One of just six Autobahn-Kuriers built by Mercedes-Benz in the 1930s, this is the sole surviving 540 K, the nomenclature meaning it houses a 180 hp, 5.4 liter supercharged engine. Capable of 120 mph (193 km/h) thanks to its aerodynamic efficiency, the Autobahn-Kurier sold for 24,000 Reichsmarks when new – just shy of $200,000 in today’s money.
So sleek and imposing was the Autobahn-Kurier 500 K (this 5.4 liter version was preceded by four with a 5.0 liter motor) which went on display at the Berlin Auto Show in 1934 that it is believed to have inspired Jean Bugatti’s fabled Atlantic.
This car was purchased new by Spanish eye surgeon professor Ingacio Barraquer after seeing its twin, and the only other 540 K version, at the 1938 Paris Motor Show. It remained in the family until 2003 when it was purchased by an American owner and a rotisserie restoration was performed by Paul Russell.
1938 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Autobahn-Kurier, coachwork by the Factory. Mercedes-Benz
First shown at the 2006 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the 540K received a First in Class, the Mercedes-Benz Trophy, the Most Elegant Closed Car Award, and was a Best of Show finalist. In 2008, it won Best of Show at the Villa d’Este Concorso at Villa Erba, then Best of Show at the 2011 Concours d’Elegance of America, and Best of Show at the 2011 Louis Vuitton Classic Concours.
Following the Amelia Island victory in March, 2019, the Autobahn-Kurier might significantly add to the silverware won by Mercedes-Benz and its Sindelfingen Karosserie.
1958 Ferrari 335 S Spyder, coachwork by Scaglietti
Winner: Best of Show at the 2019 Cavallino Classic
1958 Ferrari 335 S Spyder, coachwork by Scaglietti Winner: Best of Show at the 2019 Cavallino Classic. © Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este / BMW Group
Just four Ferrari 335 Sport cars were built, using a new 430 hp 4-liter V-12 engine and wrapped in impossibly beautiful Scaglietti coachwork, and between them, the four have made quite an impact.
In the car’s debut, at the 1957 Mille Miglia, one 335S led the race until it broke down, while another was totally destroyed when a tire exploded, killing the driver (the legendary Alfonso de Portago) and 11 spectators. One of the other three extant 335S cars
sold for US$35.7 million (€32,075,200) at Artcurial’s 2016 Retromobile auction.
1958 Ferrari 335 S Spyder, coachwork by Scaglietti. Winner: Best of Show at the 2019 Cavallino Classic. Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este / BMW Group
This car was the last of the four 335S cars built and was sent to America for sports car racing, debuting at the New York Auto Show in 1959. During the early 1990s, this car went to auction with Christie’s receiving a bid of $9.0 million, but was passed in as it failed to meet the reserve price. It would have been the most expensive car ever sold if the bid had been accepted.
A thorough restoration was completed in 2017 for Ferrari’s 70th anniversary and this car won best in class at the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Best of Show at the
2018 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este and Best of Show at the 2019 Cavallino Classic, which put it in esteemed company … and in with a chance at becoming the most celebrated classic car of 2019. 1950 Abarth 205 Berlinetta, coachwork by Vignale, design by Michelotti
Winner: Best of Show at the 2019 Goodwood Cartier Style et Luxe Concours d’Elegance
1950 Abarth 205 Berlinetta, coachwork by Vignale, design by Michelotti. Goodwood Cartier Style et Luxe Concours d’Elegance
One of just three Abarth 205s built by Carlo Abarth between 1950 and 1951, Nicholas Edel’s Abarth 205 Monza might only have 1100cc of motive force, but weighing just 800 kg (1765 lb) and with 83 Abarth horsepower, it goes equally as well as it looks. Designed by Giovanni Michelotti and built by Vignale, the extraordinary aluminum body is a work of art. This car won the “A Sting in the Tail” class as well as Best of Show at the 2019 Goodwood Cartier Style et Luxe Concours d’Elegance, booking itself a berth in the most prestigious award in the collector car world.
1931 Bentley 8 Litre Foursome Coupe, coachwork by Freestone & Webb
Winner: Best of Show at the 2019 Chantilly Arts & Elégance Richard Mille
1931 Bentley 8 Litre Foursome Coupe, coachwork by Freestone & Webb. ©Mathieu Bonnevie/Chantilly Arts & Elégance Richard Mille
It is ironic that two of Bentley’s magnificent 8 liter behemoths should make the final eight cars in its centenary year, as this was the car that unintentionally forced the company’s sale. The luxury limousine was announced on September 15, 1930, just under a year after Black Tuesday – the day of the stock market crash that catalyzed the Great Depression.
Many prestige marques with fabulous range-topping motorcars were victims of the recession, none more so than the Bentley 8 Litre. At a time when financial carnage was rife, the Bentley 8 Litre chassis sold for £1,850, roughly £337,000 in 2019. The car’s specifications bear testimony to the excess – a four-valve SOHC six-cylinder engine displacing 7,983cc and producing 220 horsepower. The 8 liter car could drive at walking pace in top gear, then accelerate smoothly to 120 mph in one breathtaking rush. Given people were starving globally, there wasn’t much call for this level of luxury and just 100 cars were made before Rolls-Royce purchased Bentley from the receiver and shut down production.
This car is owned by William E. (Chip) Connor, one of the four founders of The Peninsula Classics 2019 Best of the Best Award. In 2015, Connor joined with Sir Michael Kadoorie, Bruce Meyer and Christian Philippsen, to create the award.
1919 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Torpedo Skiff, coachwork by Barker
Winner: Best of Show at 2019 Concours of Elegance Hampton Court Palace
1919 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Torpedo Skiff, coachwork by Barker. Concours of Elegance Hampton Court Palace
Best of Show at the 2019 Concours of Elegance Hampton Court Palace was this 1919 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Torpedo Skiff, with polished aluminum bodywork coachwork by Barker. The design was inspired by the French coachbuilder Henri Labourdette, and was commissioned by the Maharaja Sir Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, the ruling Maharaja of the state of Patiala from 1900 to 1938. The Maharaja reputedly owned more than 20 Rolls Royce cars, and would often travel in a motorcade involving all of his princely cars.
1931 Bentley 8 Litre Dual Cowl Tourer, coachwork by Gurney Nutting
Winner: Best of Show at 2019 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
1931 Bentley 8 Litre Dual Cowl Tourer, coachwork by Gurney Nutting. ©Rolex/Tom O’Neal
The second Bentley 8 Litre to make the final eight cars in the Peninsula Classics 2019 Best of the Best Award, this 1931 Bentley 8 Litre Dual Cowl Tourer is one of just two fitted with Gurney Nutting Sports Tourer bodies on a short (144-inch) wheelbase Bentley 8 Litre chassis, and this car is the last known example. Having won the Pebble Beach Concours d’elegance Best of Show, the summit is near.
1931 Stutz DV32 Convertible Victoria, coachwork by LeBaron
Winner: Best of Show at 2019 The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering
1931 Stutz DV32 Convertible Victoria, coachwork by LeBaron.
The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering
Indianapolis-based Stutz was a sports and luxury car manufacturer that became a victim of the Great Depression, with the DV-32 being its last flagship model. The DV-32 model name was designed to convey the engine’s “Dual Valve” status in that each of the eight cylinders had two sets of valves for a total of 32. The new DOHC aluminum head increased volumetric efficiency by a whopping 40 percent and offered a very rapid sports car, just as America was experiencing the fear of financial unknown as Wall Street melted.
This particular car, which won the Best of Show award at The Quail Motorsport Gathering 2019, is believed to have been a prototype of sorts in that it was to become an elite production specification catalogue for Le Baron, which already provided most of the custom bodies built for Stutz.
The toughest of decisions
The winning car will be decided by a panel of 25 well-qualified judges, ranging from collectors to automotive designers. Their decision making will be one of the hardest imaginable tasks – all eight of these cars have crossed our pages previously, as each has won its major award, and we’ve all appreciated the exquisite beauty of each before. Trying to compare them and choose a winner from eight perfect specimens … good luck guys.