Interested in owning a piece of Mercedes-Benz and European history in car form? This 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster has a plethora of stories to tell, and it’s going up for auction at the annual Gooding & Co. auction at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance car show. It was originally owned by German Baroness Gisela von Krieger.
Von Krieger’s brother Henning originally paid about $7,000 for the Mercedes. This Sunday, it’s likely to fetch at least $10 million and could break the $16.4-million record for any auto sold at auction when it’s put up for bid at the splashy Gooding & Co. auction that follows the Pebble BeachConcours d’Elegancecar show. The vehicle is owned by New Hampshire businessman Lee Herrington, who made his money through catalog sales of preppy clothing, shoes and gadgets.
How it got to the auction is the story of a German aristocrat who defied the Nazis and saved a glossy black Mercedes-Benz two-seater that today is rarer than a Stradivarius violin. Experts have dubbed it the automotive equivalent of a coveted Picasso.
“It is one of those cars that exemplify everything that is desirable about a classic automobile,” said Leslie Kendall, curator of the Petersen Automotive Museum. “It is gorgeous, it is powerful, it is rare and it was expensive.”
Known as the Von Krieger Special Roadster, it was the favorite ride of Baroness Gisela von Krieger, a member of the Prussian nobility. She had a prewar romantic dalliance with a mysterious Jewish Englishman and, when the war started, refused orders from the Third Reich to return home from France.
Instead, Von Krieger and her mother fled to Switzerland. But the prized Mercedes was stuck at the Daimler-Benz plant in Germany where it was undergoing repairs after an accident. The baroness settled the bill and had the automaker ship the car by rail to Switzerland. Los Angeles Times, 15 August 2012.
Read the full history of the car on the LA Times website. It’s well worth it.