- Desirable late-production Cabriolet A with five-speed transmission
- Interesting ownership history
- Charming overall condition, in fine colors
- A Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Full Classic
During the 1930s the supercharged eight-cylinder Mercedes-Benz was justifiably held to be one of the greatest performance automobiles in the world, offering a state-of-the-art, competition-inspired chassis and an especially potent engine that wailed like a banshee with the blower engaged. It was favored by the wealthiest enthusiasts on both sides of the Atlantic, including everyone from captains of industry to socialites and world leaders, who loved driving the cars on the wide, smooth modern highways springing up. To this day the models are highly favored by enthusiasts for their driving ability, as well as for the beauty of the coachwork built by the factory works at Sindelfingen, often accented by large Bosch headlights and by the trademark flamboyant chromed side exhaust emerging, tentacle-like, through the hood.
Mercedes-Benz produced the convertible cabriolet bodies for the 540 K in three series, following the steady evolution of worldwide automotive design during the 1930s. The first was a short-lived design, shared with the last examples of the 500 K, featuring long, very subtly skirted front fenders. It was succeeded by a more streamlined design with somewhat higher doors and a low windshield, then finally by a third-series version.
This last Cabriolet A featured the muscular, full-figured styling of the late 540 K, with deeply skirted and rounded fenders, and a short, taut tail. It was extremely attractive and, perhaps more than any earlier design, emphasized the modern power of its engine and the advanced design of its chassis. It represented the ultimate iteration of the famed 540 K—the last supercharged eight-cylinder Mercedes-Benz model offered the public before World War II.
A WELL-TRAVELED CABRIOLET A
According to Mercedes-Benz records, this particular third-series 540 K Cabriolet A, a very late-production model with the sought-after five-speed transmission, was originally delivered in September 1939 in Berlin, having been ordered under Kommission number 294682. The car next appeared in the post-war years in Brazil, where, painted in a cream shade, it was owned for many years by one Alfonso Coscone. In 1982, Mr. Coscone evidently sold the 540 K to Franzoni Germano of São Paulo, an active collector in the country in this era. Photographs included in the file, taken by Oskar Armando Baldoni, show the car at a Brazilian show later in the 1980s. Undoubtedly this was one of very few 540 Ks in the country and, accordingly, quite a potent draw!
By the mid-1980s, the 540 K moved to the United States in the ownership of Tom W. Barrett III, “The Greatest Name in Classic Cars” and a prolific, highly knowledgeable acquirer of supercharged eight-cylinder Mercedes-Benz in this era, who dealt many of the very best examples to collectors all over the world. Photographs on file depict the car in his ownership, now with black fenders. By 1994 it had moved to California and, refinished to the present color scheme, was part of the present collection, where it has now remained, largely quietly tucked away and unshown, for over a quarter of a century.
The car’s restoration appears to have been largely cosmetic, with the 540 K retaining to this day many of its original tags, including the Typenschild and Kommission tags from the firewall; the engine also retains its original number stamping and tag, both in apparently untouched order. The engine compartment itself is neat and tidy, but also presents with some cosmetic wear from age and use. Within the body, the interior’s woodwork is in good, usable order, as is the lightly patinated leather upholstery, while the dashboard appears to have been recovered. Bosch headlights and driving light are still present, along with matching taillights, chrome wire wheels, and “trafficator”-style semaphore turn signals in the windshield frame. Altogether it forms a picture of a well-loved automobile which would be well-suited to either a fresh restoration or, with some sorting, a delightful machine to drive and enjoy, aided by the most desirable five-speed transmission.
This is a very charming 540 K, appealing to the true enthusiast, with a wonderful combination of attributes to recommend it. It represents the model at its zenith.