Mercedes Benz 500K and 540K

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Mercedes Benz 500K and 540K

1934 - 1939
6 cyl. Supercharger
5020 / 5401 cc
160/180 bhp
4 spd. manual
Top Speed:
100/115 mph
Number Built:
5 star
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.

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Also see:

Mercedes-Benz Heritage
Mercedes SL Heritage (AUS Site)
The History Of Mercedes
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