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CHRONICLES OF ELEGANCE: The Timeless Journey of the Mayfair 540K

Written by Nicole Ellan James


Life unfolds like chapters in a book, each page revealing exquisite yet fleeting moments, akin to the illuminating flash of lightning in a summer monsoon storm or the rare appearance of a comet’s tail once every century. If not embraced, these moments can fade into the shadows of memory and remorse. In the mere blink of an eye, we risk overlooking something genuinely extraordinary – in this instance, the offering of a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster with one-off coachwork by Mayfair Carriage Company, from the personal collection of Don Williams.

Williams, an integral figure in the founding team of Barrett-Jackson and a cherished member of its family, left an indelible mark on the collector car hobby with his profound knowledge of classic vehicles. Alongside Barrett-Jackson Chairman and CEO Craig Jackson, Williams played a key role in establishing the Salon Collection at the Scottsdale Auction. Since its inception, the Salon Collection has showcased some of the world’s rarest, most valuable, collectible and sought-after vehicles, including the stunningly presented Mayfair-bodied Mercedes-Benz 540K selling with No Reserve at the 2024 Scottsdale Auction, which runs from January 20-28 at WestWorld of Scottsdale.

It was common for upscale luxury cars built before World War II – such as those often showcased within the Salon Collection – to receive custom bodies crafted by renowned coachbuilders. However, the Mercedes-Benz 540K defied convention. Its factory body styles were so beloved that only 70 out of the 419 vehicles produced between 1936 and 1940 were designated for custom coachwork, an unusually low number for luxury vehicles of that era. The example on offer in Scottsdale, Chassis No. 154080 – one of the exclusive 70 – has a unique distinction: It is one of less than 10 graced with custom coachwork by a U.K. coachbuilder.

The original owner of Chassis No. 154080 commissioned the Mayfair Carriage Company in London to craft its body. Specifically ordered with a set-back radiator designed for open cars and factory roadsters, this variant, known as “Fahrgestell mit zuruckgesetztem Motor” (meaning “chassis with a setback motor”), featured a distinctive modification. The radiator and entire drivetrain were set back by 185 millimeters (just over 7 inches), visible externally by the relative position of the radiator over the front axle. This alteration imparted a unique flair, lending the car a more aggressive front end and an overall longer, lower appearance.

According to Mercedes-Benz chassis records, Chassis No. 154080 was dispatched to Paris, France, on October 7, 1936, a rather unconventional journey for a right-hand-drive chassis destined for English bodywork. As documented by Williams’ Blackhawk Collection, speculation surrounds the car’s purpose, ranging from an order by a British expatriate to an original commission for an Indian maharajah. The limited details fuel intrigue, enhancing the exotic allure enveloping the car.

The Mayfair coachwork on the 540K is truly exquisite, featuring a folding windshield, sleek lines, fender skirts and polished louvers that embody the “elegance in motion” of automotive design from that era. Notably lighter than the conventional closed bodies usually found on these chassis, the Mayfair design enhances the vibrant performance of the inline 8-cylinder engine, equipped with a driver-activated and gear-driven Roots-type supercharger delivering 180 horsepower. The engine is fed by twin updraft pressurized carburetors and is paired with a 4-speed transmission featuring synchromesh in third and a dog clutch in fourth. The suspension includes independent wishbone coil front suspension, independent swing-arm rear suspension, and four-wheel servo-assisted hydraulic drum brakes, all riding on an impressive 128-inch wheelbase.

The car’s journey through time adds layers to its narrative. At the end of World War II, the car was in London before being purchased by Peter Hessler of Quebec, Canada, who brought it to North America and owned it for only a brief period before it found its way into the hands of an enthusiast named Paul Suckling residing in Toronto.

In the 1960s, the vehicle was stored and unfortunately caught fire. Rob Williams – who inherited his prewar-car knowledge from his father Don – shared that sections of the car’s body were removed after the fire. Notably, those body panels and doors were not lost or destroyed in the incident; the car did receive new wood framing though to bring it back to life. Impressively, the vehicle’s metal is entirely

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By: Barrett-Jackson
Title: CHRONICLES OF ELEGANCE: The Timeless Journey of the Mayfair 540K
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Published Date: Thu, 04 Jan 2024 17:27:22 +0000

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2024 Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance Preview

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The 29th annual Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance, powered by O’Gara Coach, will bring a full day of free family fun to Beverly Hills on Sunday, June 16. This year’s Father’s Day car show will feature 100 rare and iconic vehicles, great food and plenty of entertainment. The Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance, which will take place between Wilshire Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., is one of the area’s most beloved annual events. Here’s a glimpse at what you can expect to see on California’s most iconic street:

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Show-stopping cars

This year’s event will host a special celebration of hypercars, supercars, race cars, classics and custom-built showstoppers. Provided by exclusive private collections, passionate car enthusiasts and even some of the world’s most recognized manufacturers, this has become one of the country’s preeminent luxury car shows.


Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance Chairman Bruce Meyer, Beverly Hills Mayor Lester Friedman, Rodeo Drive Committee President Kay Monica Rose and renowned car buff Jay Leno will present trophies to 12 award-winning entrants—from “Most Elegant” to “Best in Show”—on the main stage starting at noon.

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By: Rex McAfee
Title: 2024 Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance Preview
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Published Date: Mon, 10 Jun 2024 17:10:18 +0000

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Speed Read: A garage-built Ducati 996 café racer and more

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The latest café racers, flat trackers, and electric scooters.
We kick things off with a feel-good story of a botched Ducati 996 custom job, rescued by a talented garage builder. Then we look at a dazzling Yamaha SR500 flat tracker from 20-year-old Moritz Bree, a dustbin-faired Honda Dax from K-Speed, and a BMW CE 04 scooter from Deus ex Machina.

Ducati 996 café racer by Jaron Hall
Ducati 996 by Jaron Hall Most people would balk at the idea of customizing a Ducati 996, but Utah-based garage builder Jaron Hall’s work on this 996 is nothing short of noble. That’s because when Jaron got his hands on the 996, it was in dire need of saving.

The Ducati’s previous owner had tried to turn it into a scrambler, so it came to Jaron with no fairings, a hacked subframe, and a smorgasbord of sketchy parts. Working after hours (he has a marketing day job), and taking on the entire build solo, Jaron turned the mongrel 996 into a high-class Italian café racer.

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By: Wesley Reyneke
Title: Speed Read: A garage-built Ducati 996 café racer and more
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Published Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2024 20:50:06 +0000

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Rolls-Royce ‘Models of the Marque’: the 1910s

Rolls Royce Silver Ghost 04

Of all the famous nameplates borne by Rolls-Royce motor cars since 1904, few are as celebrated, significant, evocative and enduring as the ‘Silver Ghost’. Formally launched in 1906 as the 40/50 H.P., it was the first model to be awarded the soubriquet of ‘the best car in the world’ that Rolls-Royce retains to this day, setting unmatchable standards for performance and reliability, proven in the era’s toughest road trials. It was also a stupendous commercial success, with almost 8,000 examples built in the UK and US over an 18-year period – an unimaginable product lifespan in the modern age. That so many Silver Ghosts still survive in full working order – and, indeed, regularly perform the same feats they achieved more than a century ago – is a lasting monument to Henry Royce’s engineering genius.

Early beginnings

By 1906, just three years after its foundation, Rolls-Royce was already something of a victim of its own success. Demand for its motor cars was such that its line-up had quickly expanded from the original twin-cylinder 10 H.P. to include three-cylinder 15 H.P., four-cylinder 20 H.P. and six-cylinder 30 H.P. models. Henry Royce had even produced the first ever V8 passenger motor car, known as the ‘Lega limit’ since the 3.5-litre engine was governed to keep it below the 20mph speed limit then in force in Britain – only three of these were ever made, and it remains the only Rolls-Royce model of which no examples survive. This proliferation of models reflected a trend across the luxury automotive sector, as competing manufacturers chased an ever more finely segmented client base.

However, for Rolls-Royce, it caused major manufacturing headaches, since many parts were not interchangeable between models. The problem was compounded by Henry Royce’s entirely laudable policy of continuous improvement; his constant adjustments and refinements went all the way down to the smallest components. This created variations between – and even within – production series, to the extent that often only a handful of individual motor cars would be entirely identical.

Simplify Production

As with almost any manufacturing process, more complexity and variability meant increased costs. This was anathema to the highly astute, commercially driven Managing Director, Claude Johnson. Having decided radical change was needed, he proposed the marque should focus all its energies on producing just one model. Charles Rolls enthusiastically agreed, but insisted it should be positioned at the top end of the market, where Rolls-Royce was already gaining a reputation as the very best motor car available. Though a ruthless perfectionist and tireless innovator, Royce was also a pragmatist. He saw the logic of his colleagues’ single-model approach and duly produced a completely new motor car, the 40/50 H.P.

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By: Rex McAfee
Title: Rolls-Royce ‘Models of the Marque’: the 1910s
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Published Date: Wed, 12 Jun 2024 23:23:29 +0000

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