Iconic Cars Of The Past

Some of the most beautiful machines ever built

No. 6 - the Mercedes-Benz 540K

mercedes-benz 540 image

The 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K was a huge car with several variants; it could be purchased as two seater convertible, a two door four seater, or even a seven seater limousine. With an eye on the kind of customer who could afford such an expensive means of transport, even armoured plating and bullet proof glass could be ordered as optional extras!

It started life in 1934 as the 500K with a 5 litre engine; This wasn't powerful enough for some potential buyers so in 1935 the lighter, and faster, 540K was introduced.

A big, heavy, luxurious car needs a big engine to drive it. The 540K had a 5.4litre straight eight cylinder motor; and the supercharger could push the usual 115 horsepower up to180 horsepower, with a top speed of a claimed 110 mph. Just the ideal vehicle for a top businessman's daily transport or a shady gangster's getaway car!

All this power needed controlling and apart from the standard four-speed or optional five-speed manual gearbox, with synchromesh on the top three gears, to make it go, it featured power assisted hydraulic brakes to help it stop as well. In the meanwhile independent suspension system gave it one of the smoothest rides available at the time. Electric door locks were fitted (very useful if a rival mobsters tried to get in!) and safety glass was standard, a feature which was almost unheard of in the early 1930s.

This car was indeed aimed at the top of the market. Each one was built to the individual wishes of the buyers and no expense was spared in creating each one. This was truly a car designed for very wealthy or powerful people indeed. Even Hermann Goring owned a skyblue 540K and Adolf Hitler ordered 20 armoured saloons for his top ministers and associates.

Ultimately very few of these cars were sold; hardly surprising in view of the price tag. This means that their rarity value is high and if you want to buy one now you will need to have several million pounds to spare. As well as an enormous garage with a very strong floor to keep it in!


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