Car Art

SLOW Magazine - - Contents -

Cars have long been con­sid­ered much more than sim­ply a means of trans­port. Like the horses they re­placed more than a hun­dred years ago, many cars have ac­quired cer­tain iconic sta­tuses, and a se­lect few cre­ations have come to be viewed as au­then­tic ob­jects of art. With their sculpted lines and sen­su­ous con­tours, the Mercedes-benz rac­ing cars of a by­gone era are the firsts among equals, and in hon­our of these fast mov­ing sculp­tures, the Louw­man Mu­seum in Den Haag is host­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion of the leg­endary Mercedes-benz rac­ing cars from the 1950s.

The seven unique cars on dis­play in the Louw­man mu­seum rep­re­sent one of the most heroic pe­ri­ods in the his­tory of mo­tor rac­ing, and played a ma­jor role in the de­vel­op­ment of mod­ern rac­ing cars.

Fol­low­ing the dev­as­ta­tion dur­ing and af­ter the Sec­ond World War, Mercedesbenz re­sumed mo­tor rac­ing in 1952 with some of the most beau­ti­ful and suc­cess­ful cre­ations ever to grace the race­track. From the 1952 Le Mans win­ning 300 SL to Man­ual Fan­gio’s For­mula One con­quer­ing W 196 R racer, through to Stir­ling Moss’ 300 SLR that shat­tered the Mille Miglia record in 1955 these are the cars that have shaped mod­ern mo­tor rac­ing as much as they shaped the mod­ern car de­sign. 1952 Mercedes-benz 300 SL rac­ing sports car (W 194)

The car on dis­play with the se­quen­tial chas­sis num­ber 2 is the old­est SL still in ex­is­tence, and the car that reaf­firmed Mercedes-benz as the leader in au­to­mo­tive engi­neer­ing and de­sign. With its stream­lined light-al­loy body strad­dling a light­weight space frame, along with its char­ac­ter­is­tic

‘gull­wing’ doors, the 300 SL achieved sev­eral tri­umphs that year, in­clud­ing the Grand Prix of Switzer­land, fol­lowed by spec­tac­u­lar vic­to­ries in the Le Mans 24-hour race and the Car­rera Panamer­i­cana in Mex­ico. Specs Cylin­ders: 6 in-line Dis­place­ment: 2,996 cc Out­put: 125 kw Max­i­mum speed: 230 km/h 1954 Mercedes-benz 300 SL “Gull­wing” (W 198)

The 300 SL pro­duc­tion sports car pre­sented in 1954 was based on the rac­ing sports car of the same name that won spec­tac­u­lar vic­to­ries in the 1952 sea­son. The in­no­va­tive petrol in­jec­tion sys­tem en­sured an in­crease in both power and speed com­pared to the car­bu­ret­tore­quipped rac­ing ver­sion.

A to­tal of 1400 ex­am­ples of this dream sports car were pro­duced from 1954 to 1957, and in 1999 a jury of mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ists voted the 300 SL “Gull­wing” as “Sports Car of the Cen­tury”. Specs Cylin­ders: 6 in-line Dis­place­ment: 2,996 cc Out­put: 158 kw Max­i­mum speed: 250 km/h 1954 Mercedes-benz 2.5-litre stream­lined rac­ing car (W 196 R)

Af­ter a 15-year in­ter­rup­tion, Mercedesbenz re­turned to Grand Prix mo­tor rac­ing, now in the guise of For­mula One, with the fu­tur­is­tic-look­ing W 196 R stream­lined rac­ing car in 1954. With its desmod­romic valve tim­ing that made con­ven­tional valve springs un­nec­es­sary and en­gine speeds ex­ceed­ing 8,000 rpm, in the hands of Man­ual Fan­gio the stream­lined ver­sion of the W 196 R won four Grand Prix races in 1954 and one in 1955 to help steer the Ar­gen­tinian to two con­sec­u­tive For­mula One World Cham­pi­onship ti­tles. Specs Cylin­ders: 8 in-line Dis­place­ment: 2,497 cc Out­put: 188 kw to 213 kw Max­i­mum speed: 300 km/h 1954 Mercedes-benz 2.5-litre rac­ing car (W 196 R)

Dur­ing the 1954 and 1955 For­mula One sea­sons, Mercedes-benz sup­ple­mented the W 196 R stream­lined rac­ing car with an open wheel de­sign that was bet­ter suited for shorter race­tracks with more cor­ners. Al­though not quite as suc­cess­ful as the stream­lined rac­ing car, the open wheeler se­cured two Grand Prix vic­to­ries in 1954 and 1955.

Specs Cylin­ders: 8 in-line Dis­place­ment: 2,497 cc Out­put: 188 kw to 213 kw Max­i­mum speed: 300 km/h 1955 Mercedes-benz 300 SLR rac­ing sports car (W 196 S)

Mercedes-benz devel­oped the 300 SLR for the 1955 World Sports Car Cham­pi­onship on the ba­sis of the suc­cess­ful W 196 R For­mula One rac­ing car, with the added grunt of a three-litre ver­sion of the eight­cylin­der in-line en­gine. Stir­ling Moss won that

year’s Mille Miglia in record time, a record that was never bro­ken be­fore the race was banned af­ter two fa­tal crashes in 1957. With nu­mer­ous other vic­to­ries, the 300 SLR com­fort­ably won the World Sports Car Cham­pi­onship in 1955. The car on dis­play is the first of a to­tal of nine ex­am­ples built, and is equipped with the un­usual air brake. Specs Cylin­ders: 8 in-line Dis­place­ment: 2,982 cc Out­put: 222 kw Max­i­mum speed: 300 km/h

1955 Mercedes-benz 300 SLR “Uh­len­haut Coupé” (W 196 S)

The closed ver­sion of the 300 SLR rac­ing sports car was devel­oped for the 1956 sea­son to give the driv­ers in the Mercedesbenz team bet­ter pro­tec­tion in gru­elling long-dis­tance races. How­ever, it was never ac­tu­ally en­tered in races as Mercedes-benz with­drew from mo­tor­sport at the end of the 1955 sea­son. In­stead, the 300 SLR Coupé was used as a com­pany car by the head of the test de­part­ment, Ru­dolf Uh­len­haut. Hence it is nowa­days nick­named the “Uh­len­haut Coupé”. To­day the not-for-sale “Uh­len­haut Coupé” is po­ten­tially the world's most valu­able au­to­mo­bile. Specs Cylin­ders: 8 in-line Dis­place­ment: 2,982 cc Out­put: 222 kw Max­i­mum speed: 300 km/h

1955 Mercedes-benz ex­press rac­ing car trans­porter

With the ‘world's fastest rac­ing car trans­porter’, Mercedes-benz also caused a sen­sa­tion off the race­track. With the high-per­for­mance en­gine of the 300 SL, the mod­i­fied frame of the 300 S and the doors, head­lamps and in­di­ca­tors of the “Pon­ton” model 180, this was a vis­ually and tech­ni­cally unique ve­hi­cle with a top speed of up to 170 km/h de­pend­ing on pay­load.

Known as the “Blue Won­der”, this one­off ve­hi­cle was scrapped in 1967, 12 years af­ter the with­drawal of Mercedes-benz from mo­tor­sport. Then about 30 years later, Mercedes-benz de­cided to build a true replica, and af­ter seven years of ded­i­cated work by the ex­perts at Mercedes-benz Clas­sic, the “Blue Won­der” once again ap­peared in all its glory in 2001.

Specs Cylin­ders: 6 in-line Dis­place­ment: 2,996 cc Out­put: 141 kw Max­i­mum speed: 170 km/h Need­less to say that Mercedes-benz rep­re­sents the very best that the world of mo­tor­ing has to of­fer. Whether it’s tech­nol­ogy, de­sign, in­no­va­tion or style, Mercedes-benz leads the way, and that’s seem­ingly how it’s al­ways been.

1952 Mercedes-benz 300 SL rac­ing sports car (W 194)

1954 Mercedes-benz 300 SL “Gull­wing” (W 198) 1954 Mercedes-benz 2.5-litre rac­ing car (W 196 R)

1955 Mercedes-benz ex­press rac­ing car trans­porter Text: Wil­helm Loots Im­ages © Mercedes-benz

1955 Mercedes-benz 300 SLR “Uh­len­haut Coupé” (W 196 S)

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