1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A

by | Apr 2, 2019

Tim Scott ©2018 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet A

by | Apr 2, 2019

Tim Scott ©2018 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

YEAR

1937

MODEL

540K Cabriolet A

MANUFACTURER

Mercedes-Benz

ESTIMATE (US)

$2,300,000 -$2,700,000

ENGINE NUMBER

154078

CHASSIS NUMBER

154078

AUCTION COMPANY

RM Sotheby's

AUCTION DATE

April 11-12

It began with the oft-forgotten Mercedes-Benz 380 in 1933, followed by the 500K from 1934 to 1936, and then the 540K, launched in 1936 and built until the war. Apart from the Silver Arrow race cars, these are possibly the most famous prewar cars from the German automaker.

Both the 500K and 540K were offered in three basic forms depending on wheelbase. The long 130-inch chassis were under the B and C versions for touring cars, four- seaters, and sedans. Fashioned on the 117-inch frames were the sportiest of the models, the A editions with their engine, passenger compartment, and that famous grille set aft a bit from the front axle.

Debuted at the October 1936 Paris Salon, the 540K, like its predecessor, had an advanced chassis. Independent suspensions featured front upper and lower A-arms and rear swing axles with a pair of coil springs per side, two more little coils limiting lateral movement. There are hydraulic brakes all around, and the 500K and 540K were known for better ride and handling than their predecessors.

And that engine. The straight-8’s displacement was up to 5.4 liters for the 540K, pumping out 115 horsepower — until the driver floored the gas pedal, the updraft carbs closed, and the Roots supercharger engaged. With all that mechanical commotion, the engine produced 180 horsepower and was known for its supercharger wail.

These cars could top 100 mph despite their substantial, yet sporty, Sindelfingen bodies.

Quite a heritage, which explains this 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K’s $2.3 million-to-$2.7 million estimate when it goes up for bid April 11 at Sotheby’s upcoming Essen, Germany, auction.

Lot 134, chassis 154078, is an A model-based cabriolet with Sindelfingen bodywork ordered by British Mercedes-Benz on Aug. 4, 1936. It was delivered Dec. 12 that year finished in light green with a pale yellow top and pigskin interior, naturally with right-hand drive.

Cared for by its owners through the years, 154078 received a new repaint along the way. It has been documented by Mercedes-Benz Classic as having the correct chassis, driveline, and body. Also important, the steel in the chassis was analyzed to confirm it is the correct metal for 1936. Sound odd? Not in this day of remarkable copies.

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