Mercedes 540K Autobahn Kurier, the most beautiful car in the world… that belonged to a Spanish ophthalmologist

After a year of absence due to the coronavirus, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance He already has his new chosen one. The 70th edition of the contest, held as always in Monterrey (California), has crowned the Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn Kurier (1938). This model, one of the best from the German house, has a particular story behind it that begins at the end of the 40s with a Spanish ophthalmologist…

This has not been another victory for the star brand. With this victory, the ninth, Mercedes equals Bugatti in the Pebble Beach record. It is also the third time that collector Arturo Keller has won this title of beauty: he did it in 1986 with a Mercedes-Benz 500K Special Roadster and in 2001 with a Mercedes SS Edrmann & Rossi Roadster. However, the Argentine is the second owner of the unique copy What remains of the 540K Autobahn Kurier.

The successor to the Mercedes 500K

Let’s travel back in time to the final bars of the forties. The pre-World War II era was prolific at Mercedes, giving rise to some of its best models. A good example of this is the Mercedes 500K: After the success achieved, they had before them the challenge of shaping a car that would replace it… and live up to it.

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The result was the Mercedes-Benz 540K that was presented at the 1938 Berlin Salon and it came from the hand of two chassis: a short one of 2.98 meters that served as the starting point for the cabrio version and a long one of 3.29 that included the rest of the options, that is to say, the coupé variant, the convertible of four seater and armored limousine. Its official production ended in 1940, but some copies continued to be assembled up to three years later.

The Autobahns arrive

The Mercedes-Benz 540K had some special versions and as you may have deduced, the Autobahn Kurier was one of them. With it, Mercedes wanted to shape a sportier model that was also more aerodynamically efficient: It could reach 200 km/h on the newly released German highways (Autobahn). Not surprisingly, his name means “highway messenger”.

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Some examples were based on the chassis of the Mercedes 500K and although they were equipped with the 5.4-liter engine of the 540K they are not considered a true Autobahn Kurier. A car that also has its share of myths and legends since it is claimed that one of the units was commissioned for Eva Braun, Hitler’s wife, and destroyed after World War II.

The Spanish ophthalmologist Ignacio Barraquer

With such features it became the most expensive version and taking into account the economic situation in Germany, all the units were sold beyond its borders. One of them, the only one that has been preserved and the one that has won the title of most beautiful car, was the one acquired by the Spanish ophthalmologist Ignacio Barraquer.

The specialist had a special predilection for cars and when he came across the Mercedes 540K Autobahn Kurier at the 1938 Paris Salon he fell at his feet. He took advantage of one of his trips to Germany to buy it, although gossip says it was a gift from Hitler to thank him for his services to a high command. Be that as it may, Ignacio Barraquer received his brand new vehicle in Gibraltar and his first trip was… to Egypt.

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How did it come to the Arturo Keller collection? The Barraquers got rid of it, passing the baton to its current owner who carried out a necessary and complete restoration. According to what was seen in Pebble Beach, the result has been impeccable: the Mercedes 540K Autobahn Kurier continues to look like the jewel it has always been.

Images: Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance

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