To the Victor Go the Spoils – The Saga of Two Mercedes-Benz Classics Modelled by EMC
by Harvey Goranson
Part 1 – 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster “The Blue Goose”
Only a few days after the Chicago model car shows in March 2012, I received this beauty from a contact in the Ukraine. I had seen the pre-1945 versions of this car on ebay and at the then-recent show, festooned with Nazi flags in top up or top down versions. But this is the third version (limited to only 50) and I jumped on it when it was offered to me. I have not seen another since.
There is an outstanding history of the car here: www.literaryclub.org/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/bluegooseii.pdf
I encourage MAR Online blog subscribers to read this as it was one of the most detailed and fascinating histories I’ve ever read of a classic car.
Hermann Goering was Hitler’s right hand man – among other things he was president of the German parliament and commander of the air force. He and Hitler attended the German auto show in Berlin in 1937 and Goering placed an order for the Mercedes-Benz 540K, seeking to upgrade from his 500K. The Special Roadster was to have several modifications, including his blue spotlight, special metallic blue paint, siren, body armor, and bulletproof glass. (Why these were needed on an open roadster with a canvas top is beyond me, but whatever…)
Goering lived a lavish lifestyle. As the war went downhill and Goering started to fall into disfavor, life became more stressful. Both factors led him to become, shall we say, portly, and the 540K was modified to set the driver’s seat back a bit to allow clearance to the steering wheel. EMC caught this small detail.
By Spring of 1945 the war was winding down. On May 4, 1945, soldiers of the 101st Airborne entered a rather subdued Berchtesgaden. Entering a garage near the SS housing compound, they found two Mercedes automobiles, a Grosser Mercedes and this 540K. Suspecting booby-traps, Captain Joe Crilley directed his staff sergeant, Robert Smiley, to check out the cars. Smiley drew his weapon and fired at the driver’s side window (which only chinked a bit) and put another 45 round into a left fender. Thinking everything must be OK, he looking in and found keys in the ignition.
You can guess what followed: joy riding with bottles of Cognac they found! They came to call it the “Blue Goose”. Eventually Major General Maxwell Taylor decided this would make a great command car, and had his two-star plate affixed to the front, along with various registration markings. So there you have it: a metallic blue Mercedes US military vehicle.
The US Treasury Department had other ideas, and the car was shipped to the US to be paraded around at war bond rallies and such. But by 1956 it was declared surplus, and auctioned off for a mere $2167. I’ll leave a lot out here, succession of owners, blah, blah. But presently the car is sightly restored to May 1945 condition. No frame off – the car is preserved with the two bullet marks since that is part of its lore.
EMC left off these two damages, but I can live with that. It is an outstanding model, as you might expect. And this is the version to have, IMHO. In the above picture you can see the 101st Airborne markings, and the little blue night-light between the headlamps. This was used to reflect light off a vehicle in front so as not to use headlights in the wartime dark.
It was inevitable that I would compare this car to my other Special Roadster, the 1936 500K once owned by Bernie Ecclestone.
You can see the 500K is a bit longer, and the body has an S-shaped flip towards the rear, whereas the 540K has a straightforward curve down. The seat position to accommodate Goering is evident. The wheels are outstanding.
For 1937 M-B concealed the spare tire to improve aerodynamics.
An outstanding pair! EMC is still at the top of their game.