Sunday 31 March 2019

Historics: Mercedes-Benz 540K and Ferrari 335 S best in show at the Amelia Concours

The 24th Amelia Island Concours d’élegance was held March 7-10th at the Amelia Island Golf Club and the Ritz-Carlton in Florida. With a packed program that stretches now on over four days, the Amelia Concours has grown into one the world most anticipated and best organised concours te be found. Auctions, seminars, cars & coffee on Saturday morning up to the concours itself on Sunday, Amelia has become an event not to be missed for the (classic) car enthousiast.

This year’s honoree was Belgian Jacky Ickx, “Monsieur Le Mans” was reunited with 12 extraordinary racecars, spanning the whole of his career from Le Mans over to Can Am, Formula 1 and Paris-Dakar.  More about the cars of Jacky Ickx at the Amelia concours and the 300+ other stunning cars on display on Sunday is to follow in another write up.  But first we take a closer look to both 2019 award winners in the Best of show and Best of show concours de sport class.

At the Amelia Concours, 2 cars receive the best in show award every year: the Best in Show Concours d’Elegance and the Best in Show Concours de Sport award. Two extraordinary cars received the awards on March 10th: the 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahnkurier and the 1957 Ferrari 335 S. 

The 540 K “Autobahnkurier”

Mercedes debuted a new car at the 1934 Berlin Car Show: the Typ 500K “Autobahnkurier”.  Only one model existed and the brochures informed the public that the car was designed for incredibly high speeds on the Autobahn. It was built on the outstanding W29 chassis and immediately stood out with its elegant design, long hood, gentle curves and specially designed tail end. It set a new design benchmark with its appearance, even so that Jean Bugatti went back home after his first encounter with the 540K and apparently designed the infamous Atlantic. 

Only six 540K Autobahnkuriers were built, this particular car is the only one believed to survive. Out of these six cars, only two 540K’s have been built to this specification with the 5.4 Liter supercharged engine, which makes it - if possible - even more exclusive. With a top speed of 115 mph, the 540K was one of the fastest cars available at the time, but also one of the most expensive ones.  

This car is the second (and final) one that went into production has originally been bought by Dr. Ignacio Barraquer, a doctor from Barcelona. He undertook journeys with it from Libya to Egypt prior to World War II, and later through Austria and Switzerland. It remained in the family’s possession until 2004 when it was sold to Arturo Keller who had it restored completely.  Since then it has won several concours titles at Pebble Beach, Villa d’Este and now also Amelia Island. The first car has been gifted by Mercedes to the shah of Iran, and was last seen in the 1960s.  Up until now it’s unclear if that car still exists or not.   

The Ferrari 335 S Scaglietti

For the second year in a row, a Ferrari wins the best in show concours de Sport award. The 1957 Ferrari 335S Spider Scaglietti is only one of four built and carries an impressive racing history with it. With its breathtaking race results, continuous history and prestigious provenance, this Ferrari symbolises the myth and masterpiece from the 1950’s motorsport era. 

The Scuderia Ferrari factory car started its life as a 290 MM, was upgraded to a 315 S and later transformed into a 335 S.  The 335 S was the most technologically advanced Ferrari in 1957. With a 60-degree V12 engine with 24 plugs, two valves per cylinder and twin overhead camshafts it produced 360 hp.  In Le Mans trim, the engine was tuned up to 400 hp, and got to top steeds at Le Mans up to 300 km/h. 

This particular car has an impressive racing history and was driven by some of the greatest pilots in its era. Peter Collins and Maurice Trintignant drove it at the 1957 Sebring 12 Hours, Wolfgang von Trips in the Mille Miglia and Mike Hawthorn and Luigi Musso competed at Le Mans later that year.  Hawthorn set the first 200 km/h lap record at Le Mans with this car (203.015 km/h), but couldn’t finish the race due to mechanical problems. Other drivers racing this car were Juan Manuel Fangio, Phil Hill, Olivier Gendebien, Stirling Moss ….

Kristof Vermeulen.