Definitely one of the most desirable masterpieces of
the pre-war period, the 500K and 540K foresaw the trend
of Mercedes-Benz in having incomparable build quality
and elegance of design. Both 500K and 540K were not, however,
serious sports cars - unlike the SSK.
Although the supercharged engines still developed a remarkable
160bhp and 180bhp respectively, their weight (over 2 tons)
was always to hinder any serious proposition of sporty
performance. In fact, Mercedes had developed the cars
as Grand Tourers.
Quality, elegance and comfort were their biggest concern.
And because of the high build quality and durability of
the components used in the construction of both models,
these Mercedes are considered to be the most durable and
among the most collectable of pre war cars.
The car brimmed with technical advancements, such as hydraulically
power-assisted brakes, a four speed gearbox (the last
gear designed for rapid autobahn cruising), and independent
front and rear suspension. You would have to fast-forward
well into the 1970's to see cars similarly equipped!
The epitome of the 500K was the Spezial-Roadster, which
featured an almost absurdly long bonnet (almost half the
cars length) housing the large straight-eight engine,
and on the right side of the louvered engine cover two
large diameter chrome exhaust pipes emerged.
The car's stylist, Hermann Ahrens, gave the car gracefully
swooping fenders that flanked the signature Mercedes grille,
and then swept back in a graceful arc to form the running
board. The rear fenders rise nearly as high as the small
deck lid, which is crowned with twin spares. Sadly, only
29 Spezial-Roadsters were produced.
It is unfortunate then that the only black mark against
the car is its association with the German National Socialist
(Nazi) Party. It was certainly not the cars fault that
its development would coincide with the Nazi 's assumption
of power of Germany.
The car is most often seen in newsreel
footage - and usually that footage is from wartime Germany
where the car is carrying a senior Nazi official, if not
Adolf Hitler himself.
In fact, among the Shah of Iran's collection of 3000 odd
cars is reported to be Hitler's own black 500K, which
survived the war after being carefully mothballed under
the Fuhrerbunker during the closing stages of the war.