il103 Mercedes-Benz 540K 1939 Spezial Roadster Sindelfingen sn408383

il103 Mercedes-Benz 540K 1939 Spezial Roadster Sindelfingen sn408383

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Of the 419 chassis delivered during the 540K’s production life, from 1935 to 1939, only 25 were Special Roadsters.

Chassis number 408383 was completed for the brothers, proprietors of one of Berlin most exclusive boutiques, in August of 1939. As a late 540K, it was equipped with the five-speed transmission with overdrive fifth gear that was introduced that year, and it may well have been the final Special Roadster built.

It is believed that Rolf Horn, one of the brothers, had a major influence in the conception and design of the car, which was not surprising, as he was a man who regularly dealt in beautiful art.

The coachwork is liveried in rich black with matching leather upholstery

Following the delivery of this creation, the Horn brothers have driven it until world war II made such luxuries impossible, at which point it was put into storage and vanished from sight.

In 1962, the Special Roadster was discovered in the Soviet Union by Alf Johansson, a Swedish reporter who had been stationed in the U.S.S.R. since 1945. Years later, Johansson and his 540K were featured in Henry Rasmussen’s The Survivors: European Classic Cars. The owner detailed his two-year quest to see this car in the suburbs of Moscow, where it was reportedly stored at the summer dacha of a Soviet general. When the general had passed away, Johansson was able to make contact with his son, from whom the car was eventually acquired after two months of persistent negotiations.


The 540K’s exportation from Soviet-era Russia was no less challenging; ultimately, in a daring show of bravado, Johansson simply drove it over the border into Sweden. He can be credited with preserving a very valuable piece of Mercedes-Benz history for future generations.


A few years later, the Special Roadster was sold to an American enthusiast. Following ownership by the late Tom Barrett and the Imperial Palace, it eventually passed into the well-known Lyon Family Collection, in California. For over two decades, it was carefully maintained in their stable of the world’s finest automobiles.

While it has continued to maintain such originality, the Mercedes-Benz has been lovingly restored to original condition, which was an easy task, as its 26,000 kilometers are believed to be the actual reading since new. The result of the superbly finished restoration was a well-earned Second in Class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2012.

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