Image credits: © Mercedes-Benz.

1935 Mercedes-Benz 500K

The 500K's were beautiful, elegant, and exclusive models often outfitted with voluptuous coachwork and sold to wealthy clientele.

In 1904 Hans Nibel became chief engineer of Benz. When Daimler-Benz merged, he assisted Dr. Ferdinand Porsche in developing a 6.8-liter supercharged engine that would be outfitted in the 'K', SS, SSK, and SSKL series. The engine created was later enlarged to capacities such as 7.0 and 7.1 liters producing 250 horsepower. The SS was described as that fastest sports car in the world at the time. The SSK was mechanically identical to the SS but was 19-inches shorter and designed for racing. The SSK dominated the racing circuit in the early 1930's. As it began to age, Mercedes-Benz increased its capabilities by giving it a 300-hp engine and drilling holes in the frame to reduce weight. The SSKL was born. This combined was highly successful for a year but in 1932 the Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 had become more agile and competitive.

Hans Nibel was tasked by Mercedes-Benz to create an automobile that was capable of high speeds. He created the 380, a limited production road car. It was introduced in early 1933 and was powered by a inline eight-cylinder engine based off the 290 models six-cylinder unit. The car could be purchased in various bodies and engine configurations. During its production lifespan only 150 examples were produced. Mercedes-Benz introduced the next evolution of the 380, the 500K model. The 500K was powered by a powerful M24 inline-eight cylinder supercharged engine capable of producing 160 horsepower. The 380 was named after the cubic-capacity of its engine, 3820 cc. The 500 followed the same tradition, inspired by its 5018 cc power plant.

The brakes were power assisted, the suspension was rear independent with swing arms, and the transmission had five gears, all of these features were innovative achievements in the automotive community. A bi-product of Nibel's ingenuity, creativity and technological genius.

The 500K was offered in ten unique body styles including the Special Roadster. The Hermann Ahrens designed Special Roadster was a limited production cabriolet that could accommodate two adults in its 209 inch frame. The coachwork was handled by Mercedes-Benz. In total less than 30 examples were produced.

The 500K continued the tradition and legacy of the oldest automobile firm in the world, Mercedes-Benz. Its graceful body hid a powerful engine and mechanical innovations that were revolutionary. The vehicle was strong and dependable assembled with superb German craftsmanship. The Special Roadster is considered one of the most beautiful automobiles ever built.

By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2008

Vehicle Profiles

Cabriolet A

Chassis Num: 105379
Engine Num: 105379

Mercedes-Benz could not have unveiled two completely different visions when it set up its display at the Berlin Motor Show in March of 1934. One vision was very much for the common man, a car with little character. However, it would be the car with a....[continue reading]

Coachwork: Sindelfingen

Chassis Num: 105380

The Mercedes-Benz 500K (W 29, 100/160 hp) was one of the greatest performance automobiles of the Thirties. 13 months after the debut of the 380, Mercedes-Benz introduced the 500K at the Berlin Auto Show. Both were built in parallel in 1934, but by th....[continue reading]

Special Roadster

Engine Num: 123686

With six feet of hood separating the driver from the front of the Mercedes 500K, 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-B....[continue reading]

Windovers Roadster

This Mercedes 500K with bodywork by Windovers is extremely unusual. Windovers, which began to build carriages as early as 1796 in Huntingdon, England, more often bodied Rolls-Royce and Bentleys, and many Windovers-bodied cars found their way to Indi....[continue reading]

Cabriolet A

Chassis Num: 105384
Engine Num: 105384

The Daimler Motor Company and Benz & Company joined forces in 1926. That same year, they introduced the Mercedes-Benz brand. Ferdinand Porsche had joined Daimler in 1923 and he developed models that featured large displacement inline engines with sup....[continue reading]

Touren Wagon

The Mercedes-Benz 500K was first shown at the Berlin Motor Show in 1934. It had a supercharged 5-liter, 6-cylinder engine, developing 160 bhp, which was particularly suited to the new Autobahns that were being built in Germany at the time. Very few....[continue reading]

Coachwork: Sindelfingen

Not unlike American manufacturers, Mercedes-Benz crafted some of its most beautiful automobiles during difficult economic times. The 500K was largely attributed to engineer Hans Nibel and was first show at the Berlin Auto Show in 1934. Designated mod....[continue reading]

Cabriolet A

Chassis Num: 113717
Engine Num: 113717

The Mercedes-Benz 500 was the creation of engineer Dr. Hans Nibel. It featured an advanced chassis design and a powerful 5-liter engine that was capable of carrying it to speeds of 100 mph. The 'K' models employed a form of supercharging which was us....[continue reading]

Coachwork: Mayfair Carriage Company Ltd.

Just 342 examples of the Mercedes-Benz 500K were built from 1934 to 1936 before the model was superseded by the mighty 540K. Most 500Ks were bodied by the factory, but this unique example was fitted with open touring coachwork by the Mayfair Carriage....[continue reading]

Cabriolet A
Chassis #: 105379 
Roadster by Sindelfingen
Chassis #: 105380 
Special Roadster
Windovers Roadster
Cabriolet A
Chassis #: 105384 
Touren Wagon
Roadster by Sindelfingen
Cabriolet A
Chassis #: 113717 
Tourer by Mayfair Carriage Company Ltd.


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 with 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 with supercharged eight-cylinder engine; with 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 with 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 with 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 with swing axle. It was the first car that pampered its occupants with independent wheel suspension; the latter featured a sensational world first, a double-wishbone front axle that combined with 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 with 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 with its supercharged 140 hp, by the 500 K only one year later. The newcomer's engine generated 160 hp with 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 with 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 with a 3,290 millimeter wheelbase, differing in terms of powertrain and bodywork layout, and a short version with 2,980 millimeters.

The long variant, the so-called normal chassis with 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 with 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, with inimitably powerful and elegant lines. It has been filling onlookers with 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 with 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 with helical-spindle steering had been adopted – though in further refined form – from the preceding 380: the new double-wishbone axle with 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 with 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 with supercharged engines were displayed at the Berlin Motor Show in 1921 – between bicycles with 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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