Mercedes-Benz 540 K Roadster
The Mercedes-Benz 540 K was one of the most prestigious and – in the eyes of many – the most beautiful automobile of the interwar years. Its combination of power, light weight and sheer beauty made it the master of the road, and it was a testimonial to the astonishing capabilities of the German automotive engineers of the day. It was also breathtakingly expensive, guaranteeing exclusivity amongst its owners; just 419 chassis were built, and of those, only 25 carried the superlative long tail Spezial Roadster coachwork that may well have been the high point of the coachbuilder’s art at Mercedes-Benz’s own “Sonderwagenbau” in Sindelfingen.
Mercedes-Benz always commanded a place as the premier supplier of fine motor cars to the political, artistic and commercial elite of the day. The 540 K was no exception, representing a highlight of German motor vehicle development before World War II. The broad array of models in all market segments helped Mercedes-Benz survive the worst days of the Great Depression, with production growing from only 6,000 cars in 1932 to over 15,000 in 1935.
Yet, while Mercedes-Benz maintained its factories and employment with small and medium-sized cars, it catered to the market’s most demanding clientele with a limited offering of the finest motor cars ever built. Based on a strong and rigid chassis, these pioneering automobiles introduced coil spring four-wheel independent suspension using parallel wishbones at the front and swing axles at the rear. These massive and high speed automobiles were designed from a clean sheet of paper, sharing little with the marque’s predecessors, except for one visceral attribute: each was fitted with Mercedes-Benz’s driver-controlled supercharger that boosted engine output by about 60% in short, full power bursts.
The series began with the Mercedes-Benz 380, introduced at the Berlin Motor Show in 1933 and produced only for two years, 1933-34, before being phased out in favor of the much more powerful 500 K in 1934. The 500 K, in turn, was succeeded during 1936 by one of the ultimate motor cars of the thirties, the Mercedes-Benz 540 K. Offering more power than its predecessor, the 540 K was capable of all-day, high speed touring while carrying elaborate and extremely comfortable coachwork. Such capabilities were not inexpensive, and as a result, the 380, 500 K and 540 K accounted for an average of less than one percent of production.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in August of 2011 at the Portola Hotel & Spa and Monterey Conference Center, Monterey, California.
5,401 cc supercharged overhead valve inline eight-cylinder engine with driver activated and gear driven Roots type supercharger, twin updraft pressurized carburetors, four-speed 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.
Source: RM Auctions
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