Silver arrow

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Silberpfeil was the popular name for the German Grand Prix racing cars in the years before the Second World War, which was used again in the 1950s. It was created after the vehicles from Mercedes-Benz started in the Eifel race in 1934, as in 1932, when Brauchitsch's cars on the Avus did not start in the usual German racing color white, but in shiny, shimmering silver aluminum. The Auto Union went into 'silver', so that their race cars also silver arrows, sometimes to distinguish but also "silverfish" were mentioned.

The success of the pre-war vehicles in international automobile racing in particular, which was based not least on the above-average professional preparation and mechanic work at the time, made the term “Silver Arrow” a legend . The racing drivers Rudolf Caracciola , Hans Stuck , Bernd Rosemeyer , Tazio Nuvolari , Hermann Lang etc. as well as later Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio are forever connected to this successful era . Lang drove the German Grand Prix for Mercedes-Benz both before and again after the Second World War .

Later on, the McLaren-Mercedes racing cars, some of which were painted silver from 1997, were sometimes referred to as the Silver Arrows, as were the Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR and Mercedes-Benz CLR GT racing cars of the late 1990s. In 2010 , with Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, Mercedes factory silver arrows started again in Formula 1 for the first time .

Name origin

Steiger in white at the Targa Florio , approx. 1925. Note the D-sign and the official license plate III Y for the Danube district in Württemberg
Nürburgring - opening race on June 18, 1927: Winner Rudolf Caracciola with co-driver in a Mercedes type S;
Cover by Theo Matejko for Echo Continental
At the Avus race in 1932, Manfred von Brauchitsch covered his Mercedes SSKL No. 31 with unpainted aluminum sheets, and he won the race

At the beginning of the 20th century, in international motorsport competitions, corresponding identification colors were introduced to identify the national origin of a participant for his car , mostly following existing traditions. White became the color of the Germans or their racing cars, similar to how German sports teams usually wore this color.

No international racing color was required for national races, exceptions were made for international races. In the 1932 AVUS race, Manfred von Brauchitsch drove a Mercedes-Benz SSKL with unpainted aluminum cladding panels. He surprisingly won the race, with radio announcer Paul Laven speaking of a "silver arrow".

Auto Union Type C at the opening of the Nürburgring Grand Prix
circuit in 1984

Mercedes-Benz vehicles in silver appeared for the first time on May 27, 1934 at the AVUS in Berlin. Previously active in other motorsport segments, the Type A racing cars in silver developed by Auto Union also competed there . It is historically unclear why they were silver-colored from the start. On this day, however, the Mercedes starting positions remained empty, as problems with the fuel supply had already occurred during training that could not be resolved in the short time. Auto Union also had problems and was behind two Alfa Romeo of the Scuderia Ferrari third. The Eifel race that followed was international, with Mercedes driver Manfred von Brauchitsch winning. In the press there was soon talk of "silver arrows".

As reported in a black and white documentary film available at Mercedes-Benz Classic , the creation of the Mercedes Silver Arrows was based on an embarrassing solution: as early as October 1932, the international sports authority had the maximum permissible total weight of the formula racing cars for the years 1934 to 1936 750 kg (excluding the driver, fuel, oil, water and tires) to force lighter and less powerful vehicles than the previous ones. According to this specification, Mercedes-Benz developed the W 25, which however weighed 751 kg instead of 750 kg at the technical acceptance test for the Eifel race at the Nürburgring on June 3, 1934. Racing director Alfred Neubauer's saying “Now we are the spoiled!” Is said to have given driver Manfred von Brauchitsch the idea of ​​sanding off the white paint in order to reduce the weight to the permissible limit. The mechanics removed the paint from the car overnight. In the process, the typically silver, shiny aluminum sheet came to light, which earned the W 25 and its successors the name "Silver Arrow". In other sources you can read that a very thin film of silver paint was applied after sanding.

Manfred von Brauchitsch confirmed the story in an interview a few years before his death. According to SWR author Eberhard Reuß, however, contemporary black and white photos by photographer Heinz von Perckhammer should show that the cars were silver from the start. Another source proves the opposite: years after the death of the press photographer Zoltán Glass, historians from Mercedes-Benz found pictures or negatives in his estate, showing that the vehicles were white during training and competed in silver.

More broadly, the name Silberpfeil also includes the high-speed cars from the time of Nazi rule. Worth mentioning here are the Mercedes-Benz T 80 and the streamlined record-breaking car from Mercedes-Benz, which was developed by the Porsche design office, which simultaneously designed the cars of its competitor Auto Union, and the Auto-Union record-breaking car, with which Bernd Rosemeyer was the first to do so Exceeded 400 km / h.

In 1937, Auto Union surprised the world with this streamlined Type R racing car designed for record attempts. On October 25, 1937, Bernd Rosemeyer set the absolute automobile world record of 406.32 km / h over 1 km and on October 26, achieved 404, 6 km / h over 5 km, each with a flying start. This world record car was developed from the mid-engined Grand Prix racing car Type C of 1936. The Type R had a supercharged 16-cylinder V-engine with 6 liters displacement and 382 kW (519 hp) at 5000 rpm. After the Second World War, the original was abducted from Germany , but a true-to-original replica can be viewed in the Audi museum mobile in Ingolstadt .

Mercedes-Benz W 25 (1934 to 1936)

Mercedes W 25 from 1934 in the Mercedes-Benz Museum
Mercedes W 25 from 1934, side view
Mercedes W 25 from 1934, rear view
Fully faired Mercedes W 25 K in the steep curve of the AVUS , 1937

In 1934 Mercedes-Benz started with the W 25, the AVUS and Eifel races were planned as the premier date for the vehicle in the run-up to the French Grand Prix on July 1, 1934, the second Grand Prix of the season.

Hans Nibel was responsible for the project, Max Wagner for the chassis and Albert Heeß and Otto Schilling for the engine . Georg Scheerer checked the machines in the experimental department under Fritz Nallinger . Otto Weber assembled them, Jakob Kraus assembled the chassis. The type 380 series car presented in February 1933 provided technical impetus. At the time, it set new standards with its supercharged eight-cylinder in-line engine and its all-round independent wheel suspension: double wishbones at the front, swing axles at the rear.

The racing car engine, a four-valve engine with two overhead camshafts, on which four cylinders were welded to the cylinder head and the cooling water jackets, weighed 211 kilograms. The compressor was in the front and supplied two pressure carburetors with compressed air. The tank held 215 liters, the consumption was 98 liters per 100 kilometers. The pilot engaged the four gears and reverse gear using a gate shift with a lock on the right next to the driver's seat.

First, in May 1933, a single-cylinder was tested on the test bench. A small Roots blower from a standard Mercedes-Benz from 1922 blew compressed air into the ascending flow carburetor. The vehicle frame consisted of two longitudinal members in a U-profile with cross bracing, for weight reasons, like on the SSKL, with multiple holes. The body with its many cooling slots was hammered out of aluminum by hand. The suspensions were clad aerodynamically, a simple grill with vertical bars closed off the structure towards the front, and a tapered rear towards the rear.

The race cars for 1934 were complete at the beginning of May. On the Thursday before the Avus race on May 27, Manfred von Brauchitsch , Luigi Fagioli and Rudolf Caracciola took their seats in their vehicles; After technical problems during training, the management withdrew the three cars - they were not yet ready to race, it was said. The Eifel race was then premiered a week later.

The 750-kilogram formula was created to get the escalating speeds of the bolides under control. Exactly the opposite was achieved, as the designers increased the displacement. The Mercedes-Benz technicians aimed at 206 kW (280 PS) for the debut M 25 A, projecting the liter output of the two-liter supercharged M 218 engine from 1924. This amounted to 63 kW (86 PS), so that on this basis a volume of 3360 cm³ was required for the new engine. In fact, the eight-cylinder initially developed 260 kW (354 hp). After that there were several stages of expansion. The M 25 AB variant with a 3710 cm³ displacement develops 293 kW (398 hp). Then followed the variants M 25 B with 3980 cm³ and 316 kW (430 PS), C with 4300 cm³ and 340 kW (462 PS) and finally in 1936 the version ME 25 with 4740 cm³ and 363 kW (494 PS) - each at 5800 / min.

The result for the Mercedes-Benz W 25: 16 victories in Grand Prix and other important races.

Technical specifications

Commitment: 1934 to 1936
Engine: 8-cylinder four-stroke in-line Otto engine, supercharged
Displacement: 3360 cc
Power: 206 kW (280 PS), later up to 363 kW (494 PS)
Top speed: approx. 300 km / h

Mercedes-Benz W 125 (1937)

For the 1937 season, Mercedes-Benz developed a new racing car: the W 125. Its chassis was made up of a sturdy oval tube frame made of special steel with four cross members, as had been tested for the brand's production cars and was used, for example, in the 230 model from 1938. The wheels were guided differently, at the front on double wishbones with coil springs as in the series models 500 K and 540 K, at the rear on a De-Dion double-articulated axle, which guaranteed a constant camber with a slight change in track width, with longitudinally positioned torsion bars and hydraulic dampers. It was originally supported by friction shock absorbers, but this double solution was soon discarded. Lateral handlebars passed the thrust and braking torque to the chassis.

After extensive test drives on the Nürburgring, the engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut selected a new type of chassis design: the suspension that had been customary up to now - hard sprung, but little damped - turned Uhlenhaut into the opposite: the W 125 rolled to the start with a softer suspension but more damped. The external appearance was similar to that of its predecessor.

The three cooling holes in the front section made it unmistakable. For the very fast Avus race on May 30, 1937, it was given a streamlined body. Gearbox and differential formed one unit. The eight-cylinder in-line engine was the highest expansion stage of the Grand Prix engine that has been in operation since 1934. The compressor was located downstream of the carburetors so that it was charged with the already finished mixture.

The W 125 was only used for one year. It could be adjusted to the respective course through different gearboxes, tank volumes and fuel mixtures, carburetors, loaders, tire and rim sizes, tire profiles and even the external dimensions. Output, torque, top speed and the speeds in the individual gears varied accordingly. For example, eight different gear ratios and two different rear wheel sizes (7.00-19 "and 7.00-22") were available. The engine, which has now reached 5660 cubic centimeters, consumed one liter of fuel per kilometer, a mixture of 88 percent methanol , 8.8 percent acetone and traces of other substances.

Ready to race without a driver, the W 125 weighed around 1021 kilograms with 240 liters of fuel, seven liters of coolant, nine liters of engine and 3.5 liters of transmission oil. The 222-kilogram engine developed up to 475 kW (646 hp), which corresponds to a liter output of 84 kW (114 hp) and a power-to-weight ratio of 1.16 kg / hp - a figure that was only surpassed decades later, just like Hermann Lang's average speed on the AVUS.

The Cannstatter also won the opening race in Tripoli, von Brauchitsch the Grand Prix de Monaco. Rudolf Caracciola won the Grand Prix of Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Czechoslovakia as well as the European Championship of that year. At the last Grand Prix of the 1937 season in Donington, England, big rival Bernd Rosemeyer had to be given way in the Auto Union Type C. Two triple and three double victories underlined the efficiency of Uhlenhaut's concept, as did the victory in the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring on July 25, 1937, in which Caracciola beat his team-mate Manfred von Brauchitsch in front of 350,000 spectators.

Technical specifications

Commitment: 1937
Engine: 8-cylinder four-stroke in-line Otto engine, supercharged
Displacement: 5660 cc
Power: 435 kW (591 PS), later up to 475 kW (646 PS)
Top speed: more than 300 km / h

Mercedes-Benz W 154 (1938 to 1939)

Mercedes W 154 from 1939

In September 1936 the international motorsport authority AIACR announced the technical regulations for the Grand Prix formula from 1938 onwards. The key points: a maximum of three liters displacement with a compressor or 4.5 liters without. Minimum weight of 400 to 850 kilograms, depending on the displacement. The 1937 season was still under way, when Mercedes-Benz was already planning the next one with a multitude of ideas, concepts and concrete steps. A naturally aspirated W-24 engine with three cylinder banks and eight cylinders each was considered as well as a rear-mounted engine, gasoline direct injection and full flow line. Mainly for thermal reasons, the decision was ultimately made in favor of a V12 with a 60 degree cylinder bank angle and four-valve technology, which Albert Heeß developed himself at Daimler-Benz. With a capacity of 250 cm³ per cylinder , the minimum value of the two-liter eight-cylinder M 218 from 1924 was reached again. Glycol as a coolant allowed temperatures of up to 125 degrees Celsius. Four overhead camshafts operated 48 valves via forked rocker arms. Three forged steel cylinders were combined in welded-on sheet steel cooling jackets; the cylinder heads were not removable. Powerful pumps let 100 liters of engine oil run through the 250 kg unit per minute . The intake air was initially pressurized by two single-stage compressors, which were replaced by a two-stage compressor in 1939.

In January 1938, the engine was first used on the dynamometer. Its first almost trouble-free test run followed on February 7th, during which it developed 314 kW (427 hp) at 8000 rpm. On average, the drivers Caracciola, Lang, von Brauchitsch and Seaman had 316 kW (430 hp) at their disposal in the first half of the season, in the end it was more than 344 kW (468 hp). Hermann Lang owned the most powerful example with 349 kW (475 hp) in Reims , where his W 154 drove along the numerous straights at 283 km / h at 7500 rpm. For the first time, a Mercedes-Benz racing car had five gears.

Chassis engineer Max Wagner found it much easier than his colleagues in engine development, who largely adopted the advanced chassis architecture of the W 125 from the previous year, but increased the torsional rigidity of the frame by 30 percent. The V12 engine was installed low and inclined at an angle. The air inlets of the carburetors protruded from the middle of the radiator, the grill in front of it became wider and wider in the run-up to the season.

The pilot sat to the right of the cardan shaft. The fact that the W 154 crouched flat over the asphalt - the wheels clearly protruded beyond the silhouette of its body - lowered the center of gravity considerably and gave the car a dynamic appearance.

The W 154 was the most successful Silver Arrow to date: Rudolf Caracciola became European champion in 1938, and the W 154 won three of five Grand Prix races. In 1939, Hermann Lang was by far the most successful driver of the year: winner in five of eight circuit races, as well as two hill climbs. The title “European champion” was only awarded to him by the NS side (NSKK leader Hühnlein); the AIACR in Paris had not awarded it after the outbreak of war. According to the current regulations, H. P. Müller (Auto Union Type D) should have received the title.

To avoid problems with weight distribution, the balance was tared with an additional saddle tank over the driver's legs. In 1939 a two-stage compressor helped the V12 engine, known internally as the M 163, to produce 355 kW (483 hp) at 7800 rpm. The efforts of the AIACR to limit the Grand Prix monoposti to an acceptable level had practically failed. The fastest laps on the Bremgarten course, for example, were almost identical in 1937 (according to the 750 kilogram formula) and in 1939 (with the three-liter engines of the new generation). The W 154 had also been extensively redesigned over the winter. A raised paneling in the area of ​​the cockpit gave the pilot more safety, the small instrument panel was now enthroned in his immediate field of vision on the saddle tank. As usual, it only conveyed the most necessary information, with a large rev counter in the middle, flanked by the two displays for water and oil temperature. Because one of Uhlenhaut's principles was not to distract the driver with an excess of data.


Commitment: 1938/39
Engine: V12 -Zylinder- four stroke - gasoline engine , 60 ° cylinder bank angle, two compressors, embodiments in 1939 with a two-stage compressor
Displacement: 2963 cc
Power: 314 kW (427 hp), later up to 349 kW (475 hp)
Top speed: 330 km / h

Mercedes-Benz W 165 (1939)

One of the favorite races of the Mercedes Grand Prix teams in the 1930s was the Tripoli Grand Prix in what was then the Italian province of Libya (North Africa), an event that did not, however, count in the European Grand Prix standings.

The organizers were secretly annoyed that an Italian racing car, Alfa Romeo , had last won this race in 1934. Then the German Silver Arrows were victorious on the fast, thirteen-kilometer Autodromo della Mellaha around the lake of the same name just outside Tripoli. In 1935 Rudolf Caracciola won in a Mercedes, in 1936 at least one Italian driver won, Achille Varzi in the Auto-Union Type C. In 1937 and 1938 Hermann Lang was behind the wheel of the victorious Mercedes-Benz. Therefore, remedial action should be taken; as early as 1937 and 1938, a specially established 1.5-liter class ensured Italian triumphs. Much indicated that the future Grand Prix formula was advertised for cars with the same volume. The Italian motorsport authority limited the displacement for top monoposti from 1939 in their own country to 1500 cm³ (Voiturette formula). Alfa Romeo with the Alfetta 158 and Maserati with the new 4CL were equipped accordingly.

The regulations were announced in early September 1938. Mercedes-Benz racing director Alfred Neubauer found out about them on September 11 after the Gran Premio d'Italia in Monza . The 13th Tripoli Grand Prix was scheduled for May 7, 1939. So there were less than eight months left. A first meeting of those involved was scheduled for September 15, 1938. Max Sailer , ex-Mercedes racing driver and since 1934 head of construction and development of the vehicle program, threw off the objection of the designers that such a project would not be feasible in the all too short time : on November 18, the official management instructions followed. In mid-February 1939, the essential drawings by engine specialists Albert Heeß and Max Wagner were available. At the beginning of April the first test of the drivers Rudolf Caracciola and Hermann Lang took place in Hockenheim with one of the two built cars, which spooled 500 kilometers almost without complaint. To everyone's amazement, the entry list for the Tripoli Grand Prix, which the organizers published on April 11th, included two Mercedes-Benz W 165s - the Stuttgart-based company's first 1.5-liter racing cars since the Targa Florio in 1922.

The immense time pressure triggered practical constraints. In all essential points, the W 165 had to be based on the current W 154 Grand Prix car, which was further developed feverishly at the same time. In fact, the Tripoli monoposto came across as a scaled-down little brother, 3680 millimeters long (W 154: 4250 millimeters), with the shortened wheelbase of 2450 millimeters (W 154: 2730 millimeters). The struts of its oval tube frame were made of chrome-nickel-molybdenum steel, in addition to the five cross members, the rear engine mount formed an additional strut. The driver was sitting a little to the right of the center, thus also the windshield and the rearview mirrors. As on the W 154, the cardan shaft was mounted at an angle without creating space for a central position due to the confined space. In addition, the seat was moved relatively far forward because Wagner wanted to put as much fuel as possible within the wheelbase. Again, in addition to the main tank in the stern, a saddle tank was built over the thighs of the pilot. Fully fueled, without a driver, the W 165 weighed a full 905 kilograms, 53.3 percent of which was distributed over the rear axle.

Even the engine, which only weighed 195 kilograms, could not deny its close relationship to the V12 of the W 154. It was a V8 with a displacement of 1493 cubic centimeters and a cylinder bank angle of 90 degrees, four overhead camshafts and 32 valves, the drive and arrangement of which were almost identical to those of the Grand Prix model. For each row of cylinders, the right one was offset forward by 18 millimeters, there was a steel block with a welded jacket for the glycol circulation cooling. The heads were welded to the cylinders. Experiments with a centrifugal compressor were discontinued because the boost pressure quickly crashed at low speed. The mixture formation was done by two Solex carburettors, supported by two Roots blowers . The developed 187 kW (254 PS) at 8250 rpm was equivalent to a liter output of 125 kW (170 PS). Sufficient delay was also provided; large brake drums with a diameter of 360 millimeters filled almost the entire interior of the spoked wheels. Even the extreme temperatures in the Libyan host country, temperatures of 52 degrees Celsius on the track on the day of the race, were taken into account by running the fuel line over a tube cooler.

Caracciola drove the full distance in his Mercedes-Benz W 165 on fresh tires with his car with a short gear ratio, Hermann Lang made a quick pit stop, as previously determined, and with a longer gear ratio (and thus more top speed) won the Tripoli race with almost one lap ahead of its brand colleague. He could have lapped it.

Technical specifications

Commitment: 1939
Engine: V8-cylinder four-stroke gasoline engine, 90 degree cylinder bank angle,
charging via two compressors (Roots blower)
Displacement: 1495 cc
Power: 187 kW (254 hp)
Top speed: up to 272 km / h

Return in the 1950s

Silver Arrow W 196 "Monza" with streamlined body
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL type W 194 from 1952 in Carrera Panamericana version in the Mercedes-Benz Museum

In 1952, Mercedes-Benz built the 300 SL racing car in the coupé ( gullwing ) and roadster variants , which despite the near-series 3-liter engine from the 300 (W 186) sedan achieved surprising victories against much more powerful sports cars, such as the Carrera Panamericana and at the Le Mans 24-hour race .

Then they paused for a year and developed a new type of racing car according to the new rules for Formula 1 and was able to achieve a double victory on its debut on July 4, 1954 at the Circuit de Reims-Gueux ( France ). The “Silver Arrows” were back and won several times, mostly with Juan Manuel Fangio at the wheel. At the end of the 1955 season, which was overshadowed by the catastrophe at the 24 Hours of Le Mans , in which a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Silver Arrow crashed and killed more than 80 spectators, Mercedes withdrew from both the formula 1 as well as sports car races, since all world titles had been won. The silver arrows then came to the museum.

The 300 SL (W 198) based on the W 194 was offered as a street version until 1963.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL from 1952

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Porsche racing cars also had silver paintwork or bare aluminum bodies. The sports car is thereby achieved many successes, such as the Carrera Panamericana and Targa Florio , also in 1962 a victory in Formula 1. Although company founder Ferdinand Porsche at the time the Auto Union had constructed race car, was the term Silberpfeil hardly with Porsche Connected - not least because the company could still achieve class but not overall victories with its small-displacement vehicles. In addition, plastic bodies soon appeared, most of which were painted white.

Technical specifications

Commitment: 1952/53
Engine: 6-cylinder four-stroke in-line Otto engine
Displacement: 2996 cc
Power: 129 kW (175 hp)
Top speed: 240 km / h

Mercedes-Benz W 196 R (1954/55)

The Grand Prix formula of the CSI (Commission Sportive Internationale) from 1954 stipulated the following, among other things: displacement 750 with or 2500 cubic centimeters without compressor, any composition of fuel, racing distance 300 kilometers, but at least three hours. In accordance with this regulation, Mercedes-Benz developed the W 196 R. Fritz Nallinger was entrusted with the management of the project ; The development was significantly influenced by Rudolf Uhlenhaut, the long-time head of technology in the racing department. The engineers Ludwig Kraus, Hans Scherenberg , Manfred Lorscheidt, Hans Gassmann and Karl-Heinz Göschel worked together with them .

Fourteen copies of the car, including a prototype, were extremely successful in the following two years. The original streamlined body was functional, but from the German Grand Prix on the Nürburgring at the beginning of August 1954 a monoposto with free-standing wheels became standard equipment. The tubular space frame was light and stable, the chassis with torsion bar suspension and a new single-joint swing axle at the rear as well as large, air-cooled, centrally located duplex drum brakes were unconventional. The eight-cylinder in-line engine with direct injection and desmodromic valves (1954: 188 kW (256 hp) at 8260 rpm, 1955: 213 kW (290 hp) at 8500 rpm) was installed in the chassis at an angle of 53 degrees to the right to lower the center of gravity and reduce the frontal area. Racing director Alfred Neubauer hired the initially hesitant Juan Manuel Fangio and in 1955 Stirling Moss as a driver.

Before the eight-cylinder engine ran on the test bench for the first time, a test unit with only one cylinder was tested, as usual, with a displacement of 310 cubic centimeters and four valves. This solution revealed what the Silver Arrow racing engines of the 1930s were already suffering from: Problems in the valve train above 8000 rpm, especially broken valve springs. Hans Gassmann came up with the saving idea: cams and rocker arms were responsible for opening and closing the valves so that there was no need for springs. The advantages of desmodromic were obvious - higher speed stability and, as a result, more power. Since larger and therefore heavier valves could also be used in this way, the conventional decision was made to use two valves per cylinder.

The injection pump developed jointly with BOSCH , similar to that of a diesel engine, consisted of a housing with eight cylinders from which the fuel was fed directly into the combustion chambers at a pressure of 100 kg / cm² (98 bar). The fact that the cylinders (two groups of four with central power take-off) were firmly connected to a base plate, but separate from the housing for the camshaft drive, were screwed onto an aluminum housing, surrounded by one, that goes back to the 18/100 hp Mercedes-Benz racing car of 1914 welded cooling water jacket. The highly reactive ESSO mixtures with the code RD 1, mixed from the substances benzene (45 percent), methyl alcohol (25 percent), gasoline with 110/130 octane (25 percent), acetone (three percent) and nitrobenzene (two Percent).

The two versions of the W 196 R were interchangeable with relatively few movements: Chassis number 10, for example, was won at the 1955 Grand Prix of Argentina (under Hans Herrmann, Karl Kling and Stirling Moss, 4th place) and the Netherlands (with Stirling Moss, rank 2) used with open wheels and fully disguised as a training car in Monza. Which variant was used depended on the characteristics of the route, the strategy and the preferences of the respective driver. Uhlenhaut explained that the W 196 R started with a pendulum axle with a low pivot point instead of the usual De Dion axle , with the time pressure under which the car was designed in 1953. In addition, there was sufficient experience with this solution. The deliberate shifting of the large weights of the W 196 R contributed to a good mass distribution: water and oil cooler all the way to the front, fuel and oil tank all the way to the rear. In 1955 three wheelbases were available (2150, 2210 and 2350 millimeters), and the front drum brakes on some cars were located within the wheels. The variant with the shortest wheelbase was naturally best suited for the winding street circuit of Monaco ; however, May 22, 1955 was a "black day" for Mercedes-Benz. Hans Herrmann already suffered an accident during training. In the race, Juan Manuel Fangio retired with a broken cardan shaft, Stirling Moss, as well as substitute driver André Simon, with engine failure.

The racing record of the W 196 R: Nine wins and fastest laps as well as eight pole positions in twelve Grand Prix participations, as well as the two drivers' titles in 1954 and 1955 for Juan Manuel Fangio.

Technical specifications

Commitment: 1954/55
Engine: 8-cylinder, four-stroke, in-line Otto engine with direct injection
Displacement: 2496 cc
Power: 188 kW (256 PS), later up to 213 kW (290 PS)
Top speed: over 300 km / h

Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR (1955)

The year before, Mercedes-Benz had already entered Formula 1 two races late; In 1955 they stayed away from the first two races in Buenos Aires and Sebring, only to show off with the now technically sophisticated 300 SLR in the classics Mille Miglia , Le Mans , RAC Tourist Trophy and Targa Florio . However, it was not until mid-October that Mercedes-Benz secured the championship in the manufacturers' championship in Sicily, supported by an elaborate team structure: eight racing cars and eight heavy trucks as well as 15 passenger cars left the ferry from Naples in Palermo , looked after by 45 mechanics. At the time, SLR driver Stirling Moss praised the above-average level of preparation, precision and logistical effort.

The 300 SLR had already been registered for the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1954, but the entry was withdrawn at short notice. Only in September did a prototype in the Monza park complete its first test laps, with a dry weight of 860 kilograms including two spare wheels in the luggage compartment. Its internal designation W 196 S already referred to the close relationship to the Grand Prix Silver Arrow at the time, which was indeed the inspiration everywhere. Its engine, with two millimeters more bore and 9.2 millimeters more stroke to 2982 cubic centimeters displacement, was the highest expansion stage of the eight-cylinder in-line engine, producing 218 kW (296 hp) at 7400 rpm. Recommended speed, power and tank volume alternated depending on the character of the upcoming race between sprint (as in the Eifel race on the Nürburgring over 228.1 kilometers) and endurance races (as in Le Mans). The cylinder head and cylinder were a unit, the two blocks of four (each weighing 17.5 kilograms) were made of silumin instead of steel as before. With a built-in weight of 235 kilograms, this unit was extremely stable; one was tested on the dynamometer at racing speeds of over 9800 kilometers and 32 more hours. Only the piston rings were replaced after 5954 kilometers. Inclined at an angle of 57 degrees to the right, the engine was built four degrees flatter in the chassis of the SLR, which nevertheless offered considerably more ground clearance than the single-seater in view of the road courses that required the material. The engine was powered by a mixture of 75 percent petrol, 15 percent methyl alcohol and ten percent benzene.

The wheel suspension of the W 196 R was adopted, with double wishbones at the front and an oscillating axle at the rear. The sports car's 60 kilogram tubular space frame, designed for two people, was borrowed from the 300 SL from 1952, a framework of tubes with a diameter of 25 millimeters and a wall thickness of one millimeter, especially in the area of ​​the deep flanks and stronger struts in the area of ​​the Wheel suspensions. In addition, the responsible engineer Ludwig Kraus and his team also had to adhere to the specifications in Appendix J of the FIA ​​regulations, which required two doors and defined the dimensions of the passenger compartment. Nevertheless, as in a racing car, the driver sat with his legs apart over the clutch tunnel. The detachable steering wheel of the 300 SLR was mounted on the left, in contrast to its competitors from Jaguar or Ferrari, although they were actually better equipped for the European courses, which were driven clockwise.

Only at the Mille Miglia were two out of four pilots actually on the road with a co-driver: The English motor journalist Denis Jenkinson supported Stirling Moss and used the “prayer book” - an invention of the racing driver Hans Klenk . Hans Herrmann was accompanied by Fangio's mechanic Hermann Eger. Fangio himself and Karl Kling preferred to start solo. One of the tasks of the copilot was to sound the horn in an emergency in order to relieve the driver.

At Le Mans, the silver two-seater initially caused a sensation with unconventional braking aids. On the one hand, with the help of four buttons, some oil could be sprayed into the respective brake drum if a wheel blocked, which at that time happened relatively often with vehicles of all brands. On the other hand, activated by the driver by hand, an additional air brake at the rear of the vehicle is positioned vertically in the airstream if necessary. The air brake was used again at the Swedish Grand Prix on the Råbelöfsbanan race track in early August.

The record of the 300 SLR in 1955: Stirling Moss' Mille Miglia triumph as well as victories at the Tourist Trophy and the Targa Florio. On the other side was the tragedy of Le Mans, where the Mercedes driver Pierre Levegh (alias Pierre Bouillon) and more than 80 spectators lost their lives in an accident caused by third parties. This event strengthened Daimler-Benz's decision, which had already been made, to withdraw from the great racing sport at the end of the 1955 season.


Commitment: 1955
Engine: 8-cylinder four-stroke in-line Otto engine with direct injection
Displacement: 2982 cc
Power: 288 kW (392 hp)
Top speed: over 300 km / h

At Mercedes-Benz from the 1960s to the beginning of the 1980s, touring car races and rallies were sporadically driven in S-Class sedans and coupes. Here, too, the term silver arrow was not used. A planned entry into the World Rally Championship with the new compact Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16V was canceled after Auto Union successor Audi had triggered an arms race there with turbo and all-wheel drive in the quattro .

Sports car racing in the 1980s and 1990s

Sauber-Mercedes C9 in the silver paintwork from 1989 at the Oldtimer-Grand-Prix 2009 on the Nürburgring

At the end of the 1980s, those responsible at Mercedes-Benz decided to provide factory support for the sports cars driven by Mercedes V8 engines by the Swiss Peter Sauber . They were painted silver in 1989 and then referred to as "Silver Arrows". Successes include winning the World Endurance Championship and the Le Mans 24-hour race . In addition, Mercedes-Benz deployed young drivers, including a. Michael Schumacher , Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Karl Wendlinger , with whom Sauber moved to Formula 1 in 1993 . The monoposto, however, was painted black, only the words “concept by Mercedes-Benz” indicated that Mercedes-Benz was supporting the development of an engine that the Swiss Mario Illien built in England under the name Ilmor . As early as 1995 this engine moved to Team McLaren .

In 1999 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans , the Silver Arrows with the star and the four rings met again for the first time in 60 years . While the R8C coupés used by Audi England with the gullwing doors that are actually typical of Mercedes failed with technical defects, the open R8R sports cars used by the German Joest team reached the finish line in third and fourth. The winner was a classic white V12 BMW prototype.

Mercedes-Benz, on the other hand, experienced a debacle, as the CLR Silver Arrows took off three times like an airplane due to the extreme design of aerodynamics and landing gear and had a spectacular rollover accident, fortunately without serious health consequences for the driver. The team management then withdrew the last remaining car from the race and ended all sports car activities, while Audi achieved great successes with the Audi R8 in the years that followed. The Audi R8, always painted in silver, is now the most successful sports car prototype of all time.


From 1997 , the McLaren-Mercedes team competed for the first time with silver-black and from 2005 with silver-red cars. This departure from the red and white paintwork, which had been retained for years, also marked a turning point in development. From the midfield, the cars, now again referred to as “Silver Arrows”, advanced to the top and demonstrated their competitiveness in particular with Mika Häkkinen's 1998 and 1999 world championship titles and the 1998 World Championship win in the constructors' championship. After another second place in the World Cup in the 2000 season, technical problems often hampered the way to the top. Kimi Raikkonen finished second in the World Cup in 2003 and 2005 , Lewis Hamilton in 2007 , and in 2008 Lewis Hamilton was able to achieve the title of world champion. In 2009 Lewis Hamilton won two races. After the season, the collaboration between McLaren and Mercedes-Benz changed fundamentally. On November 16, 2009 Dieter Zetsche announced that Daimler AG will take over the Brawn GP racing team for the 2010 season and will sell back the McLaren shares by 2011. McLaren was to remain engine customer at Mercedes AMG HPP in the long term , but McLaren let the option to extend the contract, which ran until the end of 2014, expire in May 2013. All technology transfer was then stopped.

Mercedes AMG F1 Team

Mercedes MGP W01 , the first works Mercedes Silver Arrow in Formula 1 since 1955

Since the 2010 season , Mercedes-Benz has again been taking part in the Formula 1 World Championship with its own works team. The Mercedes AMG F1 Team with the Mercedes MGP W01 and the racing drivers Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg was the first "real" Mercedes Silver Arrow racing team since 1955 in Formula 1. After a few racing victories in the first four seasons, the team dominated with the introduction of the Hybrid engines in the years 2014-2016 with the driver pairing Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg the Formula 1: 51 of 59 races were won, the pole position was achieved in 56 of them. Hamilton won two drivers' titles, Rosberg was world champion in 2016 .

In 2017 , 2018 and 2019 Mercedes was again able to win both titles with the Hamilton / Bottas duo . Only Ferrari ( 1999 to 2004 ) was able to win six constructors' titles in a row .

Mercedes-Benz won 74 of the 100 Grand Prix races between 2014 and 2018. Lewis Hamilton became the most successful Mercedes driver in history. The Mercedes team set numerous season records.

See also


  • German victories in three continents. Director: Ulrich Bigalke , 95 min., Germany 1937.
  • Racing fever. Director: Josef Mühlbauer, Germany 1955.
  • The Audi Silver Arrows. Production: Spiegel TV , 42 min., Germany 2007.
  • Hitler's racing battles - How the Silver Arrows learned to win. Director: Eberhard Reuß, 45 min., Germany 2009.
  • Attack of the Silver Arrows - The racing legend returns. Production: N24, 45 min., Germany 2012.
  • Magical Moments - The Hour of the Silver Arrows. Director: Saskia Weisheit, 10 episodes, 519 min., Germany 2013 ( short version on YouTube ).


(in chronological order)

  • Bodo Herzog : Under the Mercedes star - The great time of the Silver Arrows. Ernst Gerdes Verlag, Preetz 1966.
  • Alfred Neubauer : Men, women and engines - the memories of race director Alfred Neubauer. 3. Edition. Motorbuch-Verlag, Stuttgart 1978, ISBN 3-87943-159-0 .
  • Stefan Knittel: Auto Union Grand Prix car. Schrader & Partner, Munich 1980, ISBN 3-922617-00-X .
  • Halwart Schrader : Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows - The legendary racing cars of the era 1934–1955. BLV-Verlags-Gesellschaft, Munich / Vienna / Zurich 1987, ISBN 3-405-13380-7 .
  • Karl-Heinz Edler, Wolfgang Roediger: The German racing cars. Reprint of the 1956 edition. Fachbuchverlag, Leipzig 1988, ISBN 3-343-00435-9 , pp. 90–116, 169–178, 187–195.
  • Mike Riedner : Mercedes-Benz, the new Silver Arrows. Stadler, Konstanz 1990, ISBN 3-7977-0252-3 .
  • Wolfgang Groth: The History of the Silver Arrows - The Myth Lives. Heel, Königswinter 1999, ISBN 3-89365-746-0 .
  • Karl Ludvigsen, Halwart Schrade: Mercedes-Benz racing and sports cars - the history of the Silver Arrows from the Blitzen-Benz to the McLaren-Mercedes. Motorbuch-Verlag, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-613-01953-1 .
  • Markus Bolsinger, Clauspeter Becker: Silver Arrows - Mercedes-Benz. Delius Klasing, Bielefeld 2001, ISBN 3-7688-1299-5 .
  • Peter Vann: Nickel silver - Auto Union racing cars and record cars. Motorbuch-Verlag, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-613-02161-7 .
  • Uwe Day: Myth ex machina. Media construct “Silver Arrow” as a mass-cultural icon of Nazi modernization. (= Dissertation at the University of Bremen). Braunschweig 2004 ( PDF ).
  • Michael Eichhammer : Silver Arrows and Cannons - The History of Auto Union Racing Cars and their Drivers. Wieland, Bruckmühl 2004, ISBN 978-3-9808709-1-7 .
  • Peter Kirchberg: On the trail of silver - the fate of the Auto Union racing cars. Motorbuch-Verlag, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 978-3-613-02402-1 .
  • Louis Sugahara: Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix vehicles and racing sports cars 1934–1955. Heel, Königswinter 2004, ISBN 978-3-89880-399-1 .
  • Uwe Day: Silver Arrow and Swastika - Motor Racing in National Socialism. Bebra-Verlag, Berlin 2005, ISBN 978-3-937233-27-7 .
  • Anthony Pritchard: Silver Arrows - The duels between the Grand Prix teams of Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union 1934–1939. Motorbuch-Verlag, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-613-03094-7 .
  • Günter Engelen: Mercedes-Benz racing and sports cars since 1894. Motorbuch-Verlag, Stuttgart 2011, ISBN 978-3-613-03206-4 .
  • Christof Vieweg: Silver Arrows and Winners - Mercedes-Benz Motorsport 1894 to 1955. Edition SternZeit, Sipplingen 2015, ISBN 978-3-9817353-2-1 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. The end of a legend . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung. Retrieved February 2, 2018.
  2. Audi versus Mercedes . In: . Retrieved February 2, 2018.
  3. Bernd-Wilfried Kießler: Overweight racer is shrinking to the Silver Arrow., March 27, 2009, accessed on June 4, 2013 : “ What a surprise! Von Brauchitsch leads Caracciola! The silver arrow has just arrived, Manfred von Brauchitsch's heavy, massive car. Then he swings into the last corner - at full throttle! «The voice of radio reporter Paul Laven almost cracks when he describes the finish of the Berlin Avus race in 1932. This is the first certified tradition of the term "Silver Arrow", received on an original audio document. "
  4. Myth Silver Arrows ( Memento from July 12, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  5. Silver Arrows: Return of a Legend. Mixing, Neckarsulm 1998, DNB 954875109 .
  6. ↑ table football. Retrieved July 4, 2019 .
  7. Retrieved July 4, 2019 .
  8. This is Schumacher's new Silver Arrow. In: January 25, 2010, accessed August 15, 2019 .
  9. ^ German victories in three continents. In: Retrieved August 21, 2019 .
  10. Rennfieber (1955). In: Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Retrieved August 15, 2019 .
  11. The Audi Silver Arrows. In: Retrieved August 16, 2019 .
  12. Hitler's racing battles - How the Silver Arrows learned to win. In: October 6, 2012, accessed August 14, 2019 .
  13. Attack of the Silver Arrows - The racing legend returns. In: May 29, 2019, accessed August 21, 2019 .
  14. Magical Moments - The Hour of the Silver Arrows. In: Retrieved August 15, 2019 .