1937 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Sport Cabriolet takes best-of-show at Arizona concours

The second Arizona Concours d'Elegance at the Arizona Biltmore resort | Larry Edsall photos
The second Arizona Concours d’Elegance at the Arizona Biltmore resort | Larry Edsall photos

‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” was the automakers’ advertising mantra back in the heyday of American stock car racing. But at the second Arizona Concours d’Elegance, the phrase that applied was “win on Sunday, sell on Thursday,” which is when the best-of-show winning 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Sport Cabriolet A goes from the lawns within the Arizona Biltmore to the RM auction block in one of the resort’s huge conference rooms.

1937 Mercedes-Benz takes best-of-show honors
1937 Mercedes-Benz takes best-of-show honors

Concours officials said they were not aware the car was going to auction, and have a policy not to accept cars for their event that are going to any of the auctions taking place in Arizona in the week after their event. They believe the decision to sell the car was made after it had been accepted for the concours show field.

The car, owned by Thomas Taffet of Chatsworth, California, was judged best in the European Classics class at the concours, and then beat all other class winners in a very close vote for the Molina best-of-show trophy.

ClassicCars.com has learned that the best-of-show trophy was decided by the narrowest of margins among the voting judges, with the ’37 Mercedes barely edging a post-war sports car we believe to be a Ghia-bodied 1952 Fiat 8V Supersonic, a car owned by David Sydorick of Beverly Hills, California.

Mercedes-owner Taffet was not at the concours, but Michael Kunz of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, California, said Taffet acquired the car at an RM auction in Monterey in 2010 or 2011 and immediately sent the car off for a complete restoration. Alex Weaver, a car specialist for RM, confirmed that the car is in the catalog for RM’s Arizona Auction, to be held Thursday and Friday at the Biltmore.

RM’s Arizona Auction catalog reports a pre-auction estimated value of $3.4 to $4.0 million for Lot 139. Winning best-of-show at the concours figures to boost those numbers by a hundred thousand or more.

Kunz pointed out that the car is something of a hybrid, but he wasn’t talking about its supercharged 5.4-liter inline eight-cylinder engine.

1952 Fiat 8V Supersonic viewed through Biltmore fountain
1952 Fiat 8V Supersonic viewed through Biltmore fountain

“It’s a special cabriolet A but really it isn’t,” he said. “It’s built on the special roadster chassis, but with the radiator behind the (front) axle. Only 10 of these were made. It was the highest-end car available from Mercedes-Benz at the time.”

The RM catalog says the car was ordered by a Martha Jordans in Paris, but was delivered to her home in Germany. It adds that she moved to the United States and brought the car with her.

The car was owned by several American collectors in places such as New Jersey, San Francisco and Colorado before Alfred Richter, of Lampertheim, Germany, took the car back to Europe in 1996. He apparently sold the car at Pebble Beach, with Taffet immediately sending it to Jim Griswold in Oregon for a complete and concours-quality restoration.

The car won a class award last summer at the Pebble Beach concours.

At the conclusion of the concours, it was announced the third annual such event is scheduled for January 24, 2016.

Class winners at the 2015 Arizona Concours d’Elegance

Pre-1915 Antique: 1903 Pope-Hartford Model B, John Konwiser, Scottsdale AZ
Pre-war sports and racing: 1932 MG F1 Magna, Malcolm and Barbara Appleton, Waitsfield VT
Post-war American-powered sports cars: 1952 Cunningham C-3 convertible, Rich and Karen Atwell, Phoenix
Post-war American race cars: 1959 Watson “Simoniz Special” Indy roadster, Larry and Jan Pfitzenmaier, Sonoita AZ
Post-war European sports cars: 1962 Jaguar E-type OTS, Randall Smalley, Paradise Valley AZ
American Classic Open: 1933 Packard 1005 convertible coupe, Aaron and Valeria Weiss, San Marino CA
American Classic Closed: 1937 Buick 91F formal sedan, Lee Gurvey, Scottsdale AZ
Preservation: 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB, Terry Maxon, Glendale AZ
Avant-Garde: 1949 Volkswagen Hebmuller cabriolet, Ron Clark, Paradise Valley AZ
Exotics: 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS, Philippe and Francoise Reyns, Chandler AZ
Post-war Mercedes-Benz: 1961 300D sedan, Barry Sohnen, Los Angeles
Pierce-Arrow: 1916 Model 48, Clive Cussler, Paradise Valley AZ
Ghia: 1952 Fiat 8V Supersonic, David Sydorick Beverly Hills CA

Volkswagen judged best in avant-garde category
Coach-built Volkswagen judged best in avant-garde category

Special Awards

Make-A-Wish Kids: Jaguar XK120C, Bill and Linda Pope, Scottsdale AZ
Hagerty Young Judges: 1927 Marmon E-75 Speedster, Ed Boice, Los Ranchos NM
Historic Vehicle Association: 1949 Crosley Hot Shot, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn IN
Historic Vehicle Association: 1937 AC 16/80 “Ace” roadster, David and Rochelle Buice, Dallas
Phoenix Automotive Press Association: 1972 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona, Todd and Stan Reeg, Paradise Valley AZ
Most elegant pre-war: 1933 Pierce-Arrow “Silver Arrow,” Academy of Art University, San Francisco
Most elegant post-war: 1956 Ferrari 256 GT Zagato, Rocky Mountain Auto Collection, Scottsdale AZ
Director’s award: 1953 Cadillac Series 62 (“Rita Hayworth” Ghia), Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles
Director’s award: 1951 OSCA MT4, T. G. Mittler, Santa Fe NM
Director’s award: 1957 Dual-Ghia, Curt and Carole Ziegler, Denver
Significant race or sport: 1954 Ferrari Europa 250 GT, Budd and Laurie Florkiewicz, Scottsdale AZ
Significant design: 1937 Cord 812SC Custom Beverly, Bruce Hanson, Phoenix
Special award: 1956 Ferrari 500 Testarossa, Bill and Linda Pope, Scottsdale AZ

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