Mercedes 540K Special Roadster

15 мая 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »
Mercedes-Benz 540K W24

Mercedes 540K Special

Untold wealth, wartime transatlantic new beginnings, tragic long-lost treasures and legal this is the extraordinary tale of the and her 540K Special Roadster

David Gooding recalls a conversation he had back in 1992 he was working 
for Christie’s: got a call one Friday afternoon an attorney in Connecticut about an old that was part of an estate owner had passed away. old it’s really old,” he “Tell me more!” I replied. dirty really dirty. and black,” he added.’ Says ‘I thought it would be a from the 1970s until the said: “It’s got pipes out of the side and a long swoopy with a tyre on it.”

asked him to fax me a photo no internet and when it came through, the car out to be a Special Roadster. So I said have to be in Connecticut tomorrow maybe I could find to take a look at it.” I hopped on the first available and when I arrived in Greenwich I was to an old warehouse. Behind a lot of circus and ice cream trucks was this Roadster. It was in better condition the butcher’s 500K Mercedes had recently sold for a record it was a 540K rather than a and it had an even more spectacular It was also the only one I’d with this wild with all the European cities

But although Gooding tried to the car consigned for the next Pebble sale, it became embroiled in a dispute between the deceased’s and the warehouse owners, the Homestead Inn through the bizarrely named firm claiming possession in of unpaid property taxes. A convoluted tale takes us to but now David, with his own company Company, finally has the 540K the hammer.

In the canon of supercharged Mercedes-Benz, ranks higher than the Roadster, described as ‘the glory of the marque in the 1930s’. Of the 435 540Ks bodied by the firm’s Sindelfingen coachworks, just 29 Roadsters, and not all of those qualified for the label. The standard Roadster 22,000 Reichsmarks (around at the time), while the Spezial was at RM28,000 (about £2500). The according to the hugely talented Ahrens, who headed the design at Sindelfingen, was that a customer the lower-priced car got a standard catalogue while the purchaser of the Special more or less dictate went on the chassis hence the radio’ on the example in Greenwich. And the Roadsters all had vee screens, while standard cars were with flat glass.

The Roadster’s journey to that in Connecticut had been truly It had started in April 1936, the wealthy Prussian aristocrat Ines Josephine Claasen von Krieger swept into the agency owned by World driver Rudi Caracciola 
on fashionable Kurfürstendamm to order the car on of her 19-year-old son Henning. The Baroness, car of choice was a Franay-bodied 1934 had grown wealthy brokering estates and ch΢teaux to the European in the 1920s, and was divorced from her Baron Benno Julius von Krieger. Her principal residence was in where she lived with her son and

The deal was confirmed by an obsequious from the Daimler-Benz head in Stuttgart that began gracious lady’, acknowledged the of RM8000, and offered a discount of size off the total price 
if payment was made in foreign of which the militarily ambitious Reich had a continuing need.

Around the same time, the 23-year-old daughter ‘Baronin’ Josephine purchased a 540K in Brussels. Gisela, a society often compared with Dietrich or Greta Garbo, had voted seventh in a list of the ten best-dressed women by a society and lived in Paris between alternating her residence between the Meurice and The Ritz. In January she moved to the Riviera, where she the Villa los Guerreros in Cap d’Antibes, she preferred to stay at the Hotels or Martinez in nearby Cannes.

Her admirers showered costly on her, although she never when she refused one ardent he committed suicide by jumping an aeroplane over the English In 1936 she almost married a of Jewish ancestry, but was dissuaded by her mother from what have been a fatal in the prevailing political climate. she remained very much grata in English society, and was invited to the Coronation of George VI in

The Von Kriegers’ gilded lifestyle to an abrupt halt when declared war on Germany, and as German they were interned in in the Rhône-Alpes. The Baroness and Gisela managed to obtain permission to in neutral Monaco, moving the Hotel de Paris in Monte while Henning returned to and joined the Luftwaffe.

In 1941 the authorities demanded that the and Gisela should return to the but they fled to Switzerland in the coupé, where they up residence in the Baur au Lac Hotel in and sold the Mercedes. That Gisela placed herself the care of Professor-Doctor Maurice of Zurich. ‘Mademoiselle Gisela von was strongly affected morally and he wrote. ‘Her nervous manifested itself in a morbid frequent depressive crises, increases in tension, accompanied by of obsession and general feebleness, extreme. The health of Mademoiselle von didn’t improve during her condition necessitated various treatments and careful medical in conjunction with a prolonged and a rational diet.’ Brother had managed to crash his Special which he returned to the factory for new wings to be fabricated on the original Then he bought a BMW 328 cabriolet, and Mercedes-Benz to send the repaired car it was storing to Switzerland. On 5 May 1942 the replied that as soon as could let it have his mother’s it would ship the car to her.

After the war, Gisela that she would like to to France, but the doctor advised it on the grounds that, in the circumstances, she was to find the rest she needed a hint that a German hardly be welcome in a France just out from under the

Henning survived the war and rejoined his and sister, but Gisela’s depression and in 1949 the family emigrated to to give her a complete change of arriving in New York aboard the Mary on 23 March, complete the 540K. The Special Roadster was on the West Side of Manhattan at that ‘wonderful foreign-car emporium of pre-war days’ by motoring writer Ralph Gisela returned to Europe for six that December, but embarked for New the following 2 June, travelling class aboard the RMS Caronia.

The Von Kriegers and their Mercedes back in Europe in March but Baroness Josephine died in and, after settling her Gisela and Henning went to America, where they in the quaintly named Steamboat in Greenwich. Here Gisela filled out an ‘Affidavit of Identity and in which she declared: ‘I my citizenship because of my travels when the German Consulate in refused to renew my Passport.’ that the Baroness harboured no sympathies, the United States of State granted her United citizenship.

Although the 540K was Henning’s, Gisela took it her brother preferring his 1951 He contracted melanoma cancer in and the Von Kriegers went back to for treatment, storing the Special in a warehouse belonging to the Homestead Inn in to await their return; Henning died early the year.

Gisela stayed on in after her brother’s death, but 
to insure the Special Roadster a letter from her insurer 
June 1959 reduces her premium from .86 to .70 and cuts the covered to 00 ‘to take of depreciation and to conform more with the market value’!

Mercedes-Benz 540K W24

She continued to pay the monthly storage for the Mercedes, but although she was an extremely woman, owning property in as well as in Switzerland and Germany, she drifted into a sort of Havisham existence in an apartment on the des Alpes in La Tour-de-Peilz, near on the shores of Lake Geneva.

In with classic car values on the rise, the Homestead Inn caretaker’s son to La Tour-de-Peilz to attempt to buy the Mercedes, but was no answer when he called at apartment. He eventually persuaded the to unlock the door, and they the Baroness’s corpse slumped in a director’s chair amid a of utter squalor: she had been a month

Among the rubbish lay a fortune in subsequently auctioned by Sotheby’s for it included a diamond brooch by Van Arpels, and a mid-1930s necklace by found lying on the floor in a bag closed by a rubber band, sold for 1,000.

Settling estate was a protracted business, for she had intestate, and wrangling over the ownership dragged on through the until 1994, when her were finally granted its It was snapped up by a German collector, but he out with his restorer and the car was put back on the two years later. It was acquired by a American collector after the Island Concours, where the vehicle was shown alongside a sister car originally owned by Warner the movie mogul, not ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ who had shared Sir Ronald Gunter’s Special Roadster in the 1935 Carlo Rally.

The new owner of the Von 540K recalled: ‘When I the car it was in remarkable, entirely original although the black paint was off in large patches. In the ashtray we cigarette butts with lipstick on them, and one of her white was under the front seat.’

The Roadster’s long storage had it to deteriorate past the preservation and restoration was entrusted to Chris of Classic Car Services of Oxford, who despite his avowed preference for classics has restored half-a-dozen Mercedes. Charlton was able to virtually all the sheet metalwork a total restoration, although of the wooden framing had to be replaced. And the body being stripped to the bare metal, Jerry of Classic Car Services managed to the Von Krieger family crest on the driver’s door.

One anomaly discovered during the by chief mechanic Jack was the position of the engine crossmember, six further back than on 540K models, making it to drop the sump without the body from the chassis. The appears to have been to better roadholding (and a longer bonnet) than on the formal models.

Another unique to the Von Krieger car was the use of flat glasses similar to those on the S Series rather than characteristic curved lenses of the series, possibly to suit the lighting characteristics of the yellow compulsory in France.

Restored, the Roadster won its class at the 2004 Beach Concours d’Elegance; David Gooding believes the might become the most car ever sold at auction his company offers it at the forthcoming Beach event. ‘We a Testa Rossa last for million,’ he says. ‘If car hits that number, it surprise me.’

Mercedes-Benz 540K W24
Mercedes-Benz 540K W24
Mercedes-Benz 540K W24
Mercedes-Benz 540K W24
Mercedes-Benz 540K W24


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