1937 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster achieves $9.9 million to set new record
January 30, 2016
PHOENIX, Arizona (January 30, 2016)
The undisputed star of the RM Sotheby’s, 17th annual Arizona Biltmore auction in Phoenix and this year’s Arizona auction week—was a1937 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster, chassis no. 130894, which crossed the stage during Friday’s sale session. An original U.S.-delivery car with known history from new, the highly desirable “high door”, “longtail”, factory left-hand-drive Special Roadster was offered fresh to the market, following 26 years in single ownership. Bidding on the stunning automobile opened at $5 million before quickly climbing to a final $9,900,000. The impressive price ranks the vehicle as the most valuable automobile sold in Arizona auction week history, breaking the previous record set by RM in 2015. The strong result also ranks the Special Roadster as one of the most valuable pre-war automobiles ever sold at auction.
Chassis number 130894 is one of the earliest known examples of the 540 K known to exist. Jan Melin notes in the first volume of Mercedes-Benz: The Supercharged 8-Cylinder Cars of the 1930s that the factory recorded cars up to chassis number 130900 as 500 Ks, with 13 examples having the 5.4-liter motor and being, in effect, pre-production 540 Ks. The possibility of 130894 having special status or being used for display purposes while still in the hands of the factory, like other closely numbered Special Coupes and Roadsters, is still being explored at the time of publication. It was subsequently delivered through Mitropa Motors, the aforementioned U.S. distributor, in New York City on April 24, 1937.
The original owner of the car has long been believed to have been Reginald Sinclaire of Larkspur, Colorado. The Sinclaire name is one known in many circles. He was born in Corning, New York, the heir of Henry Purdon Sinclaire, one of the founders of Corning Glass. Prior to U.S. involvement in the First World War, Reginald Sinclaire became a member of the famous Lafayette Flying Corps, a group of American volunteers who flew in the French Air Force. He relocated to the Colorado Springs area in 1921 and, with the exception of further service in the U.S. Navy during World War II, remained on his beloved Larkspur Ranch for the rest of his life.