Rare Sindelfingen Sport Cabriolet A Coachwork
115/180 hp Supercharged Straight-Eight Engine
Correct chassis, engine, transmission and body
100-Point Restoration; Pebble Beach 1996
Two-Time Historic Monte Carlo Rally Participant
Estimate: $3.75M - $4.75M
One of the earliest ‘transitional’ Mercedes-Benz 540K chassis and one of five Sport Cabriolet A-bodied. Believed to be one of three such examples in existence today.
A total of only 419 540K chassis were constructed by Mercedes-Benz. Hand-built bodies graced these massive chassis and surrounded the 115/180hp 5,401cc supercharged straight eight-cylinder engine, semi-automatic four-speed transmission with pre-select for 3rd and 4th gears, four-wheel independent suspension and the outsized wire wheels at each corner. The V-shaped radiator was distinctively set well back between the frame rails. The tight cockpit was placed nearly over the rear axle to allow room for the gigantic engine.
The definitive style of the 540K was established by the Mercedes-Benz in-house coachworks, Sindelfingen. These special bodies were mounted onto Stuttgart-built chassis at Sindelfingen, where the master craftsmen who created the body framing and panels could return to inspect, or even correct, the finish work and trim. The most exclusive among these body styles was the Sindelfingen Sport Cabriolet A shown here.
This chassis, 130945, was one of the earliest to receive the large 540K engine as running changes continued the ongoing transition from the early 380K to the 500K and ultimately to the 540K in 1936-1939. Only five bodies from Sindelfingen series 820600 were placed on these first chassis of the newly introduced 540K. These automobiles were identified as the 540K Sport Cabriolet A, distinguishing them from the earlier, more conservative Sindelfingen Cabriolet A.
The well-documented history of this very special Mercedes-Benz 540K Sindelfingen Sport Cabriolet A shows that the car was delivered new in 1936 to Maria Leyder of Stuttgart, Germany. The car came to the U.S. following WWII where it was in the long-term ownership of Don Rounds in the state of Iowa before being sold to Lowel Ledford in 1970, who maintained the car for another 15 years. The Blackhawk Collection acquired 130945 in 1985 and undertook the first complete restoration, finishing the car in red with black trim.
The Sport Cabriolet A passed into the hands of Japanese collector Nachiro Ishikawa following the Blackhawk restoration. Mr. Ishikawa kept the car in California, where it was serviced by Mercedes-Benz specialist Scott Grundfor. The car competed in the Monte Carlo Historic Rally in 1991 and again in 1994. On each occasion, the car completed the difficult 2,000-mile (3,219 km) event with first-place finishes.
During this time, 130945 was featured prominently in “The Star” magazine of the Mercedes-Benz Club of America with a history and photographs by noted automotive historian Dennis Adler. The car was also included in the second edition of Jan Melin’s definitive book, “Mercedes-Benz: The Supercharged 8-Cylinder Cars of the 1930s”.
Well-known Mercedes-Benz expert Thomas Taffet was the next owner, purchasing the car in 1994. Mr. Taffet commissioned a second thorough restoration, taking two years to complete. The car was completely disassembled and stripped. Every mechanical component was rebuilt and restored. The exterior color was changed to black with red accents and a black cloth top. The interior was finished in black leather with red piping. The ivory-faced gauges are surrounded by mother-of-pearl set against the polished wood dashboard.
This restoration was judged at 100-points at Pebble Beach in 1996 and awarded First in Class.
This magnificent automobile has been judged and presented with numerous other awards, including Best of Show at the Forrest Grove Concours d’Elegance in Oregon and Most Elegant Car at the Mar-a-Lago Concours in Palm Beach, Florida. Of equal note, the car has also been exhibited at the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, California.
An inspection at the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Germany in 2011 confirmed the original chassis (130945), engine (150945), transmission and body, as well as confirming important components such as the supercharger, steering box and rear axle of the correct type and series.
This excellent example of the Mercedes-Benz 540K Sindelfingen Sports Cabriolet A would define any automobile collection. Together with the unique, exhilarating but effortless driving experience of the supercharged Mercedes-Benz 5.4-liter engine, this is an automobile for any serious collector’s consideration.
This is an exceptional opportunity to possess a significant automobile that is above question; an example that is distinguished even among others of its type. The Mercedes- Benz 540K was the defining German grand touring car of the 1930s – advertised as the fastest production car in the world.