<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136

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Lot 160
1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster

US$ 4,500,000 - 5,000,000
£ 3,200,000 - 3,500,000
1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster
Chassis no. 105136
Engine no. 105136
5,400cc, Eight Cylinder OHV Engine
Roots Supercharger, 100bhp or 160bhp with supercharger engaged
4-Speed Manual Transmission
Independent Coil Spring Suspension, Front by Double Wishbones, Rear by Swing-axles
4-Wheel Drum Brakes with Hydraulic Servo-Assistance

*Uniquely designed factory Spezial Roadster
*Formerly in more than 40 years of private ownership
*Extensively researched by author of The 8-Cylinder Mercedes-Benz, Jan Melin
*Concours d'Elegance potential


THE MERCEDES-BENZ 500K

The sensation of the 1934 Berlin Auto Show, Mercedes-Benz's legendary 500K supercar was the creation of the gifted engineer and former racing driver Dr Hans Nibel. What set Nibel's supercharged Mercedes apart from the big blown Mercedes of the previous decade was the model's advanced chassis design, which combined swing axles at the rear with a new and very effective form of independent front suspension with superimposed triangular wishbones and coil springs. Nibel had created the 500K to give more power and performance than his 380 of 1932. With its mighty 5-litre engine, the 500K was one of the very few cars of the 1930s capable of achieving 100 mph on the open road.

Like the 'S' series of the 1920s, the 'K' models employed a form of supercharging that was peculiarly Mercedes, with the supercharger being used as a top-end booster. Pushing the gas pedal to the floor engaged the train of gears that drove the Roots-type blower, unleashing 25 per cent more power and a banshee shriek. It was an impressive and unnerving performance used as a short-term expedient for brief bursts of overtaking or hill-climbing. Contemporary road testers spoke with awe of the ride of the all-independent Mercedes - "even a severe deflection is not felt and on normal road surfaces the riding is mostly level and steady" - and the car could be cornered "very fast indeed".

'Without the supercharger this is a quiet, docile carriage, the acceleration from low speeds being then quite mild. It will amble around town and along by-ways with scarcely a hint of its latent performance. Bring in the supercharger and it becomes another machine, with fierce acceleration,' declared H. S. Linfield, Road Test editor of The Autocar, after driving a 500K, which he summarized as "a master car for the very few; the sheer insolence of its great power affords an experience on its own".

The manufacturing record of the 500 K reveals its exclusive nature: no more than 342 of all styles produced, then came the introduction of the revised 5.4 Liter engine, of which nearly half were four passenger touring Cabriolet B models, total production being 419 examples. They were the zenith of car manufacturing of their era, by the acknowledged finest-quality manufacturer of the day.

Although the 500 K/540 K chassis attracted the attention of many of the better quality bespoke coachbuilders of the day, Mercedes-Benz's own Sindelfingen coachwork left little room for improvement and it can safely be argued that their own top of the range sports tourer, boldly and appropriately named the Spezial Roadster eclipsed all of its peers. A mere 29 roadsters were built on each of the 500K and 540K chassis.

As with all of the finest automobiles of the 1930s and earlier, coachwork tended to be a collaboration between manufacturer and individual customer and even though Mercedes offered a specific coachwork designation there does seem to have been an element of personal tailoring involved. This car represents just one such example.

THE MOTORCAR OFFERED

Howard Fafard owned numerous Mercedes-Benz automobiles over the course of his collecting career. This assemblage included a brass era Mercedes, a Saoutchik Mercedes-Benz S, and the 630K offered elsewhere in this sale as well as a number of 500 and 540K models. The zenith of his collecting was securing this unique Spezial Roadster from a Bonhams auction at the hallowed Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Stuttgart, Germany.

In doing so, his acquisition provided funding for two national charities in Sweden benefiting Cancer and Alzheimer's research, as the car had been donated to them by its former owner, Ingemar Bengtsson. Mr Bengtsson was of a tradition of passionate Mercedes collectors in his home country. Many pre-war Mercedes had been gathered there after the war, so much so that the three hugely respected reference works on The 8-Cylinder Mercedes-Benz were penned by a Swede Jan Melin (the last of which is solely written in Swedish.) Mr. Bengtsson and Melin were friends, and Jan had helped in the restoration of 105136.

The tale of its discovery is the kind of romantic story that every would-be chaser of classic cars dreams of. Beginning in the 1970s, two car 'sleuths', the now well-known Alf Johansson (whose legendary finds included another unique Mercedes - the Horn Brothers' Spezial Roadster) and the lesser known Birger J. Nillsen, decided upon a foray into Czechoslovakia to see if they could find historic cars.

Nillsen had recently gained a 'scrap metal' license ,and while he had yet to get into his stride, one thing he had obtained was a fuel cap for a Mercedes 500K. On their first journey when transiting through Poland, they stopped off at a garage in Poznan, and per their routine, enquired whether the garagist knew of any old cars locally. The man said that a colleague actually had something along those lines, but he wasn't too sure of the details. The garagist further explained that the right person was not around at the moment, and perhaps they might visit him on their return. So, they continued their journey, stopping off on various known collectors and cars all the while gaining a greater appetite for old cars. Tracing their steps back on the way home, they returned to Poznan and the address that the garage owner had given them. They met a kind family who were very hospitable and gave them some tea and cake before escorting them to their sheds where the old car lay. Nillsen later recounted that what they would find turned an incredibly cold winter's day red hot, for there in the tin buildings was this 500K Spezial Roadster carefully dismantled and awaiting restoration. From Johansson and Nillsen's quick assessment the car was incredibly complete, albeit missing its fuel cap, which in an ironic and amusing coincidence was precisely what Birger had.

An agreeable deal was quickly struck with the willing sellers, and with Johansson's connections, they were able to export the car officially through the right channels back to their native Scandinavian origins. Shortly after this, it passed to the former owner Ingemar Bengttson. While they knew in the most basic terms what they had acquired, it took further research with Melin to discover the exact history of the 105136.
Because of the nature of Melin's research for his books, which was from a studious, non-commercial position, he had been trusted and allowed access, almost 'carte blanche,' to the Mercedes-Benz archives. He also met various people who had worked at Mercedes in the 1930s, none more important than Hermann Ahrens, who was the chief of design at the factory's Sindelfingen coachbuilding arm. All of this information helped greatly in documenting the history of 105136. Melin could prove key parts of its history and build from factory information and was able to definitively confirm that the car was one of the earliest 500K cars to have been built. It was further validated to have originally been commissioned for Dr. Alfons Sack of Berlin. A prominent and gifted lawyer, Sack in the early 1930s would gain his own place in history when he represented the perpetrators of the Reichstag fire in 1934. 105136 was the sixth production 500K to have been built.

The car was so distinctive in its design that it instantly resonated with Ahrens, who produced photos of it as new from having personally retained them back in period. Some of the photos are repeated on these pages. From these and the Sindelfingen notes on its construction and coloring, it was and is possible to appreciate that the car as built was something quite out of the ordinary. While the coachbuilder's order states the iconic terminology of 'Spezial Roadster', it was almost certainly a one-off variation of this theme. Details which were specific to the Sack Spezial Roadster were its chrome 'flashes' along the sides of the front and rear wings, an extended grille piece which curved forward as it reached its base and filled in the front valance between the chassis dumb irons (a feature commonly referred to as a 'waterfall' grille for obvious reasons), and chrome covers for the rear mounted spare wheels which accented the body.

If this was not enough of a statement, the color choices heightened its design, these being listed as 'Speedgray' for the body with dark and light green accents. Viewing photos of the car as delivered suggests that the differentiation of the coloring may have been for the rear wheel spats and side versus top of the car. Without a doubt, it would have been stunning as new.

Later, Melin was able to add to its history when he found a photo of the tail of a car in a newspaper while traveling in America. Immediately, he realized that he was looking at the rear view of 105136 and was therefore able to confirm it to have been Berlin registered as "IA 1555" in period. Very neatly these were the exact same plates that had been discovered with the car in Poznan by Nillsen, and they remain with the car today in unrestored and untouched order confirming their authenticity and that of the Mercedes. As found by Nillsen, the car was said by its owners to have suffered a minor accident at its rear and then to have been laid up. The location of this find and its relative close proximity to Landsberg where Sack is known to have had a country house, suggests that it may well have been in his care when this had taken place. Sack himself is not believed to have lived out the war. As the restoration began this was self-evident and more than likely accounted for the loss of the fuel cap, which may have snapped off the fuel tank during the incident. This and some light damage to the right rear wing amounted to the most significant detriments to the car.

Through correspondence with Melin, any questions that were raised were answered or explained logically and succinctly. As found, the car had a 540K engine and later vented bonnet sides as opposed to the early louvered style which was shown in the Sindelfingen photos. Melin found correspondence between Sack and Mercedes in 1936 showing that the car had returned to the factory to be upgraded to the latest, larger 540K engine and accordingly it no doubt received 540K bonnet sides at this time. Interestingly enough, although the 540 engine is different from that of the 500K in terms of engine size and location of its water pump, this replacement engine was stamped with the existing number of the engine it replaced and the unit retains factory engine plaque 105136. The documentary information that Jan Melin was able to supply including copies of factory and coachbuilder records, as well as photos of the car's original discovery accompany the car.

All in all, the combination of knowledgeable enthusiasts and fastidious research actually made for a straightforward restoration, although naturally it took considerable time to return the car to its original glory. Throughout the process it was documented with many photos, and specific details such as small pieces of wood or fabrics that were replaced were matched and then retained with the car, such that it is still possible to see the color of the original leather and hood cover from these surviving remnants.

On close inspection today, it appears that the restoration was exacted to a level of great sympathy to originality. Underneath and in unexposed areas where the finish of the upper surfaces of the metal is very fine, it is easy to see its authenticity. Amazingly, it even still possesses such details as its original Sindelfingen body plaque, carefully restored and replated, and the waterfall grille that accompanies the car is the very one which was discovered with it in Poznan.

Bengtsson's restoration was finally finished in the early 1990s. Initially it was run and used a few times, but was always considered so precious to him that it led to him placing it in a private museum behind closed doors, even to the extent that once positioned he bricked up the doors! Upon reaching old age, he decided to part with the car and that his wish was to do good with it. That led to the vehicle's donation to the charities and the ultimate auctioning of the Mercedes at the 'Works' sale in 2014.

Mr. Fafard had the 'waterfall' grill refitted to the radiator and showed the car here at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance in 2006, and also at the Ocean Reef Club Vintage Weekend in the Florida Keys in December 2014. Its now 30-year-old restoration remains in tidy order by merit of the fact that its use has been so modest over only two ownerships in this time. For its next custodian, it may be that similar use continues, or perhaps they may take the opportunity to return it to its original Speedgray coloring with the dark green accents and silver upholstery as it was when new, which would be aided by the series of period images. Either way, this unique Spezial Roadster is, in our opinion, undoubtedly the star of today's sale and has much potential at the concours level.
Contacts
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
<b>1934 Mercedes-Benz 500/540K (Factory Upgrade) Spezial Roadster  </b><br />Chassis no. 105136 <br />Engine no. 105136
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