1955 300 SLR and 1937 540 K Special Roadster on Display in U.S.

Words John Clark | June 14, 2011
The Portland Art Museum is showcasing 16 of the most luxurious and rare automobiles designed between the 30’s and 60’s
Words John Clark June 14, 2011

The Allure of the Automobile Exhibit at the Portland Art Museum is showcasing 16 of the world’s most luxurious, rare, and brilliantly conceived automobiles designed between 1930 and the mid-1960s. From the avant garde 1937 Hispano-Suiza owned by French apéritif baron André Dubonnet to the ultra-cool convertible 1957 Jaguar XK-SS Roadster once owned by Hollywood legend Steve McQueen, to one of our personal favorites, the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR. The exhibition traces the evolution of the motorcar, showcasing developments in automotive design and engineering. The exhibit will run from June 11 through September 11 of 2011.

The Portland Art Museum Allure of the Automobile exhibit is has on display one of the three 300 SLR sports racing cars ever built. Chosen to represent and examine the golden age of automotive design and the world’s finest cars, the 300 SLR is one of 15 other significantly recognized automobiles including a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster. The 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR is acknowledged as one of the most beautiful and well-known sports racing cars. Stirling Moss demonstrated the astonishing abilities of the 300 SLR, after winning the 1955 Mille Miglia in Italy. The eight-cylinder Grand Prix engine, combined with a body construction of sheet magnesium, formed the lightweight, high-speed race car.

The arrival of the 300 SLR is courtesy of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. The classic car collection consists of around 856 vehicles and archived material that collectively preserve 125 years of Mercedes-Benz history and automotive design. The Mercedes-Benz Classic Museum displays 160 of the vehicles in the collection, storing the remaining vehicles in various buildings across Stuttgart. Since 2006, the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, California closely partners with

Germany’s Classic Center and Museum to provide US owners, enthusiasts, and collectors access to retail sales, restoration, appraisal and vehicle-search assistance on models at least twenty years old.

In addition to The Allure of the Automobile, local Mercedes-Benz car clubs and enthusiasts will show off their own vehicles on Park Avenue for a free display Saturday July 23, 2011 from 10:00 A.M. until 5:00 P.M.

While being responsible for the production of historical vehicles like the 300 SLR, Mercedes-Benz continues its legacy for over a century. This year marks the brand’s 125 year anniversary for its 1886 patent of the three-wheel, Benz Patent-Motorwagen and Mercedes-Benz ongoing commitment to future innovation and fascinating design.

Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster

The Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster is recognized for its presence, panache, and power on the road. The twenty-six 540 K Special Roadsters, among the total of 419 540 K’s produced from 1936-1939, were designed to be the most dominant on the road and built to the highest standards at Mercedes-Benz in-house coachworks Mercedes-Benz Karosserie in Sindelfingen.

Advanced for its era, the 540 K’s front suspension consists of independent, unequal-length wishbones and coil springs; the rear end features an independent, coil-sprung swing axle. The transmission includes a semi-automatic four-speed (functioning automatically on the top two gears). The 5.4 liter engine producing 180 hp includes a crankshaft driven Roots-type supercharger adding 65 hp when the throttle is fully depressed. The lighter Special Roadster was built to reach a top speed 105 mph despite a considerable 5,500 lb. curb weight and seventeen-foot length. The 540 K was engineered by Gustav Rohr, who also worked on Mercedes-Benz’s Grand Prix racecars.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR

The Mercedes-Benz 300SLR resembles the iconic 300SL in terms of its looks, but underneath its racing sports car bodywork, it boasts state of the art FormulaOne engineering known from the legendary W 196 R Grand Prix race car from the 1950s.

Developed by Rudolf Uhlenhaut, Chief Engineer and Technical Director of the Daimler-
Benz Motorsport Department, the 300 SLR racing sports car features a three liter, eight cylinder engine canted at a 53 degree angle to make a particularly low engine hood possible. The 300SLR lightweight space frame, similar in concept to that of the 300SL, carried an aerodynamically optimized bodywork made of a light magnesium alloy.

While the configuration of the 300 SLR’s racing sports car engine – two engine blocks, each with four cylinders, a shared crankcase and centrally arranged output shaft – was reminiscent of the Grand Prix race car’s engine, the new engine had been cast out of aluminum alloy for the first time. The engine also featured desmodromic valve actuation and fuel injection, which was still very much a novelty at the time.

The front suspension of the racing sports car consisted of double wishbones connected to horizontally mounted torsion bar springs and telescopic shock absorbers. The negative-camber rear wheels were mounted to a single-joint swing axle. Inboard drum brakes were used to decelerate. The racing sports car had a top speed of well over 300km/h, engine output up to 310 hp and a weight of roughly 830kilograms.