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$9.9 Million buys you a piece of Mercedes-Benz’s rarified history

When the bidding for a vehicle kicks off at $5 million, you know you’re witnessing a rather unique transaction.

That was the stage set at this year’s Arizona Biltmore auction in Phoenix when a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster rolled onto the block. Minutes later, the new owner had agreed to pay $9.9 million for the pre-WWII-era model.

Besides the fact that this automotive gem is in extraordinarily good condition, Chassis number 130894 is considered to be one of the earliest production models of the 540 K to have endured 79 years, and more spectacular still is the fact that this specific model was pre-production.

With only 10,227 miles under its belt, a full history of vehicle care, and all-original drivetrain components (including the engine number), the automotive world deems this roadster a treasure.

Under the chrome-laden bonnet rests a 5.4-liter eight-cylinder engine with a manual Roots-style supercharger to boost output from 115 horsepower to 180. That power is routed via a four-speed manual transmission. The up-to-the-minute braking system includes four-wheel servo-assisted hydraulic drum brakes while driving body movement iss managed via an independent wishbone front coil suspension and independent swing-arm rear suspension.

Obviously the poster boy of the auction, the Mercedes-Benz roadster contributed a good portion to the total $62.8 million in sales from the event. Buyers from 20 countries took home other rare vehicles like a 1929 Duesenberg Model J Disappearing Top Torpedo Convertible Coupe (whose fanciful name is not only extensive, but also contradictory, for $3 million), a 1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV ($2 million), and a 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder ($1.59 million).

Here’s to hoping that hot-rod red Mercedes roadster isn’t tucked away in some wealthy individual’s garage for another eight decades, but is rather enjoyed and loved like one of the family.

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