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Mercedes Brings a 1930s Supercar Back to Life

by Sam Jemielity

At the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance last summer, Mercedes-Benz showed off a beautifully restored 1938 540K Streamliner, which we chronicled here at 95octane. Now the car company has released a 45-minute companion documentary, following the tale from the discovery of a unique, mysterious chassis dating back to the ’30s to the reveal of the final, reconstructed automobile.

The story starts when Mercedes workers uncover an unusual chassis and, after some research, determine it belongs to the one-of-a-kind 1938 540K Streamliner. In May 1934, Mercedes had opened the special vehicle production department at Sindelfingen. Whereas most cars in those days—according to this documentary—traveled at about 80 to 90 kph, the autos produced by the special vehicle department were at times twice as fast.

In the fall of 1937, Mercedes-Benz tasked their special vehicle engineers to build a car for the 1938 long-distance Berlin-Rome rally. The key to long-range success: a streamlined body. Although the race ended up being cancelled, Mercedes delivered the car in June 1938 to Dunlop for trials on their high-performance tires where it shone as one of the “supercars” of its day, with a theoretical top speed of 185 km/hr (~114 MPH)

After years of research and hard work following the original blueprints for the car, Mercedes-Benz re-created the Streamliner in its original wood and aluminum construction. Their attention to detail is so great, they removed Phillips head screws from the frame because they didn’t exist in the ’30s when the car was built. The process is lovingly chronicled in the 45 minute documentary above; or, if you want the Cliff Notes version, see the trailer from Mercedes-Benz Classics.

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