Image credits: © Mercedes-Benz.

1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K

Daimler and Benz merged in June of 1926, and among the assets was Ferdinand Porsche, who had joined Daimler in 1923. The Daimler-Benz work forced had around 20,000 employees but its output was limited, with production reach roughly 2,000 cars a year. The Mannheim factory primarily produced mid-range automobiles, with a few custom built luxury automobiles being constructed in Untertürkheim near Stuttgart.

At the Berlin Motor Show in February of 1933, the first new product from the Daimler-Benz merger was introduced, the Model 380. It had a fully independent suspension, and a supercharged SOHC straight eight engine displacing 3,820cc. With elegant and luxurious coachwork fitted, with 380 quickly proved to inadequate to carry the load. The performance issues were soon resolved with the introduction of the W29 500K, which re-introduced the 'K' Kompressor. The 500K largely attributed to engineer Hans Nibel, remained in production through 1936 with 342 examples produced. Hans Nibel had succeeded Ferdinand Porsche as Technical Director of Daimler-Benz AG in 1929 after Dr. Porsche's resignation from the company. Nibel was born in Bohemia in 1880 and studied at Munich Munich Technical College and joined Benz & Cie in 1904, becoming chief engineer in 1908. Among his accomplishments included championing shaft drive and creating the Blitzen Benz speed record car of 1910. He was instrumental in the creation of the powerful pre-World War I touring cars and for the postwar sports models. After the merger, his work was concentrated on advanced chassis engineering that would become the mainstay of Mercedes-Benz during the 1930s. He came up with a pushrod overhead valve design for the straight-eight engine, and the all-independent suspension on the Typ 380 was something he had pioneered on the Typ 170 sedan.

At the Paris Salon in October of 1936, Mercedes-Benz introduced the highly refined successor to the 500K, the 540K. Along with Hans Nibel, the car's engineering was the work of Hans Gustav Röhr, an accomplished inventor, former World War I fighter pilot, founder of Röhr-Werke AG, and Adler chief engineer. Röhr had joined Daimler-Benz AG as technical director in 1935. Among his experimentation was front-wheel drive technology which, after his death in August of 1937 at the age of 42, his prototypes were destroyed.

The overhead valve inline eight-cylinder engine had an updraft pressurized carburetor, a displacement size of 5,401cc, and a driver-activated, gear-driven Roots-Type supercharger. In naturally aspirated form it offered 115 horsepower; with the supercharger engaged, that figure rose of 180 hp. The engine was mated to a four-speed synchronized manual gearbox and there were power-assisted four-wheel drum brakes. The suspension was independent with coil springs in the front and swing-arms in the rear. With a top speed exceeding 100 mph, the 540K was among the fastest regular production automobiles in the world.

Along with its mesmerizing performance, it had style to match, with a long hood, a raked V-shaped radiator shell, sweeping fenders, chrome accents, and twin bright external exhaust pipes. The factory offered 11 catalogued body styles with coachwork performed at Sindelfingen, with each example being hand-built. They were thoughtfully design, well appointed, and exactingly finished. They were styled and engineered by Hermann Ahrens for the various wheelbase lengths. The 2,980mm short chassis was fitted with the Cabriolet A two-passenger drophead coupe, of which 83 were built. These were two-seaters with blind rear quarters that had accommodations behind the front seats for luggage. Cabriolets B and C were four-seaters of 'four-window' and 'two-window' configuration, respectively, both on the 3,290mm wheelbase. Both the cabriolet B and cabriolet C had rear seating. The B had rear quarter windows and the C had blind quarters on the folding top. The 3,880mm long wheelbase platform was reserved for the convertible saloons, of which 12 were built. There were three separate four-door styles, the cabriolets D, E, and F, which accommodated up to seven passengers.

Production ended during the early 1940s after just 419 examples were built. The last is believed to have received its coachwork around 1943.


by Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2019
1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K vehicle information

Sport Cabriolet
Coachwork: Erdmann & Rossi

Chassis Num: 232697
Engine Num: 154099

The K series Mercedes of the 1930s were not for the faint of heart. In the wrong hands, they could be considered downright dangerous. Powered by engines that eventually rose to over seven liters of displacement producing over 250 horsepower they were....[continue reading]

1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K vehicle information

Chassis Num: 169333

The Mercedes-Benz 540K Series automobiles were purchased by the elite in society - the leaders of industry, the rich and famous, the highest class citizen, the powerful and accomplished, the privileged, and the most demanding customers. Each vehicle....[continue reading]

1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K vehicle information

Special Tourer
Coachwork: Sindelfingen

The spiritual descendant of the legendary Mercedes-Benz SS/SSK models, the 540K was introduced in October of 1936 as the successor to the remarkable 500K. With more than 180 hp available, they were advertised as the fastest production cars in the wor....[continue reading]

1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K vehicle information

Roadster
Designer: Friedrich Geiger

This German built automobile was designed by Friedrich Geiger. In the mid-1930s, the 500K and then the 540K reigned atop the Mercedes-Benz car line, and their most fabulous iteration was the Special Roadster. The 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Roadster wa....[continue reading]

1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K vehicle information

Cabriolet A
Coachwork: Sindelfingen

Chassis Num: 169316

With an appearance that one journalist of the 1930s described as having 'aggressive styling and Teutonic arrogance,' the 540K was indeed an awe-inspiring automobile. The 5.4-liter OHV straight eight engine with Roots blower was the final evolution o....[continue reading]

1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K vehicle information

Special Roadster

Although over 17 feet long, the Special Roadster seats just two passengers. Equipped with a supercharger, the blower produced a 7 psi boost, adding a further 65 BHP at 3400 RPM resulting in a top speed of over 110 mph. About 400 540Ks were built, but....[continue reading]

1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K vehicle information

Cabriolet A
Coachwork: Sindelfingen

Chassis Num: 169396

The Mercedes-Benz 540K was a development of the 500K and shared the same independent suspension chassis. The 540K was one of the first models developed under Mercedes' new chief engineer, Max Sailer. Powering the 540K was a 5.4-liter supercharged str....[continue reading]

1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K vehicle information

Streamliner Coupe

Long forgotten among Mercedes-Benz's prewar racing effort is this 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Streamliner, originally built for a high-speed endurance race between Berlin and Rome that never occurred due to the time's political climate. It was developed ....[continue reading]

1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K vehicle information

Cabriolet
Coachwork: Norrmalm

Chassis Num: 169389

This Mercedes-Benz 540K wears coachwork by Norrmalm. There are only three cars known to exist with Norrmalm coachwork, and this is the only Mercedes-Benz to wear such. Mr. Johan Oscar Olhager was the chief of design and designed this bodywork for its....[continue reading]

Sport Cabriolet by Erdmann & Rossi
Chassis #: 232697 
Chassis #: 169333 
Special Tourer by Sindelfingen
 
Roadster
 
Cabriolet A by Sindelfingen
Chassis #: 169316 
Special Roadster
 
Cabriolet A by Sindelfingen
Chassis #: 169396 
Streamliner Coupe
 
Cabriolet by Norrmalm
Chassis #: 169389 

Related Reading : Mercedes-Benz 540K History

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....
Continue Reading >>

Related Reading : Mercedes-Benz 540K History

Two new – and very different – Mercedes models were displayed at the Berlin Motor Show in March 1934. One was the 130, Mercedes-Benzs 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....
Continue Reading >>

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Mercedes-Benz Monthly Sales Volume

October 2019
27,867
September 2019
27,433
August 2019
24,771
July 2019
24,612
May 2019
27,080
April 2019
22,949
March 2019
27,004
January 2019
22,507
December 2018
32,016
October 2018
31,814
September 2018
26,169
August 2018
20,339
Additional Sales Volume Data


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