A special class of Mercedes-Benz 500K – 540K will take center stage at the 24th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance on March 10, 2019.
The 500K and 540K descend from the mighty Mercedes-Benz SSK, winner of the brutal 1931 Mille Miglia. Introduced at the 1934 Berlin Auto Show the Mercedes-Benz 500K was a superstar and supercar from its first moments.
From 1934 through 1939, the 500K – 540K-series Mercedes was the ultimate super car, long before the term had been coined. The “sheer insolence of its power” made it “a master car for the very few,” according to British enthusiasts’ magazines.
It was the age of the all-conquering Silver Arrows racing cars and the ruthless and relentless technological overkill that spawned them. Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix dominance was accompanied by a radical land speed record project employing a 3,300 horsepower Mercedes-Benz V-12 DB603 aircraft engine. There was even an Indy 500 project on paper in the Rennabteilung, Mercedes-Benz’s fabled racing division. It now seems inevitable that some of the energy, glamour, power, speed and technology that went into the Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Champions of the 1930s would find its way into the marquee 500K and 540K as the decade came to an end.
Both Mercedes 500K and 540K bear a Wagnerian automotive presence simply sitting still. In motion the 500s are the essence of Grand Touring presence and power: cars that matched Germany’s fabled Autobahns . . . “a car capable of travelling indefinitely at high speeds”, said Autocar magazine. According to the journals of the day it was “the fastest production car in the world.”
A supercharged 5.4 liter straight-eight engine ultimately delivered 180 horsepower making a “an almost demonic howl” mirroring the straight-eight engineering format of the W125 racing car that dominated the 1937 Grand Prix season.
Just 354 500Ks were created from 1934-1936 and 319 540Ks were built from 1936 through 1939; but only for those fortunate enough to be able to pay the equivalent of $5,000 for the privilege.
“Mercedes 500K and 540K-series were cars designed and built without compromise,” said Bill Warner, founder and Chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. “They were the essence of what would come to be called ‘grand touring’ cars. These cars made Karl Benz’s immortal quote, ‘the best or nothing at all’ a commandment, not a slogan.”
“We have assembled a mouthwatering class of 500Ks and 540Ks. This will undoubtedly be one of our ‘destination classes’,” said Warner. “Knowledgeable enthusiasts will enter the 2019 Amelia Concours show field and head straight for this class!”