Unique Mercedes goes on show

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By Robert Harland

Motoring

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


In 1938 the Mercedes-Benz Streamliner 540K was the height of modernity. It was a one-off classic designed to bring the German car maker into the streamlined age.

The design was a major departure from the standard and highly successful 540K. And this beast was designed for high-speed, long distance motoring.

It was special because of an exceptionally lightweight aluminum outer shell and sophisticated body aerodynamics. The car had a five-liter, eight-cylinder, in-line, supercharged engine developing 180 bhp for high acceleration and an unusually long gearbox to avoid over-revving for a top speed of 114 mph (185 kph).

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The Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star emblem normally sat on the top of the grille, but on the aluminum-bodied car it was simply painted on to improve aerodynamics. The car featured a low profile, a minimum of exterior details and even underbody paneling, something that has only recently returned to production vehicles in the pursuit of wind-cheating abilities.

Mercedes planned to debut the 540K Streamliner in the 1938 Berlin-to-Rome race. Unfortunately, it never got to test its race abilities as the event was postponed and then cancelled by a little spat called World War II.

During the war, it was used by the German branch of the Dunlop tire company as a test vehicle and then retired after 1945. It was left to decay in storage for decades. 

But in 2013 it was rediscovered by Mercedes and the company immediately set about a complete restoration.

It took 4,800 hours of painstaking restoration work by Mercedes engineers to bring the vehicle back to its former glory. They used the skills, methods, parts and materials of the period based on extensive document research by the company's experts.

The restoration team had numerous issues to resolve such as finding the correct paint by examining traces left on the body and matching the original leather for the interior. 

"The 540K Streamliner represents the embodiment of perfection in its purest form," said Michael Bock, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic and Customer Center.

"The integrity of its overall design as well as numerous technical details do not only epitomize the innovative power of the Mercedes-Benz brand but also its expertise in the development of one-off vehicles to meet the very highest expectations in terms of design, comfort and customer benefit".

The fully restored car took center-stage this month at the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in California.

Mercedes also brought another piece of motoring history to Pebble Beach with a display of a 1914 Mercedes Grand Prix racing car.

This car raced in the French Grand Prix on 4 July 1914, at the 7.6-kilometer circuit near Lyon, where it pulled off the first one-two-three victory in Grand Prix racing.

It has a 4.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that was cutting edge a century ago as it developed 106 bhp for a top speed of 111 mph (180 kph).

There are only three of this type of car still in existence in the collections of George Wingard, the Collier Collection and the Mercedes-Benz Classic collection. All are in full running order.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 27, 2014.

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