Pebble Beach Best of Show goes to the only surviving 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn Kurier

Matt Lewis

It was a star in the beginning, and it is once again. A 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn Kurier was named Best of Show at the 70th Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on Sunday at the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links on California’s Monterey Peninsula.

Owned by Arturo and Deborah Keller, the teardrop-shaped Mercedes was selected from a field of 230 cars. The group was first narrowed to 28 class winners and then again to four finalists before the Kurier was announced as the winner. It marks the Kellers’ third Best of Show title at Pebble Beach.

“It’s a wonderful car,” Arturo Keller said after the confetti cleared. “We looked for it for many years.”

2021 Pebble Beach Concours - Best in Show - 1938 Mercedes-Benz Autobahn Kurier 1 (Evan Klein)
Evan Klein

Mercedes-Benz built only four 500K and two 540K Autobahn Kuriers, and the Kellers’ car is the only survivor. It resides in the Keller Collection at The Pyramids in Petaluma, California.

With its long, sweeping hood and aerodynamic design, the Autobahn Kurier caused quite a stir when it was introduced at the 1938 Berlin Motor Show. It was applauded not only for its styling, but also for its advanced engineering and superlative performance, having been built to rule Germany’s newly constructed Autobahn.

“This Best of Show winner embodies so many sensational features—styling, speed, and performance,” said Concours Chairman Sandra Button. “… This rare automobile is truly an example of beautiful German design.”

The Best of Show win is the ninth for Mercedes-Benz, tying it with Bugatti for the most of all-time.

Last year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance was canceled due to the pandemic, and some 15,000 eager spectators descended upon on the 18th fairway overlooking Carmel Bay to admire some of the world’s finest automobiles for the 2021 event. They were not disappointed.

Pebble’s 70th celebration included the return of 38 former Best of Show cars. And the race for 2021 Best of Show featured other strong contenders, including Joanie and Scott Kriens’ 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Corsica Drophead Coupé, the 1966 Ferrari 365 P Pininfarina Berlinetta Speciale shown by RQ Collections, and Jonathan and Wendy Segal’s 1956 Maserati A6G Zagato Coupé.

“One of the challenging things here is that as a spectator you see the cars very differently than the judges do … They look for things you can’t see from 20 feet away,” longtime Pebble Beach judge Ken Gross told Hagerty Livestream co-hosts Justin Bell and Tommy Kendall. “… You look for things that are amiss, but there isn’t much amiss out here.”

Certainly not on the curvaceous Kurier.

2021 Pebble Beach Best in Show - 1938 M-B Autobahn Kurier - Arturo and Deborah Keller reflect
Arturo Keller and Pebble Beach Chair Sandra Button chat after Keller’s victory. Matt Lewis


The Pebble Beach Concours raised more than $1.75 million for charity this year, bringing the event’s total charitable donations to over $32 million to date.

The 71st Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is scheduled for Sunday, August 21, 2022 and will celebrate Lincoln and Talbot-Lago Grand Sport, with additional special classes to be announced.

Read next Up next: Reading Your Rubber: Learn the lingo of your car’s wheels and tires

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *