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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    What impressed me at the show was the large Pegaso contingent. When I was a high schooler that was our dream exotic.

    Pegasos were a cut above, built in the former Hispano-Suiza factory by a company, like later Lamborghini, first a tractor and truck manufacturer, so ruggedness a given. The dohc Z-102 Pegaso with a five-speed transaxle was the day’s fastest production car.

    But the Bauble Beach set likes those overblown Mercedes, which Ralph Stein dismissed in 1967:
    “No longer were they the lean, clean, fast cars Dr. Porsche envisioned. The production sport cars which took their place were the eight-cylinder, pushrod-engined 500 and 540Ks. They were fat and heavy (about 5,500 pounds) and vulgarly curvilinear. I thought at the time that if you had draped them with medals, they’d look like dear old Hermann Goering himself. If he’d had wheels. A good 540K, supercharger clutched in, would do 105 mph; 0-60 in about 14 seconds. (With blower it developed 180 hp; without, 115.) I ran away from one once in my old 4 1/2-liter Invicta, but perhaps the Mercedes-Benz was in poor fettle that day.”

    Owners were warned never to operate the supercharger longer than 30 seconds at very most, lest major engine damage ensue.

    The Pebble Beach set also reveres Duesenbergs, certainly impressive and in their day, on a long, straight road, unpassable. For their price, quintuple a Chrysler Imperial, they should’ve been, but they were not five times better. They were obsolete two years after their introduction, and it took nine years to sell 480 of them to Hollywooders and other look-at-me types. Top-line Massey-Ferguson and other tractors also had enameled engines with polished fittings attempting to lure what Depression money there was.

    So it was refreshing Bauble Beach featured an array of Pegasos.

    One of the most beautiful cars ever built, so how about some pictures of the car?
    Passenger side is the best look, not even shown.
    Maybe some details about the drivetrain…

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