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Robb Design Portfolio: Ultimate One-Upmanship

  • Robert Ross

1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster
With their swooping fenders, mile-long bonnets, and opulent grilles, Mercedes-Benz roadsters from the 1930s epitomized the grandeur that persisted during the Depression. The long-tailed 540K Special Roadster was the marque’s flagship, commanding supreme respect on Continental roads and a high price at dealerships; it cost $14,000 (about $225,000 in today’s dollars) in the United States—or roughly 40 percent more than the priciest catalog-body Cadillac V-16.

The 540K was majestic, expensive, and advanced. Most cars at the time rode on primitive suspensions, but the 540K had a system that was fully independent. The 2-ton, two-seat roadster could cruise comfortably at 85 mph all day, powered by a supercharged 5.4-liter straight-eight engine that developed 180 hp and took the behemoth to a terminal velocity approaching 110 mph. Mercedes-Benz built only 26 examples of the Special Roadster.

This article was originally published in the December 2012 issue of Robb Report. Click here to read more articles from this issue.

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