This blog will expand on themes and topics first mentioned in my book, "The Automobile and American Life." I hope to comment on recent developments in the automobile industry, reviews of my readings on the history of the automobile, drafts of my new work, contributions from friends, descriptions of the museums and car shows I attend and anything else relevant to those interested in automobiles and auto history. Copyright 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 , 2016 by the author.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Mercedes-Benz at Pebble Beach, August 2015
Sir Stirling Moss at the wheel of the 300 SLR with starting number 722 at the Classic Insight “1955 success stories,” 23 April 2015 in Italy.
Staged every year in August, the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance is a superlative meeting of the finest automobiles from all over the world. In honour of the racing driver Sir Stirling Moss, who will attend this year's event to be held on 13 to 16 August 2015 in California, Mercedes-Benz Classic will be represented with the iconic 300 SLR and W 196 R from 1955, a historic year in the annals of motorsport. A rare Mercedes-Benz C 111 from the Mercedes-Benz Classic collection will round off the brand's presence at the event.
Stuttgart. – 1955 was a year of triumph for Stirling Moss, who completed Italy's famous Mille Miglia in a record time that has never been matched to this day: 1000 miles, driven at top speed in the truest sporting spirit. His top finishes throughout the entire 1955 season played a significant role 60 years ago in placing Mercedes-Benz at the pinnacle of international motorsport, 1955 being the brand's most successful motorsport season to date.
"Our presence at this year's Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance is especially in honour of Sir Stirling Moss", says Michael Bock, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic and Customer Centre. "We'll be there with two original vehicles from 1955 – the 300 SLR, in which the now 85-year-old racing driver won that year's Mille Miglia, and the successful W 196 R Formula One racing car. Another highlight of Pebble Beach will be a likewise original C 111 from our collection".
On the Thursday (13 August), Sir Stirling Moss will open the field for the Pebble Beach Tour d'Elegance in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL "Gullwing" (W 198) – chauffeured by an equally famous racing driver: Jochen Mass. His greatest triumphs include victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1989 in a Sauber-Mercedes C 9 together with Manuel Reuter and Stanley Dickens.
The C 111 will complete the Tour d'Elegance with Michael Bock at the wheel. Like the 300 SL, this striking sports car is a product of the Stuttgart-based brand's distinct culture of innovation. For instance, the 300 SL standard-production sports car featured the same space frame as the original 1952 racer – and consequently also the same gullwing doors, which were dictated by the chassis concept. This design element can also be found on the futuristic-looking C 111 from 1969. This experimental vehicle was used at that time by Mercedes-Benz to study the use of innovative materials and new drive technologies. The C 111 was powered by a rotary piston engine according to the principle conceived by Felix Wankel. One example was produced with a V8 reciprocating piston engine in order to examine the potential of that technology in the high-performance sports car too – and it is precisely this vehicle that Mercedes-Benz will be sending to Pebble Beach.
Starting on the Friday (14 August), the Mercedes-Benz Star Lounge will be open to the public. Mercedes-Benz Classic is also supporting the club event "Legends of the Autobahn", which is dedicated in particular to stand-out vehicles of German origin. The show will include a rare rally version of a 500 SL (R 107) from 1980, with two vehicles of customers also likely to put in an appearance – a 230 SL (W 113) from 1964 and a 300 SD (W 116) from 1980.
Concours d'Elegance as the highlight
The highlight of the event is the Concours d'Elegance on the Sunday (16 August). Mercedes-Benz Classic will be there with the 300 SLR, the W 196 R and the C 111. The brand is traditionally represented at the Concours d'Elegance with numerous outstanding vehicles from its almost 130-year history, made available by collectors from all over the world. A prize at Pebble Beach ranks as one of the most coveted awards in the automotive world. And Mercedes-Benz has for years been one of the most successful guests at the Concours d'Elegance: the long list of "Best of Show" awards received under the Californian sun since 1950 includes several outright victories as well as more than 120 class victories and special prizes.
Staged on the 18th green of the Pebble Beach Golf Links, the elegant classic car meeting is also the setting for world-famous auctions of historic automobiles, with classic vehicles regularly fetching top prices at these exclusive bidding events.
Mercedes-Benz Classic vehicles at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance 2015
Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR racing sports car (W 196 S)
It was with the 300 SLR (W 196 S) that Mercedes-Benz won the 1955 World Sports Car Championship. The vehicle is basically a W 196 R Formula One racing car with a two-seater sports car body, the main technical difference relating to the engine: not bound by the Formula One regulations limiting the engine's displacement, the racing sports car was powered by a three-litre version of the eight-cylinder in-line engine and featured cylinder blocks made not from steel, but light alloy. Apart from that, the 300 SLR was powered not by special methanol-based racing fuel, but premium petrol. Its output of over 220 kW (300 hp) allied to its durability and reliability made the 300 SLR far superior to its competitors in 1955 - which it went on to prove with its double victories at the Mille Miglia, in the Eifel race, the Swedish Grand Prix and the Targa Florio (Sicily). At the 1955 Mille Miglia, Stirling Moss and co-driver Denis Jenkinson (starting number 722) came in first at an average speed, unequalled to this day, of 157.65 km/h. The track record of this sports car remains unique: the W 196 S won every single race the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR entered and finished.
Technical data – Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR sports racing car (W 196 S) Period of use: 1955 Cylinders: 8/in-line Displacement: 2982 cubic centimetres Output: 222 kW (302 hp) to 228 kW (310 hp) Top speed: over 300 km/h
Mercedes-Benz 2.5-litre racing car (W 196 R) with open wheels, 1955
In most Formula One races in 1954 and 1955, it was not the Streamliner that was used, but the classic monoposto with open wheels. This variant was significantly better suited to race tracks with numerous bends, because it allowed the driver to take the measure of bends much better. Like the Streamliner, the classic version started with flying colours, winning the very first competition it entered, the European Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. The victor was Juan Manuel Fangio, who had already won the opening race in Reims and – with a fourth place in the British Grand Prix – learned that the Streamliner's capability of handling very winding race tracks was limited. The W 196 R was reworked for its second season: the straight intake manifold, which allowed an increase in engine output to 213 kW (290 hp), and the additional dome on the left side of the bonnet became the outwardly distinctive features of the 1955 version of the vehicle. In addition, Mercedes-Benz deployed the W 196 R with different wheelbases, and the arrangement of the drum brakes was varied. The result was a superior racing car that also dominated the 1955 season and helped Juan Manuel Fangio to win his second World Championship title with Mercedes-Benz.
Technical data: Mercedes-Benz W 196 R Formula One racing carPeriod of use: 1954-1955 Cylinders: 8/in-line Displacement: 2497 cubic centimetres Output: 188 kW (256 hp) to 213 kW (290 hp) Top speed: up to 300 km/h
Mercedes-Benz C 111 experimental vehicle with V8 engine (1970)
Mercedes-Benz unveiled the C 111 at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1969. With its extreme wedge shape and gullwing doors, the research vehicle had a glass-fibre-reinforced plastic body and was powered by a three-rotor Wankel engine with an output of 206 kW(280 hp). This futuristic-looking sports car could reach a top speed of up to 270 km/h. The following year, a revised version of the C 111 was unveiled in Geneva – this time with a four-rotor Wankel engine delivering 257 kW (350 hp). This version of the C 111 could accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.9 seconds and reach a top speed of 300 km/h. It was this second version of the research vehicle that served as the basis for a V8 variant of the C 111 containing the M 116 production engine (147 kW/200 hp), which Mercedes-Benz engineers and technicians used for comparison with the rotary-engined sports car. Despite numerous orders, the C 111 remained an experimental vehicle and never went into series production. Instead, Mercedes-Benz went on to develop a series of record-breaking vehicles based on it: the C 111-II D (1976) and the C 111-III (1977-1978, both with a five-cylinder turbo diesel engine) and the C 111-IV (1979, V8 petrol engine with turbocharging).
Technical data Mercedes-Benz C 111 with V8 engine Production period: 1970 Cylinders: V8 Displacement: 3499 cc Output: 147 kW (200 hp)
Brand Ambassadors of Mercedes-Benz Classic at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance 2015
Sir Stirling Moss Born on 17 September 1929 in London, England
With his outstanding victory in the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR at the 1955 Mille Miglia, Stirling Moss wrote himself onto the list of all-time Mercedes-Benz racing greats. Already as a teenager, he dreamed of a career as a racing driver. In 1948 he contested his first races in the British 500 cubic centimetre formula (Formula Three). In 1949 and 1950 he was English Formula Two champion. In 1950 he won the Tourist Trophy in a private Jaguar. In 1954 Moss drove for Maserati in Formula One. At the end of 1954, after a series of test drives, he was signed by Alfred Neubauer as a driver for the Mercedes-Benz works team in the 1955 season. At the wheel of the W 196 R Silver Arrow, Moss won the Formula One British Grand Prix at Aintree, and took second place in each of the Belgian and Dutch Grand Prix and finished runner-up in the Formula One championship. His absolute domain, however, was sports car racing in the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR, which was specially developed for that season. This was the vehicle in which Moss won the Mille Miglia, the Tourist Trophy (with John Cooper Fitch) and the Targa Florio (with Peter Collins). He was thus instrumental in securing the world sports car championship title for Mercedes-Benz. After the Stuttgart-based brand pulled out of active racing at the end of 1955, Moss continued to demonstrate his world-class credentials as a driver in vehicles of other manufacturers. A crash at Goodwood in 1962 brought his active career to an end. Moss, who was knighted by the British queen in 1999, has retained close ties with motorsport. Moss became particularly involved as a Mercedes-Benz Brand Ambassador and eyewitness of one of the most dazzling eras in motor racing history at Mercedes-Benz Classic events.
Jochen MassBorn on 30 September 1946 in Dorfen, Germany
Jochen Mass began his diverse career in motorsport in 1968 racing touring cars for Alfa Romeo and as works driver for Ford from 1970 to 1975. During this period, he won the 1972 Spa-Francorchamps 24-hour race. At the same time, he also took part in Formula Two (1973) and in 105 Formula One Grand Prix races (1973/74 with Surtees; 1975 to 1977 with McLaren; 1978 with ATS; 1979/80 with Arrows; 1982 with March). Mass won the German Sports Car Championship in 1985, and after working as a works driver for Porsche until 1987 he became a works driver in the Sauber-Mercedes team. Up until 1991, he raced for this team in Group C. In the new Silver Arrow, the Sauber-Mercedes C 9, Jochen Mass, together with Manuel Reuter and Stanley Dickens, won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1989 while the same year finishing runner-up in the World Championship. Three years later, in 1992, Mass moved into team management in the DTM. Jochen Mass still regularly drives for Mercedes-Benz at historic racing events.