HomeNews and EventsOpulent German Car Wins Pebble Beach “Best of Show”

Opulent German Car Wins Pebble Beach “Best of Show”

1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K was built for the King of Afghanistan


Monterey Car Week is over, which means the haves are basking in the afterglow while the have-nots get to read about it here. Of special note is the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, which awarded Best of Show to a  1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster.

Originally ordered by Mohammed Zahir Shah, the King of Afghanistan, this supercharged Mercedes is one of 760 W29 series vehicles built between 1934-39. Those cars were built as the 500K (the “K” referring to Kompressor, or supercharger) and 540K models, the latter featuring an enlarged 5,401cc straight-eight. The base engine developed 115 horsepower but, with supercharger, it increased to 180. The King’s car was coach-built by Sindelfingen, Mercedes’ in-house design house.

In the mid-1940s, this 540K was brought to the Afghan embassy in Paris, then in 1950 it was gifted to the King’s son-in-law in the U.K. He in turn sold it to a U.S. collector in 1953. The current owner, who bought it for $9.9 million at an auction during Monterey Car Week last year, is the fifth to hold the title.

Obviously, a lot has happened in a year — in this case, RM Auto Restoration brought the 540K to another level with the assistance of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center. Historical records in the company’s archives helped the restoration crew achieve the authenticity that the Best of Show prize recognizes.

“The 540 K Special Roadster winning the ‘Best of Showʼ title at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance crowns the immense commitment of RM Auto Restoration and Mercedes-Benz Heritage to the restoration of this outstanding vehicle,” says Marcus Breitschwerdt of Mercedes-Benz Heritage. “We are proud to have contributed to this success story with the unique expertise of our Classic Center and the archives. The intensive and good cooperation with RM Auto Restoration during the past months has made this success possible.”

Diego Rosenberg
Diego Rosenberg
Lead Writer Diego Rosenberg is a native of Wilmington, Delaware and Princeton, New Jersey, giving him plenty of exposure to the charms of Carlisle and Englishtown. Though his first love is Citroen, he fell for muscle cars after being seduced by 1950s finned flyers—in fact, he’s written two books on American muscle. But please don’t think there is a strong American bias because foreign weirdness is never far from his heart. With a penchant for underground music from the 1960-70s, Diego and his family reside in metropolitan Phoenix.


  1. Diego, this is no longer just an automobile, it’s an historic event. Sadly, it will never more be driven as it’s creators intended, because I suspect that this thing will roll up miles as well as any blown Doozy. And no one wants it to be chipped or blue the pipes. Sigh. That ’30s Deco Streamlining style just hits my heart. I’m gonna bet that this artwork could really bellow in anger, given a chance. That it will never have.

    • To me, the owner is entitled to drive the car or parade it at a show or something in-between. I don’t lament how others intend to use their vehicles.

  2. The reason it is right hand drive is due to the British influence and neighbouring countries were all right hand drive in those days and still today this is true

  3. I guess you didn’t attend the Pebble Beach tour Ryan Corman, where I ran the car along HWY1 and mashed the throttle so that the compressor was engaged and the 540K howl was heard!


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