Together with its predecessor the 500K, the magnificent Mercedes-Benz 540K was arguably the most noteworthy production model offered by the Stuttgart firm during the 1930s.
A development of the 500K, whose independently suspended chassis it shared, the 540K was powered by a 5.4-liter supercharged straight-eight engine. It featured the company’s Roots-type supercharger system, in which pressing the accelerator to the end of its travel would engage the compressor and close off the atmospheric intake.
Launched at the Paris Salon in October 1936, the 540K developed 155 hp unsupercharged or 180 hp with the supercharger engaged.
The gearbox was a four-speed, but with direct final drive, unlike the overdrive in the 500K. With the supercharger engaged, the 540K’s top speed approached 110 mph, matched by servo-assisted brakes.
Tested by Britain’s Motor magazine, the 540K was judged to have lighter steering and handling than its predecessor and a more comfortable ride. The test car turned 102 mph in the quarter with the blower engaged and 85 mph without. Such performance was not without cost, and it recorded 11 mpg.
In May 1938, the 540K was tested at Brooklands race track by Autocar and proved the fastest car tested to date, recording 104.65 with three passengers.
Although the 500K and 540K attracted custom coachbuilders, it was hard to top the company’s own Sindelfingen coachwork. This car has the Cabriolet “A” option with two doors, 2+1-seater coachwork, wire wheels, twin side-mounts, exposed landau irons, twin horns, and center spotlight.
This 540K Sindelfingen Cabriolet “A” was ordered by a French customer and delivered to Paris. After WWII it came to the U.S. and was restored and displayed at Pebble Beach in 2002 by its Japanese owner before being returned to Germany.
The manufacturing record of the 540K reveals its exclusive nature. A total of 97 were made in 1936, 145 in 1937, 95 in 1938, 69 in 1939 and three more before production ended in 1942.
Such rarity, style, and performance makes for one of the most sought-after classic cars. As a representative of the best money could buy, this Sindelfingen Cabriolet “A” comes with fitted luggage.