The 540K Autobahn-Kurier Portfolio Slide Show

rPortfolio/mercedes-benz/38_A-K

1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn-Kurier

Chassis No. 408336
Commission No. 288557
Engine No. 408336
Body No. 288557

The extremely rare Mercedes-Benz Autobahn-Kurier was purpose built to suit the newly constructed Autobahn roadway. It is believed that four of this body type were built on the 500K chassis. The Autobahn-Kurier shown here is the second of two known to be built in-house at Sindelfingen on the supercharged 540K chassis.

Factory commission papers show that Professor Ignacio Barraquer took ownership of this 540K in 1938, apparently after having seen its twin at that year's Paris Motor Show. An avid auto enthusiast, he and his wife immediately took their Autobahn-Kurier on an extended driving tour from Spain through North Africa, crossing Libya into Egypt. From Alexandria, they had the car shipped back to Barcelona. After the war they continued to enjoy touring in the 540K, including a drive through Austria and Switzerland in 1951. The car was well-loved by the Barraquer family, who retained ownership until 2003 when it was purchased by an American collector, who then commissioned us to perform a complete restoration.

This car was a challenging and yet routine restoration for us. While judged to be original, after disassembly we discovered that the body had been re-painted black and the interior re-upholstered, not at all surprising considering Professor Barraquer's heavy usage. The complete engine and drivetrain were all there, with the exception of some updated or replaced items consistent with road-side repairs. We were most intrigued by how the original builders used components at-hand to create this car. The coach wood work appeared to be from a 540 Cabriolet A, which was then modified as needed for the Autobahn-Kurier frame. The rear quarter windows are opened with the same appliance used to open the windshield on the Cabriolet A.

Presented at the 2006 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, this stunning 540K received a First in Class, the Mercedes-Benz Trophy, the Most Elegant Closed Car Award, and was a Best of Show finalist. Five years on, the Autobahn-Kurier won Best of Show at the Concours d’Elegance of America, followed by the prestigious "Best of the Best" Louis Vuitton Classic Concours Award for 2011.

Awards

Concours d'Elegance of America, 2011
BEST OF SHOW

Louis Vuitton Classic Concours Award, 2011
BEST OF SHOW

Villa d'Este Concorso at Villa Erba, 2008
BEST OF SHOW

Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, 2006
First In Class
Mercedes-Benz Trophy
Most Elegant Closed Car
Best of Show Nominee

Recognitions

Louis Vuitton Classic, 2012
Serenissima Run

Articles

Mick Walsh, “Express Delivery”, photography by Michael Furman
Classic & Sports Car, May 2008

Mick Walsh, “From the Cockpit: Autobahn King”
Classic & Sports Car, October 2006

Bernd Loosen, “Adventure in the Desert”, photography by Barraquer Family
The Star, March/April 2004

The 540K Autobahn-Kurier Restoration

rPortfolio/mercedes-benz/38_A-K

Click image to start/stop slide show.

The Berlin Motor Show opened in February 1934 with President von Hindenburg on his deathbed and Hitler preparing to take the final step to absolute power. With dramatic Reichs-Autobahns coursing relentlessly across Germany and the heavy tax on new cars abolished, a fresh era had dawned for the motor industry. No car at that March exhibition encapsulated the optimistic mood in manufacturing more than a magnificent black coupé on the Mercedes-Benz stand. Streamlining was all the rage and the special 500K, with its pontoon wings, long aggressive bonnet and lithe, fastback cabin, was the talk of the show.

Mick Walsh, “Express Delivery”, Classic & Sportscar