Arizona Concours: 1937 Mercedes-Benz takes best of show
“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.
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, Calif., 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, Calif.
Mercedes-owner Taffet was not at the concours, but Michael Kunz of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, Calif., 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.
“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 Jan. 24, 2016.
Class winners at the 2015 Arizona Concours d’Elegance: