Turning a vision into reality – the phases of the restoration process as illustrated by the Mercedes-Benz 540 K Streamliner.
It began with a vision. Some 75 years after the unique Streamliner was developed, our experts embarked on its restoration and reconstruction. Painstakingly creating a parts inventory was like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle for the Mercedes-Benz Classic experts. Which parts and assemblies were to be found in the extensive collection, which of them would have to be reconstructed and how would they fit together? Following up every clue, the experts were fortunate enough to find the original rear axle and the original chassis, from which they could derive valuable information about the vehicle and how it was originally used.
Research and project planning.
Even for Mercedes-Benz Classic, this was a particularly elaborate restoration and rebuilding project. In view of its highly complex character, all the processes required meticulous planning. The project began with detailed research in the extensive Mercedes-Benz Classic archives which yielded drawings, photographs and other documents relating to the 540 K Streamliner. The original design drawings, including a 1:1 line drawing as well as high-resolution photographs, played a particularly important role in helping the experts observe one of the key principles of Mercedes-Benz Classic: ensuring the genuine nature of the vehicle.
Restoration and reconstruction.
The frame, rear axle and a number of detachable body components – the essential constituents of the original 1938 vehicle – were complemented by historical genuine parts from the Mercedes-Benz Classic collection. For all the other components of the Streamliner, the only possibility was to resort to the much more costly process of reconstruction in a manner completely faithful to the original. These components, above all the body, had to be reproduced on the basis of the original plans with a great deal of know-how, not to mention a fair amount of detective work. It was a task that called for old-school craftsmanship with an exceptional degree of experience and care.
All the components of the 540 K Streamliner – from the smallest screw to the engine block – were carefully assigned to the corresponding assemblies, such as engine, chassis, frame, transmission, front and rear axle, steering, interior and body. As the reconstruction work continued, the original substance of all the components was retained as far as possible. Reconstruction of the aerodynamic aluminium body – consisting of a wooden subframe, metal cladding, detachable body components and glazing - was one of the most labour-intensive phases of the project. This beautifully crafted masterpiece on its own accounts for some 4800 man-hours.
Marriage and completion.
Once all the components had been completed, they were combined to form the finished car. This involved uniting the entire chassis, already equipped with all the major components, with the streamlined body to form an organic whole – a process traditionally referred to as the 'marriage' in automotive manufacturing. As the body was divided into a front section and a passenger compartment, the marriage of the 540 K Streamliner took place in two stages. The addition of the electrics, connections, drill holes and lines as well as the luxurious interior with the stylish controls and instruments completed the vehicle.
Roll-out and testing.
Finally, the Mercedes-Benz Classic specialists subjected the 540 K Streamliner to thorough testing which revealed the capabilities of this unique vehicle. Comprehensive performance measurements and test runs delivered an impressive set of figures which substantiated all the calculated and historically documented data. Non-stop runs at very high speed with maximum efficiency – this was the overriding objective for the 540 K Streamliner during its development in the 1930s. 76 years later, the vehicle showed that it was able to attain this development goal brilliantly. Back to the future: the car of the future of 1938 is back on the road.