A magnificent 1939 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A was the priciest lot at Bonhams’ Paris sale yesterday, with the hammer falling at €1,581,250 (£1,383,158).
Once owned by His Majesty King Hussein bin Talal, former King of Jordan, this elegant, supercharged classic was sold to a European bidder in the room – an understated word if ever there was one for the auction’s spectacular location at the Grand Palais.
However, despite achieving this not-inconsiderable sum, the 540K failed to reach even the lower end of its €1.7m-2.3m pre-sale estimate.
The 540K was sold as a chassis or with one of seven different bodies, and with a mere 319 produced in total, any example is something special.
This car was delivered new to Germany in April 1939 and is well-travelled, having lived in the USA and, during King Hussein’s custodianship, followed its owner around the world – His Royal Highness clearly preferring to use it rather than exhibiting it in The Royal Auto Museum in Amman.
It was restored in the early ’90s, at which point it was converted to right-hand drive as King Hussein planned to keep the Mercedes in the UK – and it’s from this royal collection that it was sold this week.
Its first owner, a Mr Heckler of Springfield, Ohio, kept it from new in September 1955 until 1972, when it was red with a black-leather interior.
A lot has clearly changed since then. In 1973 it was repainted in metallic silver grey and its original engine was scrapped, replaced by an aluminium version made by the factory in 1965.
It’s been restored several times since, most recently completed to concours level last November, during which 4350-hour process it gained its Graphite Grey paint, a tan leather interior with matching new Karl Baisch two-piece leather luggage set and upgrades including a Nardi steering wheel and extra headlights.
It wasn’t just Mercedes that broke the €1m barrier in the French capital, though.
A 1928 Bentley 6½ Litre Four Light Weymann Fabric Sports Saloon sold for €1,150,000 (£1,009,124) to an online bidder, but this, too, failed to make its €1.2m-1.4m estimate.
Indeed, many of the lots with the highest guide prices failed to find new homes. These included a 1957 BMW 507, a 1997 RUF Porsche CTR2 Sport Prototype, a 1928 Bugatti Type 43 Grand Sport Tourer, a 1930 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750, a 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster and a 1956 Ferrari 250GT Berlinetta.
A price of €805,000 (£704,153) was achieved by a double concours-winning 1950 Porsche 356 Split-Window ‘Four-Digit’ Coupé, while another Bentley, a 1931 8-Litre Sports Tourer fetched €787,750 (£689,064).
Other interesting lots to find new homes yesterday included an ex-Didier Auriol/Bernard Occelli 1994 Toyota Celica ST185 Turbo Group A Rally Car that realised €207,000 (£181,068).
A charming 1962 Citroën 2CV Sahara 4x4 saloon also sold handsomely – for €87,400 (£76,693) – while a €58,650 (£51,465) bid secured the intriguing 1928 Hanomag 2/10PS ‘Kommisbrot’.
And what of that Mercedes-Lancia hybrid in serious need of TLC? It sold for €27,600 (£24,147). We wonder what the future holds for this unique car.
For the full results from Bonhams’ Grand Palais sale, and every other auction for the past six months, check out the C&SC classic car auction results database.