1939 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster

1939 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster by Sindelfingen

Considered the ultimate 540K, the Special Roadster would be an impressive achievement and reflected Mercedes' non-acceptance of anything other than perfection. A massive and awe-inspiring automobile, the Special Roadster has a commanding presence no matter its surroundings.

Deep within the Special Roadster beats the heart of a grand touring automobile meant to deliver its occupants great distances in great comfort. Only 25 of these roadsters would be built between 1935 and 1939. Even fewer of those 25 would be built as one-off designs on the later 540K chassis. However, this car would be just such an example.

Perhaps the final roadster to be built as a result of the war, this car would be completed with a five-speed transmission, the first year in which the five-speed would be introduced. Ordered for the Horn brothers, the Special Roadster would feature some usual features like the raked radiator and low doors. However, the car would boast of a number of unique touches. Those touches would include the lack of running boards, a steeply-raked windscreen that could be opened, chrome accents along the hood and beltline of the car and aerodynamic tapering over the folded top. However, the most easily-recognizable one-off design would be the design of the fenders. Fully skirted, the fenders look almost teardrop in shape and therefore give a very pronounced look over each of the tires.

The roadster would be delivered to the Horn brothers in a dark blue livery and they often would be seen driving it until the war made it almost impossible to do so. Like the lives of so many during the Second World War, much history would be lost. What is known about this car is that it would be discovered in the Soviet Union by Alf Johansson, a Swedish reporter, in 1962.

Johansson had been in the Soviet Union since 1945 and he would come across the car at the summer home of a Soviet general. Following the death of the general, Johansson would try desperately to acquire the car. His persistence would pay off and he would be given the car, but that would be only half of the battle. He next had to figure out a way to get it to Sweden. Boldly, Johansson would drive it to the Swedish border and would end up rescuing the Mercedes-Benz Special Roadster from its unknown fate in the Soviet Union.

A number of years later, the 540K would be imported to the United States and this unique and intriguing Special Roadster would end up the property of Tom Barrett and the Imperial Palace Auto Collection of Las Vegas. After a while, this car would join the extensive Lyon Family Collection in California where it would remain for more than two decades.

Descriptions & pictures by bonhams

Production Start 1939
Country of origin Germany