Mercedes-Benz 540 K Roadster
Mercedes-Benz’s success with the 500 K, aided by the continuing defaults of its sporting luxury competitors as the Great Depression worked its way through society, politics, royalty and finance, encouraged the introduction in 1936 of the 540 K. Regarded by many, and respected by all, as the high point of the Classic Era’s great chassis, engine and coachwork combinations, the Mercedes-Benz 540 K reflected the restless pursuit of perfection by Mercedes-Benz engineers, technicians and craftsmen and by the coachbuilders of Sindelfingen.
While the concept changed little, the execution became steadily more refined. By the time this magnificent Spezial Roadster was built in 1939, there were few remaining competitors to Mercedes-Benz for the mantle of premier luxury-performance automobile manufacturer.
Its Grand Prix cars were consistently challenged only by Auto Union, while Rolls-Royce, Delage, Talbot-Lago, Delahaye, Bugatti and Cadillac all offered cars perfectly suitable for cruising the French grandes routes and the boulevards of the Riviera and Santa Monica. Bugatti and Alfa Romeo both offered comparable automobiles in concept, technical intrigue and daring design. But ultimately, none matched the quality and distinctive design, let alone the impressive performance, of the Mercedes-Benz 540 K with its supercharger engaged while its privileged passengers were cosseted in rich, luxurious surroundings.
Each 540 K commanded the best of Mercedes-Benz’s resources, and each was individually constructed to the finest German standards, using only the most enduring materials and the finest craftsmen drawn from Daimler-Benz’s thousands of employees. Remarkably, at a time when most luxury automobiles were supplied as rolling chassis to coachbuilders of their new owners’ choice, Mercedes-Benz created almost all the body designs for its premier models in-house and built them in the extensive facilities at the Sindelfingen Werk. Under the guidance of Wilhelm Haspel (who would go on to be Chairman of the Daimler-Benz management board from 1942-1952) and designer Hermann Ahrens, Sindelfingen became both a highly efficient facility for production bodywork and the source of some of the most elegant, sporting and finely crafted limited production coachwork ever created.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in August of 2011 at the Portola Hotel & Spa and Monterey Conference Center, Monterey, California.
115/180 hp, 5,401 cc supercharged overhead valve inline eight-cylinder engine, five-speed manual transmission, four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes, independent coil spring front and rear suspension. Wheelbase: 129.5"
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel