When presented at the Paris Salon in 1936, the Mercedes-Benz 540K was the culmination of two models that served as test beds: the 380 and the 500K.
The 380, introduced in 1933, was the work of Hans Nibel, the legendary Mercedes engineer who had developed some formidable competition machines. Thus, the new Mercedes featured a particularly sophisticated suspension for its time: all independent, with double wishbones at the front and swing axles at the rear — all on coil springs. These features made for extremely safe road holding and very fine ride comfort.
The 380 featured a new inline 8-cylinder engine, with a compressor as an option. However, the 380 lacked the punch that the legendary S and SS had. So, in 1934, Mercedes-Benz launched a bigger-engined version — the 500K. The most noticeable feature of the 500K was that the compressor was engaged when the throttle was fully opened, triggering an enrichment device. In normal usage, the compressor remained disengaged, but this ability to increase power significantly depending on the needs of the driver made the 500K one of the most striking cars of its time.
This same system used on the even bigger-engined 540K, introduced two years later, made Mercedes’ flagship an even more powerful car.
The car’s 5.4-liter engine developed 180 horsepower at 3,400 rpm with the compressor engaged, and mated to a four-speed gearbox, the 540K could do more than 105 mph. For the period, that was remarkable performance, especially as this speed was reached in comfort and security that was already the trademark for Mercedes.
The finish of the car was to the highest standards, and convertible, roadster or coupe body styles were available. Symbolizing the golden age of classic cars in its most prestigious form, the 540K is also rare, as just a little over 400 units were made between 1936 and 1939.
This Mercedes 540K, with the chassis number 154105, left the Mercedes works in February 1937.
It is equipped with a “Cabriolet B” body, which offered four spacious seats under the soft top. According to a marque expert, the car was delivered to a Hamburg-based Portugal consul in March of the same year, and then the car went off to the United States, where it became a part of the Rockefeller family car fleet. At that time, there are records of this car participating in various Mercedes exhibitions.
In 1991, this car received an extensive mechanical and cosmetic restoration. This car has obviously never been altered, nor damaged during all the years that it has been with enthusiasts, who have taken very good care of it. Black with a flawless red leather interior, this 540K is a magnificent example of the highest echelon of the three-pointed star marque from the late 1930s.