Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Rare 1938 Mercedes – Hidden Away During WWII in a German Bunker and Found 60 Year Later – Featured at Michigan International Auto Show
This magnificent automobile will be part of the Gilmore Car Museum’s showcase of a dozen historic vehicles during the 16th annual show, February 6-9, 2014, at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids.
Only two 540K Sport Tourer models were ever built, with this car being the sole survivor.
“It’s amazing to think that an automobile of this caliber and historical importance survived WWII,” remarked Jay Follis, Marketing Director for the Gilmore Car Museum. “In a war that cost 65 million lives, devastated much of Europe, and saw so many works of art and cultural treasures destroyed or stolen and lost forever, it’s simply astounding.”
Discovering this ultra-rare automobile, hidden in a WWII-era basement-bunker after 60 years, sounds like a story right out of an Indian Jones movie. The car’s original owner lived in Dresden, Germany, and shortly after receiving it, World War II broke out with Germany being the epicenter. In an effort to protect his car from the ravages of war and conceal it from enemy troops, he knocked out a portion of his basement, drove the car in and concealed it by bricking up the doors and windows to make a kind of bunker. It remained there, remarkably surviving the 1945 bombing of Dresden, for nearly 6 decades.
Prior to World War II, Mercedes-Benz was arguably one of the world's most prestigious European automakers and the choice of the cars of kings, captains of industry, and the rich and famous alike. Built between 1936 and 1939, the supercharged Mercedes 540K has become legendary for its exquisite beauty and breath-taking performance, and is coveted by collectors worldwide. In all only 406 in 12 different body styles were crafted before war halted production, yet only two 540K Sport Tourers were ever produced.
With the fall of the Nazi regime and the end of WWII, Germany was divided by the Allies with Dresden becoming part of Soviet-controlled East Germany. This remarkable auto remained hidden until after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when it was finally discovered. The vehicle was complete and in its original condition, only showing the typical deterioration from age and neglect. Given the rarity and importance of the car, the decision was made to have it completely restored, which was finished in 2005. That same year, it debuted at the world-renowned Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance where it was awarded a Best in Class award.
This custom-built Mercedes features a Mother-of-Pearl dash, V-windshield, disappearing convertible top, and could reach speeds well over 100 mph. In 1938, it sold new for an estimated $12,000. While that may not seem to be a high dollar amount today, it was a substantial price compared to Chevrolet’s convertible at $755 or the Ford Deluxe convertible sedan at $900.
Today, being the only remaining example of the two 540K Sport Tourer models made and for its incredible story of survival, this magnificent automobile is considered one of the rarest Mercedes-Benz in existence.
When asked what the car’s current value is, Follis simply stated, “It’s a question we’re often asked. But how do you attach a number to something with such significant historic value? How do you put a price on that or to something which is the only one in the world?”
Those attending the International Auto Show in Grand Rapids will have the exclusive opportunity of viewing this automotive treasure as part of the Gilmore Car Museum display, in the Grand Gallery.
The 16th Annual Michigan International Auto Show is presented by the Grand Rapids New Car Dealers Association and is one of 14 consumer expositions produced by ShowSpan Inc., in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founded in 1945, ShowSpan – a John D. Loeks Company – has grown to be one of the largest producers of consumer shows in the Midwest.
Michigan International Auto Show: February 6-9, 2014
Thursday, February 6 3:00pm – 10:00pm
Friday, February 7 11:00am – 10:00pm
Saturday, February 8 10:00am – 10:00pm
Sunday, February 9 10:00am – 6:00pm
Admission: $10 adults, $4 children aged 6 to 14. Kids 5 and under are admitted free.