The parent company of Mercedes-Benz, Daimler-Benz, was Germany's leading producer of luxury cars and heavy trucks prior to World War II. They enjoyed much success in Grand Prix and sports car competition thanks, in part, to Mercede's advanced technology including supercharging, fully independent suspension, light-alloy metallurgy, and overhead camshafts.
Mercedes-Benz began producing a line of large and fast grand touring cars beginning in 1932. The 540K model was offered from 1936 to 1938 and was the design work of Hermann Ahrens and built to order by Karrosserie Sindelfingen (a Mercedes-Benz in-house coach building subsidiary). The Special Roadster, with its towering grille and sweeping scallop-edged fenders, featured an arrogantly long hood with a low windscreen and a very tight cabin. There was an elegant, flowing, tapered tail and a price tag that was equally extreme as the car.
There were around 400 examples of the 540K produced and only twenty-six were Special Roadsters. These are considered the pinnacle of German pre-war automotive design. They were virtually hand-built with an exceptionally high construction quality. Inside, there was a mother-of-pearl instrument panel, rich leather seating, and twin spotlights that flanked a swept-back windshield. The enclosed versions of the 540Ks could cruise at 100 mph on Germany's high-speed Autobahns. The lighter Special Roadster could top 115 mph. Despite its fully independent suspension, the 540K is a smooth-riding grand tourer and not a sports car.
This example was restored by Chris Charlton in Oxford, Maine. In 2004, it won its class at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. The car is powered by a 330 cubic-inch, 16-valve supercharged overhead valve V-8 engine. It produces 180 horsepower and is mated to a 4-speed manual with pre-select for third and fourth gears. By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2011
On May 4, 1945, The US Army, C Company, 326th Engineers, 101st Airborne Division 'Screaming Eagles' liberated and took possession of this armored 1937 Mercedes Benz 540 K Spezial Roadster at Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian alps. The car had been custom made for Hermann Goring, Reichsmarschall of the Greater German Reich, President of the German Parliament, Commander of the German Air Force and President of the Preussian Council of State. Goring was also a WWI fighter pilot as commander of the Red Baron Squadron.
Major General Maxwell Taylor used this Mercedes as his command car in Germany until it was commissioned by the US Treasury Dept, in Washington DC to be displayed on a Victory war bond fund-raising tour across the USA. The bond tour was very successful. Some ten years later the car was auctioned away by the army in Maryland in 1956. It has been stowed away in a private collection since 1958.
This Mercedes Benz 540 K Spezial Roadster has been carefully preserved, with emphasis on keeping as much as possible original. There has been no body off. The engine and transmission have not been opened. The two bullet-marks from a 101'st soldiers rifle shots are still seen on this Trophy of War, shown as of its moment of liberation.
Sold for $1,996,988 (€1,400,000) at 2011 RM Auctions. This Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A has coachwork by Sindelfingen. It is one of only 83 Cabriolet A's built and it has won numerous National Awards.
Sold for $2,530,000 at 2007 RM Auctions. This 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster has chassis number 154080 and is bodied by the Mayfair Carriage Company. From 1936 through 1940 a total of 419 540K chassis were built A total of eleven standard body styles were created by the factory at Sindelfingen for the 540K. Less than ten carried custom coachwork by the U.K. coachbuilder, Mayfair. They work mostly centered around small volume production for companies such as Alvis and Lagonda.
This sporty vehicle has a folding windshield, skirted rear fenders, and extensive use of louvers. It is fitted with an eight-cylinder engine with driver activated and gear driven Rootes type supercharger with twin updraft pressurized carburetors. The result is 180 horsepower which is sent to the rear wheels through a four-speed gearbox with synchromesh on the third and a dog clutch on the fourth gear. Four-wheel servo-assisted hydraulic drum brakes provide the stopping power.
It was shipped from the factory on October 7th of 1936 to the factory store in Paris, France. Paris was an unusual place for a right-hand drive chassis, especially one that would later be fitted with an English body. Some theory's for this unusual situation was that it may have been ordered by a British individual living in Paris who took possession of the chassis then had it sent to the UK for completion. In any case, the early history of the vehicle has been lost to time and the mystery of its early travel to Paris adds to the allure of the vehicle.
The car was brought to North America by a Canadian serviceman. This part of the vehicle's history is also unknown. But by the late 1950s, the car was still in Canada. It was involved in a garage fire but received very little damage. In the early 1960s it was purchased by publisher and collector Richard C. Mertz who had the car brought to America and commissioned a restoration.
In 1984, the restoration was in the process, and Mr. Mertz passed away. The ownership passed to his son, Stephen Mertz, of Royal Oak, Mi.
In 1995 the car was nearing completion but some of the work was over two decades old. The car was sold and purchased by Ralph Englestad of Las Vegas, Nevada. Under his care the restoration was completed, with the work done the vehicle amounting to a second restoration. The color was changed from black over silver to red. Mr. Englestad passed away in 2002 and the car entered the collection of a well-known California enthusiast.
This 540K Special Roadster was brought to the 2007 Monterey Sports & Classic Car Auction presented by RM Auctions, where it had an estimated value of $2,500,000 - $3,000,000. It was one of the highlights of the show and one of the high sales of the day, as the lot was sold for $2,530,000 including buyer's premium. By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2007
This body style first appeared in 1933 and was first introduced at the 1934 Berlin Motor Show as the Mercedes-Benz 500K. The 540K was introduced in 1936 and built on the 500K with a larger more powerful engine. The 5.4-liter, straight eight-cylinder engine produced 115 horsepower when fed by the dual updraft carburetor. An additional 65 horsepower was added when the gas pedal was depressed, engaging the Kompressor.
The bodies of the nicest of the Mercedes 540Ks were built by Mercedes in its Sindelfingen plant in Germany. Launched at the Paris Salon in 1936, these supercharged 5.4-liter, 8-cylinder cars were built in many different styles from closed coupes to seven-seat sedans. There were also six different cabriolet designs.
This particular cabriolet was delivered to the Mercedes dealer, Carlo Saporiti, in Milan. It remained there until the mid-fifties. The car changed hands three times before it fell into the hands of racing school owner Skip Barber, in 2001. The current owner purchased the car in 2006 and had the vehicle completely restored.
It is one of 97 examples built at Sindelfingen and one of a very few with left-hand drive. In its day, the 540K Cabriolet A sold for 28,000 Reichsmarks. Sadly Mercedes ceased production of the 540K in 1942.
A total of 406 (or as many as 419) 540s were produced on this chassis from 1936 through 1940. The original price was $7,500 when the average American car of the era sold for $750.
Sold for $9,680,000 at 2011 RM Auctions. This 540 K Special Roadster is one of three bodied with a covered spare tire, which allowed the rear aspect to be rounded and the most attractive of the Special Roadster configurations of the 1936-1938 period.
This car is believed to have been originally delivered to Adolph Eichmann when he resided in Argentina. Later the car was in the United States, Australia, Germany and finally to the present owner in the United States.
The car is powered by a 5.4-liter supercharged, in-line, eight-cylinder engine developing 180 horsepower coupled to an unsynchronized four-speed manual transmission. It has a top speed of 105 MPH and is capable of 0-60 MPH in 16.4 seconds.
The early thirties saw Daimler-Benz begin to design high-speed touring cars, culminating in 1936 with the construction of the 540K. The eight-cylinder, 5.4-liter, big-bore engine was supercharged - and engaging; it rewarded drivers with a distinctive C-note from the 540K's whinnying blower. The engine developed 180 horsepower, was capable of 0-60 mph in 16.4 seconds and had a top speed of 105 mph. The steering was stiff at lower speeds, but one look at the body (there were nine options) made it clear that speed would never be a problem. The 5,720-pound car was equipped with a 4-speed manual transmission and four-wheel independent suspension.
This was the fastest production automobile of its era.
Cabriolet C Chassis Num: 154062 Engine Num: 154062
Sold for $1,072,500 at 2016 Gooding & Company. With six feet of hood separating the driver from the front of the Mercedes 540K, there had to be something important under all that elegantly styled sheet metal. In this case, it was a legend - and an enormous engine. The early thirties saw Daimler-Benz begin to design high-speed touring cars, culminating in 1936 in the construction of the 540K. The eight-cylinder, 5.4-liter, big-bore engine was supercharged - the 'K' designation stands for Kompressor - and engaging; it rewarded drivers with a distinctive note from the 540K's whinnying blower. The steering was stiff at lower speeds, but one look at the hody (there were nine options from which to choose) made it clear that speed would never be a problem. The car was one of the first to employ four-wheel independent suspension. The transmission is an unsynchronized four-speed manual; the car has a top speed of 105 mph. This example was found in Japan and brought to the United States in 2004, where it was completely restored to its original condition.
Factory records indicate that some 419 examples of the 540K were produced between 1936 and 1939. Only 32 of this particular Sports Cabriolet A version were produced, and only 12 are known to survive. This example's bodywork left the Sindelfingen factory on April 9th of 1937. On the same day that the body was completed, it was transported to the assembly area at Unterturkheim where it was joined to the chassis. Some of the features of this car are inherent to the 540K Special Roadster, including the radiator mounted behind the front axle, extremely long fenders and the twin spare wheels mounted at the rear. These two body styles are the most sought-after of all the factory coachwork. They were among the ultimate cars that money could buy in the late 1930s. This car reigns as the fastest production road car of its era and the last supercharged model the company built until the modern era.
Of the twenty-six 540K Special Roadsters built, just six had the long tail with fully enclosed spare tire recessed into the rear deck. Specially prepared by Mercedes-Benz, this car was the center-piece of the factory's display at the 1937 Berlin Motor Show. Warner Brothers Pictures purchased it from the display for impresario Jack Warner. It has fewer than 12,000 miles on it.
This is one of the very desirable Cabriolet B versions of the supercharged Mercedes 5.3-liter 540K, and this impressive matching-numbers example retains all of its original major components: chassis, engine and bodywork. Its bodywork was finished at the Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen coachworks. The original Mercedes-Benz 500K with a 5 liter engine was introduced in 1934 with the 'K' for kompressor, or supercharger. In non-aspirated form, the engine produced 100 horsepower, and with the adoption of the kompressor the horsepower jumped to an impressive 160. The 5.4-liter 540K supercharged engine produced a further 20 horsepower, making it one of the fastest grand touring cars of their time.
High bid of $3,100,000 at 2015 RM Auctions. (did not sell) This 540K Sport Cabriolet A was ordered by Martha Jordans and was delivered to her home in Monchengladbach, Germany. Documentation suggests that Miss Jordans placed the order for this car in Paris, although the car was actually delivered on February 12th of 1937, to her German home on Albertusstrasse in Mönchengladbach via Daimler-Benz Düsseldorf. Jordans was a friend of Alfred Krupp, the steel magnate, and on the inside of the hood there is a plaque with his name. Jordans later emigrated via Paris to the United States and her Cabriolet A went with her.
Eighty-three Cabriolet As of all styles were built on the 540 K chassis, and 32 of this version, which was introduced in 1936, were constructed. Just 10 bodies of the 826200 series were built (with Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen coachwork), and this example, body number 826201, is the first of these.
This vehicle has been in many books and was also featured in the US magazine Car Collector while in the ownership of American Mercedes-Benz expert Tom Kreid in the 1980s. In 1996 the car returned to Germany and was purchased by Dr. Stoffel of Straubing in Germany. It was later restored in Germany by prewar specialists Wagner of Landshut. The car is a great example of this prestigious supercharged Mercedes and still has its original Telefunken radio and fitted luggage.
Sold for $2,970,000 at 2016 Bonhams. Mercedes-Benz produced 97 examples of the 540K in 136, 145 in 1937, 95 in 1938 and 69 in 1939 before the war ended series production (though three more were built up to July 1942). When number, numerous examples to delivered to the United Kingdom, including this car. It was Order Commission number 236582 for Mr. Embiricos.
Andre M. Embiricos was a shipping and banking magnate and contested LeMans no fewer than 3 times in the post war era. Embiricos is also remembered for a unique Bentley Aerodynamic Coupe designed by Georges Paulin and built by Pourtout.
Andre had a cousin, Nicholas, who also carved a path in the automotive spectrum by racing both a Bugatti Type 53 and an ERA. It is not confirmed, but seems more likely that it was Nicholas Embiricos who owned the Mercedes as he was a resident in England in the late 1930s. Within a few short years after emigrating to America in 1941 he sadly met his demise in an air accident in Rhode Island.
This two seater cabriolet is more aerodynamic and low slung that its predecessor. The radiator is set a full 6 inches behind the centre line of the front wheels, has a super low windshield and top, with a single extra wheel placed on the swept back tail.
By 1940 the car had passed through Mercedes-Benz of Great Britain to S. Pettit of Pulborough in the Sussex county in the UK and then to a Haulage contractor in 1944. At the time it was listed as being in 'almost new' condition. It was finished in white with pigskin upholstery and had a patent leather roof.
By the 1980s the car had migrated to America and soon acquired by Don Williams of the Blackhawk Collection. While in his care, the car was given a sympathetic and exacting restoration of the bodywork brought it to the jet black scheme it wears today. The interior was refurbished in a parchment hide, and remains complete and correct with its luggage stowed behind the two seats. The odometer shows just a single digit, meaning it has seen little use since the restoration was completed. By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2016
Cabriolet C Chassis Num: 154062 Engine Num: 154062
Sold for $1,072,500 at 2016 Gooding & Company. The Mercedes-Benz 540K, introduced at the Paris Salon in October of 1936, was a road-going vehicle capable of 100 mph. They were built upon the success of the earlier S-Type and 500 K models. Power was sourced from a 5.4-liter supercharged straight-eight engine, a configuration inspired by the Grand Prix Silver Arrows. The Roots supercharger was engaged manually or when the driver floored the throttle. With the compressor engaged, the alternative atmospheric intake to the carburetor was closed, and power was boosted from 115 bhp to 180 bhp. Along with the supercharger, the 540K had servo-assisted hydraulic brakes, an independent suspension, and a four-speed gearbox with a direct top gear. Most Mercedes wore coachwork assembled in Stuttgart, at the Sindelfingen works. Many different chassis and body styles were offered, including four different cabriolet designs.
The Cabriolet C body style was elegant, with two large doors, sweeping fenders, and accommodation for five occupants. In total, just 419 examples of the 540 K were produced, with 97 of those in 1936. Of the 32 Cabriolet Cs built, it is believed that six to eight were finished with a 'steep rear,' or sloped back.
This particular example, chassis number 154062, was delivered new under production order number 233717 on October 26th of 1936, to Souheur & Chappuis, the Mercedes-Benz dealer in Brussels. A British individual acquired it in January of 1937.
The car's early history is not fully known, but by the early 1970s, it was owned by the Specialty Cars Store Inc., of Warrendale, PA. It was acquired in January of 1975 by Margaret B. Cowan, of Colorado Springs, Colorado. By the early 1980s, it had become part of the Imperial Palace Collection in Las Vegas. Shortly thereafter, it came into the care of a private collection in Japan. In the early 2000s, the car returned to the United States and into the care of Cave Creek Classics of Cave Creek, Arizona. The current owner acquired it from the Cave Creek Classics.
In 2016, the car was offered for sale at Gooding & Company's auction held in Pebble Beach, CA where it had an estimated value of $1.2 -$1.4 million. As bidding came to a close, it had been sold for $1,072,500 including buyer's premium. By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2016
Sold for $9,900,000 at 2016 RM Auctions. Mercedes-Benz began producing a line of large and fast grand touring cars beginning in 1932. The 540K model was offered from 1936 to 1938 and was the design work of Hermann Ahrens and built to order by Karrosserie Sindelfingen (a Mercedes-Benz in-house coach building subsidiary).
This roadster is powered by a 180 hp, 5,401 cc OHV inline eight-cylinder engine with driver-activated Roots-type supercharger and twin updraft pressurized carburetors. It is coupled to a four-speed manual transmission with synchromesh on third and a dog clutch on fourth, independent wishbone coil front suspension, independent swing-arm rear suspension and four-wheel servo-assisted hydraulic drum brakes. It rides on a 128 in. wheelbase. Just 419 chassis were built, and of those, only 26 carried the longtail Spezial Roadster coachwork.
The Mercedes-Benz 500K was introduced in 1934 with the 'K' representing a Kompressor which is German for supercharger. In non-aspirated form, the engine produced 100 horsepower. With the adoption of the Kompressor the horsepower jumped to an impressive 160 making them one of the fastest grand touring cars of their time. The vehicles rode on a 116 inch wheelbase.
In 1936 the 540K was introduced which increased power even further. The base version produced 115 horsepower while the supercharged increased horsepower to 180. The engine bay was lengthened and the wheelbase was extended by twelve inches which allowed for more stately and elegant vehicles. Chrome accents were used throughout added to the visual appeal. The vehicles were elegant, powerful, and produced in limited numbers. Production continued until 1940 with only 419 examples being produced.
The Mercedes-Benz were among the most desirable and elegant vehicles of their day. They were constructed of the finest materials available. The craftsmanship is legendary and undeniable excellent. Most of the chassis received coachwork by the Mercedes-Benz in-house coachworks facility named the Sindelfingen Body Works. The others were sent to coachbuilders such as Erdmann & Rossi.
When completed, the vehicles carried a price tag that only few could afford. During World War II many were hidden and protected along with other priceless works-of-art.
Though the 540K models were all built to the same mechanical and chassis configurations, they varied based on their coachwork designs making many unique creations. Configurations varied such as four-seat cabriolets, long-tail roadsters, and high-door luxury styles. The vehicles were tailored to the buyer's requirements and requests.
With production low and craftsmanship at their peak, these vehicles are well sought after in modern times. They continue to win 'Best in Show' and class awards at various concourses throughout the country. By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2006
Two new – and very different – Mercedes models were displayed at the Berlin Motor Show in March 1934. One was the 130, Mercedes-Benz's first production car wîth a rear-mounted four-cylinder engine which developed 26 hp from a displacement of 1.3 liters. The other was the 500 K, an imposing, elegant sports car wîth supercharged eight-cylinder engine; wîth the supercharger engaged, it developed 160 hp from a displacement of 5,018 cc. The 500 K was the successor to the 380 presented only one year earlier, and a descendant of the tremendously powerful, supercharged S, SS, SSK and SSKL sports cars – genuine muscle cars, as we would call them today, and virtually invincible in motor sport.
The first 500 K – 'K' for Kompressor = supercharger, to distinguish it from the 500 sedan without supercharger – had been designed as an elegant two- or four-seater sports car wîth roadster and cabriolet bodies tailored at the Daimler-Benz plant in Sindelfingen. With this model, the company bid farewell to the Roaring Twenties and the Big Four mentioned earlier. The latter had still had extremely firm chassis wîth rigid axles and leaf springs, i.e. hardly any damping at all, and their bodies were plain and above all functional, not to say uncomfortable.
The new supercharged Mercedes sports car appealed to well-heeled buyers because it was not only powerful but also more elegant, more comfortable and easier to handle than its predecessors – features welcomed in particular by the growing number of lady drivers.
Daimler-Benz had laid the foundations for this type of car as early as 1933 by introducing the 380, the first Mercedes-Benz sports car wîth swing axle. It was the first car that pampered its occupants wîth independent wheel suspension; the latter featured a sensational world first, a double-wishbone front axle that combined wîth the double-joint swing axle introduced in the 170 as early as 1931.
In this ground-breaking design, wheel location, springing and damping were for the first time separated from each other, creating a new level of precision in straightline stability. In its essence, this front axle, fitted like the rear axle wîth coil springs, has remained the design model for generations of automobiles throughout the world to this day, and it also featured in the 500 K, of course.
It was the customers' craving for power, however, that prompted the replacement of the 380, not exactly a lame duck wîth its supercharged 140 hp, by the 500 K only one year later. The newcomer's engine generated 160 hp wîth the supercharger engaged; even without the supercharger in action, it still had an impressive output of 100 hp at 3400 rpm. Depending on fuel quality, which varied greatly in those days, the compression ratio was between 1:5.5 and 1:6.5. The fuel was apportioned to the cylinders by a Mercedes-Benz double updraught carburetor. The driver engaged the double-vane Roots supercharger by depressing the accelerator pedal beyond a pressure point.
With the exception of first gear, both the standard four-speed and the optional five-speed transmissions were synchronized. A single-plate dry clutch linked the engine wîth the powertrain which transmitted engine power to the rear wheels. The car rolled along on wire-spoke wheels which were as elegant as they were robust.
All these features combined to permit a top speed of 160 kilometers per hour – a dream for sports cars in that day and age. The penalty was paid in the form of fuel consumption: between 27 and 30 liters were blown through the carburetor on 100 kilometers. The 110-liter tank in the rear gave the car a decent radius of action.
To meet the individual wishes of the demanding customers, three chassis variants were available for the 500 K: two long versions wîth a 3,290 millimeter wheelbase, differing in terms of powertrain and bodywork layout, and a short version wîth 2,980 millimeters.
The long variant, the so-called normal chassis wîth the radiator directly above the front axle, served as the backbone for the four-seater cabriolets 'B' (with four side windows) and 'C' (with two side windows) and, at a later stage, also for touring cars and sedans.
The roadsters, the two-seater cabriolet 'A' (with two side windows) and the ultra-modern, streamlined Motorway Courier, the first car wîth curved side windows and classified by the manufacturer as a sports sedan, were set up on a chassis on which radiator, engine, cockpit and all rearward modules were moved 185 millimeters back from the front axle. This configuration was a concession to the zeitgeist, a small trick that created the visual impression of a particularly long front-end and, therefore, the desired sporting appeal.
The most ravishing model of this species was the two-seater 500 K special roadster launched in 1936, a masterpiece in terms of its styling, wîth inimitably powerful and elegant lines. It has been filling onlookers wîth enthusiasm to this day, reflecting, as it does, the spirit of its day and age as well as the design perfection of the 500 K models. Its price tag – 28,000 Reichsmark – was 6,000 marks above the average price of 'simpler' models. People were able to buy a generously furnished house for that money.
The short-wheelbase chassis was used only for a few two-seaters wîth special bodies. On these models, the radiator was back right above the front axle, and the models carried the designations 500 K sports roadster, sports cabriolet and sports coupe.
The 500 K's chassis complete wîth helical-spindle §teering had been adopted – though in further refined form – from the preceding 380: the new double-wishbone axle wîth coil springs at the front and the double-joint swing axle - complemented by double coil springs and additional transverse balancing spring – at the rear. The vacuum-boosted service brake acted hydraulically on all four wheels, the mechanical parking brake on the rear wheels. The chassis weighed as much as 1,700 kilograms; the complete car tipped the scales at 2,300 kilograms and the permissible gross weight was around 2,700 kilograms.
No matter what version of the 500 K you look at, the elegance of its body sends people into raptures even today: every single one had been given its own, unparalleled personality by the ingenious coachbuilders in Sindelfingen. Only few customers opted for bodywork tailored by independent bodybuilders to their own wishes (the price lists quoted the chassis as individual items), especially since the Sindelfingers rose above themselves in accommodating the customers' special wishes, for instance for individual fender versions, rear-end designs or interior appointments. Within two years, 342 units of the 500 K were produced.
In response to the virtually insatiable craving for performance on the part of well-heeled customers all over the world, the 500 K was replaced in 1936 by the 540 K wîth supercharged 180 hp engine. This model was sold to 319 motoring enthusiasts.
The history of supercharged Mercedes-Benz cars goes back to World War II and has its roots in aeroengine production. Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft had introduced mechanical air compressors which supercharged the engines and thereby compensated for the power loss of aeroengines at higher altitudes, ensuring their stable performance.
The first Mercedes models wîth supercharged engines were displayed at the Berlin Motor Show in 1921 – between bicycles wîth auxiliary engines and mini-cars. They caused quite a stir among automotive experts. With the supercharger, an engine booster had been introduced which, from 1926, catapulted Mercedes passenger, sports and racing cars into a new dimension of performance.Source - Mercedes-Benz
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