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HomeEvents1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K wins Best of Show at Pebble Beach Concours

1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K wins Best of Show at Pebble Beach Concours

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An elegantly streamlined 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn Kurier coupe, the sole remaining example of four originally built, won Best of Show for the 2021 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

The Mercedes is owned by Arturo and Debra Keller of Petaluma, California, and marks the third time they have won Best of Show at the world-famous California showcase, both times previously also with pre-war Mercedes-Benz cars, in 1986 and 2001. 

“It’s my triple crown,” Arturo Keller said. “This is the only remaining car of its kind, and I am the second owner from new. It’s a very special car, and we are very happy.”

The car was last restored in 2006, and has continued to be shown, rallied and toured since then. The 540K also received the Elegance in Motion Trophy.

Mercedes
The Mercedes-Benz 540K was a popular attraction on the show field | Larry Edsall photo

This win is the ninth Best of Show for the Mercedes-Benz brand at Pebble Beach, tying with Bugatti for the most wins.

The immaculately restored black Mercedes led a field of 235 concours entries and was one of four finalists vying for the coveted prize, all of them European cars, two of them pre-war and two from the post-war years.

The three others were a 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Corsica drophead coupe, a freshly restored 1956 Maserati A6G Zagato coupe, and a 1966 Ferrari 365 P Pininfarina Berlinetta Speciale, known as the Tre Posti for its three-passenger configuration, the driver positioned in the center.

The 540K earlier won the concours’ Mercedes-Benz pre-war class (all the finalists were class winners), and unusually, the Kellers had another car entered in the same class, a 1927 Mercedes-Benz SS Armbruster cabriolet, leading one of the show’s commentators to quip that they had been competing against themselves.

The sleek shape of the Autobahn Kurier, introduced at the Berlin Motor Show in 1938, was inspired by Mercedes-Benz’s strikingly streamlined Silver Arrow competition cars that were dominating grand prix racing at the time.  German engineers had led the way in experimenting with aerodynamic forms starting in the 1920s, and this 540K model was designed for high-speed touring on Germany’s innovative network of autobahn highways.

Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

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