“In 1992, when David Gooding worked in the car department at Christie’s, he received a telephone call from a lawyer charged with settling the estate of an elderly woman who had died alone in Vevey, Switzerland. For a time this woman summered at a hotel in Greenwich, Conn., and among her possessions there was a dusty old Mercedes that had been languishing in a warehouse, surrounded by old carnival equipment. “It’s black,” Gooding recalled the lawyer saying. “It’s a convertible, and it’s old.”
“How old?” Gooding asked.
“I don’t know. But it has pipes coming out of the side.”
This was no ordinary Mercedes. It turned out to be an exceedingly rare 1936 540K Special Roadster…
…In the 1950s, von Krieger brought the roadster to New York, where the baroness lived in hotels like the Waldorf-Astoria and the St. Regis. She left the car in the United States when she returned to Switzerland, in 1959, and in the subsequent decades grew increasingly reclusive. In 1989, when she died of a heart attack, she was living in Havishamian squalor, with $320,000 worth of jewels by Cartier and others — later auctioned off by Sotheby’s — scattered around her filthy apartment. “She really died very much alone. It was quite a tragic story,” Gooding said. “When they discovered her body, she had been dead for quite some time.” Her Mercedes Roadster, secreted away for four decades in Connecticut, proved to be the best custodian of von Krieger’s glamorous legacy. When the car was found, the glove box contained a pair of the baroness’s white silk gloves. In the ashtray were ancient cigarette butts, stained with lipstick.”