Automotive

Mercedes-Benz to showcase restored 540 K Streamliner and 1914 racer at Pebble Beach

Mercedes-Benz to showcase rest...
The restored 540 K Streamliner
The restored 540 K Streamliner
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The Mercedes 4.4-liter Grand Prix racing car of 1914
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The Mercedes 4.4-liter Grand Prix racing car of 1914
Mercedes Grand Prix racing car is one of three examples of this model surviving
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Mercedes Grand Prix racing car is one of three examples of this model surviving
The Grand Prix racer joins the 540 K Streamliner at Pebble Beach
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The Grand Prix racer joins the 540 K Streamliner at Pebble Beach
Grille of the 1914 Grand Prix racer
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Grille of the 1914 Grand Prix racer
Interior of the 1914 Grand Prix racer
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Interior of the 1914 Grand Prix racer
Silhouette of the 540 K Streamliner
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Silhouette of the 540 K Streamliner
The 540 K Streamliner was built in 1938
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The 540 K Streamliner was built in 1938
540 K Streamliner showing aerodynamics
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540 K Streamliner showing aerodynamics
The 540 K Streamliner was wind tunnel tested
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The 540 K Streamliner was wind tunnel tested
Cover being blown off the 540 K Streamliner
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Cover being blown off the 540 K Streamliner
540 K Streamliner and profile in light
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540 K Streamliner and profile in light
The 540 K Streamliner was used as a tire test bed during the war
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The 540 K Streamliner was used as a tire test bed during the war
The 540 K Streamliner is based on the standard 540 K chassis
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The 540 K Streamliner is based on the standard 540 K chassis
The 540 K Streamliner took a year to restore
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The 540 K Streamliner took a year to restore
The restoration of the 540 K Streamliner used original materials
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The restoration of the 540 K Streamliner used original materials
The restoration of the 540 K Streamliner was based on an extensive document search
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The restoration of the 540 K Streamliner was based on an extensive document search
Pebble Beach marks the public début of the 540 K Streamliner
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Pebble Beach marks the public début of the 540 K Streamliner
The 540 K Streamliner has an aluminum body
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The 540 K Streamliner has an aluminum body
The three surviving 1914 Grand Prix racers
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The three surviving 1914 Grand Prix racers
The three surviving 1914 Grand Prix racers are all in working order
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The three surviving 1914 Grand Prix racers are all in working order
Side view of the 540 K Streamliner
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Side view of the 540 K Streamliner
Oblique view of the 540 K Streamliner
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Oblique view of the 540 K Streamliner
Rear oblique view of the 540 K Streamliner
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Rear oblique view of the 540 K Streamliner
Grille of the 540 K Streamliner
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Grille of the 540 K Streamliner
Rear of the 540 K Streamliner
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Rear of the 540 K Streamliner
Boot of the 540 K Streamliner with interior spare tire
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Boot of the 540 K Streamliner with interior spare tire
The 540 K Streamliner was intend for the 1938 Berlin-Rome race
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The 540 K Streamliner was intend for the 1938 Berlin-Rome race
540 K Streamliner showing its lines
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540 K Streamliner showing its lines
The restored 540 K Streamliner
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The restored 540 K Streamliner
540 K Streamliner plans
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540 K Streamliner plans
The 540 K Streamliner was mothballed after World War Two
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The 540 K Streamliner was mothballed after World War Two
540 K Streamliner body
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540 K Streamliner body
540 K Streamliner framing
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540 K Streamliner framing
540 K Streamliner framing
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540 K Streamliner framing
540 K Streamliner number plate
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540 K Streamliner number plate
540 K Streamliner interior
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540 K Streamliner interior
View gallery - 36 images

What might have been? That's the question posed by the newly restored Mercedes-Benz 1938 540 K Streamliner that will get its international public première at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elégance this month. The streamlined version of the 540 K was originally built to participate in a race that was cancelled due to a minor event called World War Two, but has since been restored to its original condition.

The 540 K Streamliner was one of German automotive engineering’s false starts. A one-off intended to bring the 540 K line into the streamlined age, the 1938 special developed at Mercedes’ Sindelfingen plant was designed for high-speed, long distance motoring. It was based on a chassis from the standard-production 540 K, and was originally built for the Berlin-Rome race of 1938, but this was postponed until the next year and then cancelled when war broke out. During the war, it was used by the German branch of the Dunlop tire company as a test vehicle and then retired after 1945 and left to decay in storage for decades.

Despite ending up in mothballs until it was rediscovered and restored last year, the 540 K Streamliner had its chops. It boasted a five-liter, eight-cylinder, in-line, supercharged engine pushing 180 bhp (132 kW) for high acceleration and an unusually long gearbox to avoid over-revving for a top speed of 114 mph (185 km/h).

Cover being blown off the 540 K Streamliner
Cover being blown off the 540 K Streamliner

But what really made it stand out was its ultra-streamlined, lightweight aluminum body developed under wind-tunnel testing. According to the company, the body and undercarriage were designed to be as smooth as possible to the point where the Mercedes badge was painted on the bonnet. However, it was too heavy for the tires, which is one reason Dunlop used it as a test bed.

Like the Mercedes-Benz 1952 300 SL, the 540 K Streamliner was restored by Mercedes-Benz engineers to its original condition using the skills, methods, parts, and materials of the period based on extensive document research by company engineers. The restoration took over a year as the team solved problems, such as finding the correct paint by examining traces left on the body, and matching the original leather for the interior.

"The 540 K Streamliner represents the embodiment of perfection in its purest form," says 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 Mercedes 4.4-liter Grand Prix racing car of 1914
The Mercedes 4.4-liter Grand Prix racing car of 1914

In addition to the 540 K Streamliner, Mercedes-Benz is also bringing another bit of history to Pebble Beach in the form of its Mercedes Grand Prix racing car, which ran in the French Grand Prix on 4 July 1914, at the 7.6-kilometer (4.7-mile) 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 punched 106 bhp (79 kW) for a top speed of 111 mph (180 km/h). 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, and all are in full running order.

The restored 540 K Streamliner will be in the Tour d’Elégance on Thursday and goes on public display on August 17. Gizmag will be there to see it in the flesh, and we'll bring you more details of this and many of the other magnificent vehicles expected on the lawn at Pebble Beach.

Source: Daimler

View gallery - 36 images
2 comments
Dave Brumley
Thanks for the article, David. It, and the fine photography, are greatly appreciated.
Zeeshan Khaliq
Thanks for the article, David, really good read