
The car’s whereabouts during the ravages of World War II are unknown, but at some point it was concealed in a bunker-like basement of a Dresden home where it remained for decades. This remarkable survivor was discovered only after the fall of the Berlin Wall, completely entombed behind a sealed-off brick wall where the outside doors and windows had been bricked up and hidden by a rose garden.
“It’s amazing to think that automobiles of this caliber and historical importance both survived WWII Germany and Soviet-controlled East Germany,” remarked Jay Follis, Marketing Director for the Gilmore Car Museum.
He went on to explain that both automobiles will only be showcased at the Gilmore Car Museum until April 2018.
The supercharged Mercedes 540 K, built between 1936 and 1940, has become legendary around the world for its exquisite beauty and breath-taking performance. Prior to World War II, Mercedes-Benz was arguably one of the world’s most prestigious automakers: the cars of kings, captains of industry, and the rich and famous alike.
Many historians, automotive journalists and collectors consider the Mercedes-Benz 540 K series as the finest auto made during the pre-WWII era and the zenith of motorcar luxury.
Worldwide auction house RM-Sotheby’s describes the Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadsters, “among the most instantly recognizable, valuable and desirable of all automobiles of the Classic Era.”
“We are indebted to the generosity of the private collectors who have afforded the general public the opportunity to marvel at these two magnificent vehicles while on display here,” said Museum Executive Director Christopher Shires.
The Gilmore Car Museum near Kalamazoo displays nearly 400 vehicles year-round and currently offers two additional special interest exhibits—muscle cars and vintage trucks—that run through April. To learn more about the museum, their exhibits and events visit GilmoreCarMuseum.org
# # #
Photos – please credit 1936 to RM Sothebys and 1938 to David Lyon / Gilmore Car Museum.