1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster wins 2023 Pebble Beach Concours Best of Show

Evan Klein

For 364 days out of the year, the 18th fairway at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Monterey, California, represents one final, daunting test to cap off what is, for most guests, their dream round of golf.

But today, the fairway held a different type of tension for the owners and handlers of 200 stunning automobiles. As the California sun kept Monterey’s misty marine layer far out to sea, one car—a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster—stood above the rest, taking home one of the greatest honors in the world of concours: The Pebble Beach Concours Best of Show.

Huseyin Erturk

The voluptuous Benz, which hailed from the European Classic Touring Class—one of an array of 27 classes represented here this year—is owned by Jim Patterson from Louisville, Kentucky. It’s one of just three 540K Long-Tail Special Roadsters remaining in the world today. The Sindelfingen-bodied beauty was originally delivered to then-23-year-old King Mohammed Zahir Shah of Afghanistan in 1937, before being stored in the Afghan Embassy in Paris for the duration of World War II.

When Patterson acquired the car in 2022, it was a deep maroon color. During an extensive restoration at the hands of RM Auto Restorations, the car was repainted in the gorgeous black seen here. It’s the second consecutive Best-of-Show winner to come from the restoration shop.

Confetti and streamers covered the car and surrounding area as Patterson turned to address this prestigious honor.

“[Winning Best of Show] is the ultimate thrill for a car collector,” explained Patterson in between blowing kisses towards the Pebble Beach Lodge to those cheering his success. “The competition was extremely difficult, and this was an extremely tight choice, I’m told.”

Evan Klein

Patterson’s Benz bested three other remarkable finalists, including a 1930 Mercedes-Benz SS Special Roadster, an unrestored 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Corto Figoni Cabriolet, and a 1939 Delahaye 165 Figoni et Falaschi Cabriolet.

The win moves Mercedes-Benz into the lead for most Best-of-Show victories for a single marque, edging the Germans ahead of Bugatti, another brand heavily represented on the fairway this year.

Patterson, however, was focused on a different number:

“Being from Kentucky, we are in the horse racing world,” he explained, a glint in his eye. “Very few horses ever win the Triple Crown. This is our third win.”

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    Gary , you nailed it.! I happen to do all my own work, just for the fun of doing it, but others, with money to spare, just spend, and, if the car is right, will win….. My greatest ‘win’ was being invited to Pebble Beach, but declined due to time constraints ……Just being invited to Pebble Beach is a ‘win’…..:}

    What a beautiful and dramatic car – would love to see more photos. And the shop that restored it is responsible for two winners in a row? Holy cow – I bet their waiting list is in process of doubling right now…

    WOW! I agree with David Booker, Lets get a shop tour/ meet the craftsmen of RM Auto Restorations. They are clearly doing something right!

    To the Angry’s : Yes this is a rich persons sport / hobby (so is owning a NFL team) , at least we can enjoy the beauty of historical machines! If it was for people spending money all these vehicles would have long better scraped for the latest Toyota.

    I appreciate the dedication anyone puts into maintaining and keeping history alive.

    Tom, we think Gary Penfold’s opening comment sums it: “Money,” even though poor Jim Patterson is but a beleaguered multi-millionaire, while of the three preceding Bauble Beach Best of Show winners, two were billionaires, the other’s net worth a mere half a billion. We doubt the Bauble Beach set requires your public relations effort, shilling for them, defending them from those vile, worthless “Angr(ies),” as you dismiss them.

    Phil Hill said he’d seen “more nice cars forever ruined for the sake of another few points at some concours,”
    today’s janitorial d’ elegances having little to do with the real things in Europe in the 1920s through early ’50s, at which entrants drove to the grounds the night before, perhaps some mud still in the tire treads and under the fenders, the cars judged strictly on line, form, presence; elan.

    Of course…. there are some lovely cars at Bauble and it’s fun to look at them. As there are in private collections and garages across the nation, all sadly second-tiered by the above nonsense.

    Veterans of the above and other such events told me in the late ’80s that a car whisked via time machine or wormhole from 1930s showroom to present day golf course wouldn’t garner more than 87-88 points. It’s gotten crazier since. Hearing the announcers and “authorities” at PB mispronounce so many of the carrossiers’ names underscores many of the genuine set are not in attendance.

    During the AACA Founders Tour, hosted by the Ontario Region and based In London, Ontario just this past month, we were delighted to tour the RM restoration shop and collection, along with a great many other significant venues. We were fortunate to be able to see this extremely fine example of a 1937 MB 540K being completed. The gentleman responsible for it’s restoration and preparation shared a great many details and history, making the visit even more special.

    It is an amazing car !

    Thankfully, the car’s owner , and so many others are not only in a position to, but are also willing to present and share these fine pieces of automotive history, not just for the prize and the recognition, but also for those of us to see and appreciate.

    Everyone reading this should treat themselves to walking among these cars at the Pebble Beach Polo Grounds on the Concours Thursday morning Big Sur rally. The owners and restorers are there and most are happy to tell their story and answer questions. Truly amazing and a rare treat for any car person!

    It says that they aquired the car in 22 and had it repainted to black from red. Was the car originally black or was it always red? Does best of show judge the car on originality or just how beautiful it is? Anyone guess how much that paint job would cost? More that 75K I bet !

    Jim Patterson’s collection is spectacular. He has a penchant for perfection and his collection shows it. I feel very fortunate to have toured with my kid brother. We were both overwhelmed. His “handlers” drive his cars regularly and tell great stories about each one. We could have spent a week there, and must thank our “connection” for getting a private invitation to tour!

    Gentlemen, the thing I love the most about the automobile enthusiast community is that there is something for everyone. While you and I may differ on the merit, value, collectibility, and/or historical significance of a particular vehicle – we can choose to stop and admire the car or read article or keep walking or scanning for a more suitable article to read. What is more important is that there is another enthusiast willing to dedicate resources to provide entertainment, information and support within our hobby. I believe there is a place for everyone within our hobby – just leave the baggage elsewhere.

    Yes. We from the future (not 1937 – 1945) can appreciate great mechanical art, while having distain for nazism.

    I too laud the fact that our hobby has a place for everyone. For those who feel some angst towards anyone who has the the big bucks necessary to achieve this level of perfection, I suggest you stop for a minute and think of all the highly skilled people (and there are many) who make a living creating a masterpieces such as this….. not to mention parts suppliers, paint suppliers and on and on. There are a lot of American families supported by those who pay for high level restoration services. I wish I could afford this luxury, but I can’t, however, I think it is great that so many can.

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