Lot 159

2022   |   Pebble Beach Auctions

1937 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Sport Cabriolet A

From The Tony Vincent Estate Collection

SOLD $3,085,000


$1,750,000 - $2,000,000





Car Highlights

One of About Twelve 540 K Sport Cabriolets Known Extant

Among the Most Desirable of All 540 K Models

Multiple Concours Award Winner

Accomplished Tour and Show Veteran

A Classic Era Mercedes-Benz of Exquisite Design and Proportion

Technical Specs

5,401 CC Inline 8-Cylinder Engine

Roots-Type Supercharger

180 BHP at 3,400 RPM with Blower Engaged

4-Speed Manual Gearbox

4-Wheel Hydraulic Drum Brakes

Front Independent Suspension with A-Arms and Coil Springs

Rear Swing-Axle Suspension with Trailing Arms

Register to Bid

Garth Hammers

Dr. William Walter Birge, Paris, France (acquired new in 1937)

Private Collector, Baltimore, Maryland (acquired circa 1952)

Dr. Ernst Beeh, Stuttgart, Germany (acquired in 1980)

Axel Schuette, Oerlinghausen, Germany (acquired circa 2000)

Harvey “Skip” Berg, Tiburon, California (acquired from the above in 2001)

Ray Scherr, Westlake Village, California (acquired in 2002)

Tony Vincent (acquired from the above in 2010)

Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, August 2008 (Third in Class, Road & Track Trophy)

Avila Beach Concours d’Elegance, California, October 2008 (Best of Show)

Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance, California, 2010 (First in Class, Best of Show)

Dana Point Concours d’Elegance, California, 2012 (First in Class)

San Marino Motor Classic, 2014

Built in extremely limited numbers – 419 chassis in all – most of the Mercedes- Benz 540 Ks were clothed in elegant bodies designed by Sindelfingen, the official karosserie of Daimler-Benz. The 540 K utilized an overhead valve, eight-cylinder engine; with the supercharger engaged, it delivered massive torque and a locomotive-like 180 hp, which gave the elegant, if Teutonic, luxury car a conservative top speed of 105 mph.

The sophisticated Sport Cabriolet A coachwork built for this 540 K was finished at the Sindelfingen workshops on April 9, 1937, under internal order no. 1390882. From there, it was transported to Untertürkheim for final assembly and was subsequently fitted to chassis 154084. A difficult-to-obtain copy of the factory build sheet is included with the sale of the Mercedes-Benz. The completed car was a true masterwork; it had its radiator set back behind the front axle, long flowing fenders, rear-set cockpit, and short, sloping rear deck, and all were executed with impeccable proportion and detail.

On July 24, 1937, Dr. William Walter Birge collected his new 540 K from the factory and returned with it to his home in Paris. Dr. Birge, who served as US vice consul in Istanbul during WWII, retained 154084 for many years, presumably until his passing in 1952. It was around that time that the Mercedes-Benz was purchased by an American collector, and was exported to Baltimore, where it joined his collection. It is understood that the car remained on the East Coast until the late 1970s.

In 1980, the supercharged Cabriolet was imported to Germany, where it was delivered to the Mercedes-Benz Kompressor-Club president and founder, Dr. Ernst Beeh of Stuttgart. During his 21 years of ownership, Dr. Beeh used the Cabriolet A in European events and rallies including the Monte Carlo, Tour des Alpes, and Bertha-Benz. In total, Dr. Beeh covered an astounding 60,000 km in his prized 540 K Sport Cabriolet A.

Late in his ownership, Dr. Beeh commissioned Rolf Wagner, a respected marque expert and fellow Mercedes-Benz Kompressor-Club member, to do a full, body-off restoration that was carried out between 1997 and 1999. This meticulous process included restoration of the coachwork and its structure, and the engine, gearbox, axles, braking system, and suspension were all rebuilt with the intention of producing a car suited to show or tour. Final details included restoration of the instruments, replating of the brightwork, and fine-tuning throughout. After two years of intensive work, and nearly $400,000 in restoration costs, the Mercedes-Benz emerged, finished in cream, and looking as if it had just been delivered from the factory.

In 2001, the 540 K was returned to the US via respected dealer and enthusiast Axel Schuette, and in 2002, joined the formidable Southern California collection of Ray Scherr. In 2007, Mr. Scherr entrusted the Mercedes-Benz specialist Scott Grundfor of Arroyo Grande, California, to prepare the 540 K for competition at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®. With its mechanically superb German restoration serving as foundation, he set about the process of refinishing the car to Pebble Beach standards in dramatic black with black leather hides. In the afternoon ceremony, the car was doubly honored with a Third in Class award as well as the Road & Track Trophy, an award presented to the car that the editors of Road & Track would most like to drive.

In 2010, the stunning Cabriolet A joined Tony Vincent’s curated collection of rare classics and sports cars. It has been kept in top form and was exhibited at numerous shows around Southern California in the early 2010s, beginning with Best of Show accolades at the Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance.

As imposing and elegant as ever, this spectacular 540 K presents in show-quality condition and is poised to be a star of any automotive gathering. Possessing a rarely matched combination of quality, performance, style, and comfort, this 540 K walks the fine line between sports and luxury cars. From the pristine engine bay with its gleaming chrome pipes and engine-turned finishes, to the spectacular interior trim with its highly polished woodwork and mother-of-pearl instrument panel, this Mercedes-Benz is the automotive embodiment of sporting, classical elegance.

No great collection is truly complete without an attractive, open 540 K. The Sport Cabriolet A is considered to be the most beautifully proportioned of the line and is certainly the most desirable of the entire Sindelfingen Cabriolet series. Their rear-mounted spares, deeply backset radiator, and cockpit put them on a visual par with the 540 K Special Roadster. The cresting high-door design and voluptuous clamshell fenders place this stunning example among the most desirable of all Mercedes-Benz motorcars.

This 540 K Sport Cabriolet A is a car of great distinction, a proud representative of the marque, tour-proven, and a serious concours contender. Truly a Mercedes- Benz that sets the bar, it is eligible for premier events worldwide, and is, without question, an outstanding example of German engineering at its finest.