O ldtimers are flying carpets that make your Carry pilots back in a magical way to a bygone era. With their sound, their smell of oil and petrol, with the stiff steering and the drum brakes, which are huge but only slow down gradually, and with the gears that are still unsynchronized: they conjure up an era many decades ago.

Basis is luxury liner 540 K
The 1938 based on the compressor-equipped luxury liner 540 K is included Streamlined cars completed by Mercedes in Sindelfingen condense the pleasure of a speedy trip back to the early years of the autobahn so much that all internal pressure relief valves are just about to blow off - with the driver, not the car. The tiny ignition key under the dashboard is turned and the red light in the walnut dashboard signals that it is ready to drive.

The starter doesn't have to struggle for long: with so many cylinders, one always ignites, and that sweeps everyone else with it - humming, the in-line eight-cylinder is running. The chrome ring on the steering wheel hub is the switch for the winker, and under the driver's skeptical glance in the round exterior mirror, the load starts moving.

With the streamlined car on the A 81
This scene would probably have happened somewhere in Berlin's Tiergarten in 1938, between the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column, at the start of the long-distance journey from Berlin to Rome. Mercedes originally wanted to use the very special eight-cylinder there. He would have flown over the Avus, down to the Berliner Ring and then at Michendorf on the brand new autobahn, heading south-west, 535 kilometers full of conversation, down to the river Isar, to Munich.

From there the streamlined car would have swept over country roads, would have crossed the Alps, would have crossed another 70 kilometers of the Italian motorway before Florence and then, God would have wanted it, arrived in Rome before everyone else. However, the race did not take place anymore. The Second World War erased the race date, which had already been postponed from 1938 to 1939.

Today, near Ludwigsburg, the A 81, the parade route between Stuttgart and Heilbronn for traffic jams in rush hour traffic. But they're already over, and the three tracks are ours. The first gear only remains for rollingreserved. Hardly in motion, the aluminum coupé calls after the second stage. Disengage and engage idle, then engage and disengage again, now shift to second gear ratio and engage again. That's how it was back then, and the other changes up to the fourth are a true Dacapo.

Mercedes 504 K Streamliner makes 180 hp
The Mercedes 504 K Streamliner is fantastic to drive. Its straight-line stability is wonderful, the steering reacts sensitively and precisely, the front independent suspension gives a feeling of comfort, and when the lane is clear, the accelerator pedal is depressed to the floor pan. Then the compressor is switched on via a multi-plate clutch, 115 hp suddenly turns 180, and with the hoarse howl of a pack of wolves with a slight cold, the 2.4-ton racing coupé thunders over the A 81 as if 300 competitors were sitting on its back.

Time and place become blurred. Are we not writing the year 1938 and are we not currently crossing the Elbe? Oh no, that was the Neckar. The Dessau race track is coming soon, or is it the section near Wunnenstein where the petty 120 km / h signs no longer apply? The speedometer indicates speed 110, 120 ... We should go up to 150, that's how far the tire approval goes.

We don't want to risk anything. The reconstruction of the streamlined body according to the old plans from Mercedes special vehicle construction in Sindelfingen has already consumed 4,800 working hours, plus the new interior fittings, instruments, walnut wood, wheels, front wishbones and a 540 K supercharged motor including gearbox from the factory. The value of the streamlined car should therefore be in the seven-digit range, maybe even in the eight-digit range.

Streamlined car for Dunlop tire tests
Of course, in the 1930s, the Mercedes 540 K Streamliner was also one of the unaffordable gems. At the end of 1937, Dunlop ordered a fast motorway coupé from Mercedes for tire tests in the high-speed range. Mercedes built the streamlined car and noticed during test drives that the tires were exactly the problem. So Dunlop was supposed to test what it was up to, and in autumn they wanted to compete for the big showdown.

The Berlin-Rome trip was planned as a combination of race and rally, and who was faster on the motorway stages , when it was the target time, earned one credit point per minute. As a result, the journey on the 535 kilometers of autobahn between Berlin and Munich had to be won, and aerodynamics were required.

At that time, Mercedes developed the streamlined car in the wind tunnel. With a drag coefficient of just 0.36, it was significantly more streamlined than a 150 km / h series coupé, which had a drag coefficient of 0.57. The underbody paneling enclosed the exhaust system and the cockpit floor was higher thanusual.

Victory in the race against time
We turn around in front of the Weinsberger Dreieck and drive back to it Untertürkheim. Suddenly a lot of heavy motorcycles whiz by. Are we already near Nuremberg, where two-wheelers were supposed to join the automobiles for the journey to Rome in 1938? But no, it's only the Harley Club Heilbronn.

The Streamliner served at Dunlop until the outbreak of war. It later ended up in Untertürkheim again, was given a museum list number, lost its body and was stored. Two and a half years passed before the racing car, which was never allowed to run, was restored from the chassis up. The Mercedes-Benz Classic Team clearly won the race against time.

Full throttle in Papenburg

Michael Bock, Head of the Classic Department at Mercedes, and Project Manager Ralph Hettich wanted to know: How fast is the streamlined car really? Such an attempt is actually an absolute no-go in the league of outrageously expensive, antique factory racers - at more than half the nominal speed, the noble museum pieces from other manufacturers are hardly moved. Too risky to give the precious ones the edge again. Bock and Hettich, on the other hand, had them loaded in Untertürkheim and only unloaded again at the Papenburg test site. The result: At 185.57 km / h, the streamlined car actually reached the speed calculated in 1938. Without a compressor, it still ran at a tight 167.97 km / h. Compliments to the Classic team for the spectacular, successful test.

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