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1937 Mercedes 540K Special Roadster Wins Best of Show at 2023 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance

This 540K Special Roadster was kept safe in the Afghanistan embassy in Paris during WWII.

This year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance had a few interesting contenders for Best of Show, the most prestigious car award in the United States. Typically, it’s a pre-war Duesenberg or Talbot that takes home the trophy but there were some post-war cars that were thought to be in the mix this year, including a Porsche 901 prototype owned by Alois Ruf himself. However, the winner was indeed a pre-war car—a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster.

The ’37 Mercedes 540K marks the 50th car, of the 72 Pebble Beach Best of Show winners, to be from the 1930s.

Like most Pebble Beach Concours winners, the ’37 Mercedes has a fascinating story. It was originally owned by King Shah of Afghanistan in the 1930s. To keep it safe during WWII, King Shah had it stashed in the Afghanistan embassy in Paris, where it stayed until 1948. King Shah then gave it to his son-in-law, who drove it around London for a few years, before selling it. The 540K then exchanged hands a few times before it eventually ended up with its current owner, Jim Patterson from Louisville, Kentucky.

Only 26 Mercedes 540K Special Roadsters were made and each packed a 5.4-liter supercharged inline-8 with 180 horsepower. It had a pretty sophisticated suspension for its day, too, with independent double wishbone front suspension and coil springs, along with rear swing-axle suspension with coil springs.

When it was new, the Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster cost around $12,000, which is roughly $260,000 in today’s money. This specific car—due to its incredible rarity, interesting story, and Pebble Beach Best of Show win—is invaluable.

While it would have been fun to see a post-war car win for a change (and I was really hoping Ruf’s Porsche 901 prototype took home the win), the Mercedes 540K Special Roadster is a machine that’s as beautiful as it is impressive. So congratulations to Jim Patterson and his stunning pre-war Mercedes.

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