1936 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Cabriolet B by Sindelfingen

Sold For $698,500

RM | SOTHEBY'S - AMELIA ISLAND 2017 - A Gentleman's Collection: The Pride & Passion of Orin Smith

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  • Desirable early “lighter” Cabriolet B body style
  • Part of the Smith Collection for nearly a decade
  • Wonderful authenticity throughout
115/180 hp, 5,401 cc OHV inline eight-cylinder engine with driver-activated Roots-type supercharger and two-barrel updraft pressurized carburetor, four-speed manual transmission with synchromesh on third and a dog clutch on fourth, independent wishbone coil front suspension, independent swing-arm rear suspension, and four-wheel servo-assisted hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 128 in.

Of the numerous handsomely crafted Mercedes-Benz 540 K variants, among the most desirable were the selection of cabriolet offerings, produced by the factory’s coachbuilding shops at Sindelfingen. The Cabriolet B was distinguished by its four-passenger interior, with a comfortable rear seat for two, and a soft top with rear quarter windows. Two variations were produced, of which the most desirable is the so-called “early” Cabriolet B, which retains 500 K-style bodywork, including vertical louvers on the hood sides, but with certain 540 K features, including the bumpers.

The early Cabriolet B offered here was one of the original acquisitions made for the Smith Collection, Orin Smith having purchased it in 2008 from a longtime friend in New Jersey. Information with the car when it was acquired noted that it had formerly been part of California’s renowned Blackhawk Collection, then came to the East Coast, where it resided in Alan Rosenblum’s Pennsylvania collection for several years. It is pictured in Volume Two of Jan Melin’s Mercedes-Benz 8: The Supercharged 8-Cylinder Cars of the 1930s while in the care of another owner, Jerry J. Moore of Houston, Texas, whose fascinating museum included several 540 K cabriolets . . . all identically finished, in red.

The car was cosmetically restored some years ago in that brilliant scarlet livery, with a complementary tan canvas top and tan leather interior, as well as chrome wire wheels. While the paintwork and interior are both older now, they have held up well over the years, in particular the tight and crisp interior. Today the car presents as a very clean example both outside and underneath. The headlights carry proper Bosch lenses and are accented by a pair of Marchal driving lights and Raydyot cowl lamps. The dashboard carries proper, clean gauges in its brilliant mother of pearl facing, with the odometer noting 11,201 kilometers at the time of cataloguing. Proper Sekurit glass is fitted to all windows. In preparation for the sale, the car has been fitted with six new tires, including the dual spares.

Under the hood the original serial number tag is still present on the firewall, identifying the chassis number as 130921; the engine is stamped 130921 on what appears to be the original and correct block stamping, while the engine tag notes 130931. An original body number could not be located in the wood, but the woodwork beneath the seats and in the sills nonetheless appears original and well-kept, with the correct plaid cloth backing to the seat cushions. Accompanying the car is a charmingly weathered original 540 K manual, as well as a selection of paperwork.

While many extant 540 K cabriolets have been exhaustively restored to showpiece standards, this car charmingly offers something different: a highly usable example that can be enjoyed on Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) CARavans or on any number of rallying events, including the Colorado Grand. Further, its appearance could be freshened cosmetically and easily for a new turn at the concours circuit. It retains all the glorious Teutonic arrogance of its past, and all of its power, as well.

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