A Hidden Mercedes-Benz Gem

by Nate Torvik on September 6, 2012

When you think about a used car and its value, you probably picture something along the lines of an early 2000s Toyota Camry, or if you’re a little older, maybe even a 1960s Datsun Fairlady (how’s that for a throwback?). It’s not often that one would think back to a vehicle so old and so rare that the people at Antiques Roadshow wouldn’t know what to do with it. Such is the case with an extremely rare 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Roadster found in Greenwich, Connecticut, hidden in a barn for 30 years. Imagine, a near-perfect piece of Mercedes history, in a barn for 30 years.

This particular Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster, named the Von Krieger Special Roadster, is one of the rarest works of Mercedes art still in existence. Originally owned by the Prussian Baroness Gisela von Krieger, this prestigious vehicle has a lot of history. Prior to World War II, von Krieger fell in love with a Jewish Englishman. After the war began, the Third Reich commanded that she move back to Germany from her residence in France–orders which she refused. To avoid being deported, Gisela and her mother fled to Switzerland.

All the while, a customized Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster was sitting in the Daimler-Benz plant in Germany, awaiting Gisela’s pickup after repairs from an accident. Unable to go back to Germany to retrieve the car, von Krieger paid to have the vehicle shipped to her location in Switzerland. After the war was over, the baroness claimed she was stateless and moved to the United States, first to New York, and then finally settling in Greenwich. Shortly thereafter, in 1958, she moved back to Switzerland and never again returned to little Greenwich, Connecticut.

While Gisela lived in Greenwich, the baroness stayed in many inns around the area, including the most important inn in the history of this exceptional and exquisite Mercedes, the Homestead Inn. Out back, in a barn in which utilities and carnival equipment were housed, slumbered the beautifully crafted 540K Roadster until 1989, a forgotten beauty waiting for its prince charming. The baroness passed away earlier that same year.

Manufactured in 1936 and then delivered to the baroness, this 540K, the epitome Mercedes-Benz craftsmanship, found its way to the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, fittingly one of the most prestigious car shows in the world. This valuable Mercedes-Benz was expected to break the highest price record paid for any vehicle at auction, a record which was set by a Ferrari Testa Rossa that sold for $16.4 million. The 540K sold for an astronomical $10.7 million at the auction. Regardless of the selling price, critics and car enthusiasts can all agree that this rare gem is one of the most legendary vehicles in the world today.

The Von Krieger is certainly a key figure in the rich history of Mercedes-Benz, so comparing it to any current Mercedes model just isn’t a fair fight. We look at other Mercedes models, such as the SLS AMG, and think these vehicles are the top-tier for Mercedes. A vehicle like the Von Krieger Special Roadster set a standard nearly 80 years ago, and still turns heads with its allure. We could all learn something from this used car.

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