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. Copyright 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 , 2016, 2017, 2018, by the author.
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Mercedes-Benz Entries at the 2017 Mille Miglia
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing sports car (W 194), Rudolf Caracciola and Peter Kurrle, starting number 613, Mille Miglia 1952.
Around two weeks to the start: On 18 May 2017, the starter in Brescia will send the cars on their way in this year’s Mille Miglia, which will take place in four stages until 21 May. Mercedes-Benz Classic will compete with ten vehicles from different eras of the historic road race, from the late 1920s to the mid-1950s. In 2017, the Stuttgart-based brand will be represented by, among others, the former Mercedes-Benz racing drivers Ellen Lohr, Roland Asch and Bernd Mayländer as brand ambassadors. A further vehicle will be piloted by Mercedes-Benz motorsport boss Toto Wolff and Aldo Costa, Engineering Director of the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS Formula One team.
“We congratulate the Mille Miglia and its organisers on this special anniversary. The race and our brand are linked by a unique success story that includes some key highlights from motorsport history, such as the overall victories of Mercedes-Benz in 1931 and 1955. Our involvement since 1930 reflects the significance of this legendary and still important road race for us,” says Christian Boucke, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic.
Having first taken part in 2016, She’s Mercedes will again field its own team in the thousand-mile race. The initiative, with which Mercedes-Benz places an even stronger focus on the needs of female customers, will enter a total of five G-Class vehicles as part of the Mercedes-Benz Mille Miglia Challenge. She’s Mercedes will be represented in a Mercedes-Maybach G 650 Landaulet by TV presenters Cristina Chiabotto and Diletta Leotta together with Pamela Amann, development project manager of the Mercedes-Maybach G 650 Landaulet.
The theme of Mille Miglia 2017 is the “magic 7”: in 1927, the Mille Miglia was held for the first time; in 1947, it started up again for the first time after the end of the Second World War; in 1957, it was held for the last time as a classic road race; and in 1977, it was reborn as a historic motorsport event. Since 2012, the automobile club of Brescia has been holding the Mille Miglia with its high-calibre participants through its subsidiary 1000 Miglia Srl. Today, the only vehicles eligible to participate are those whose models competed in the original road race between 1927 and 1957.
Mercedes-Benz has been involved since 1930, so virtually since the first event. Back then factory driver Rudolf Caracciola with his co-driver Christian Werner entered in a Mercedes-Benz SSK (“ Super-Sport-Kurz”, (“Super Sport Short”)) and promptly finished in 6th place. One year later Caracciola won the Mille Miglia in 1931 as the first non-Italian driver with his co-pilot Wilhelm Sebastian in a Mercedes-Benz SSKL (“Super-Sport-Kurz-Leicht” (“ Super Sport Short Light”)). It is this triumph in the era of the supercharged racing touring cars that is being remembered in 2017 with the participation of a Mercedes-Benz SSK from Mercedes-Benz Classic.
Racing renaissance of 1952
The Mille Miglia in 1952 was the scene of the first redeveloped competition vehicle from Mercedes-Benz after the Second World War, the 300 SL racing car (W 194). In 2017 it is precisely this vehicle with the chassis number 5 that Mercedes-Benz Classic is sending to the starting line in Brescia, the very model in which Caracciola and Peter Kurrle (starting number 613) finished in 4th place. Their team colleagues Karl Kling and Hans Klenk drove the new 300 SL racing car and finished in 2nd place.
With no less than six 300 SL “Gullwing” (W 198) models Mercedes-Benz Classic is celebrating the outstanding success of the Stuttgart racing team at the Mille Miglia of 1955: back then Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson drove the 300 SLR racing car (W 196 S) to overall victory. And with the standard 300 SL “Gullwing” Mercedes-Benz also dominated the Gran Turismo class over 1300 cc displacement in this successful racing season.
The year 1956 is recalled with two further vehicles from Mercedes-Benz Classic in the peleton of this year’s Mille Miglia: in a Mercedes-Benz 220 a (W 180) Christian Boucke, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic, will be at the wheel together with Bernd Mayländer, regular driver of the Safety Car in the Formula 1 World Championship. In 1956 Erwin Bauer and Erwin Grupp won in their class driving a vehicle of this model. What’s more, the racing version of the Mercedes-Benz 190 SL (W 121) is taking part in the regularity run on the trail of the road race. Last year a car of this model took part in the modern Mille Miglia for the first time. This has been made possible due to findings from 2015 relating to automotive history. They prove that in the 1956 road race a 190 SL took part (Michel Bianco and Jean Loup Pellecuer, starting number 347).
Mercedes-Benz Mille Miglia Challenge 2017
The 2017 Mille Miglia will be held from 18 to 21 May in four stages from Brescia to Rome and back. In the tracks of the legendary road race the organisers have chosen a clockwise route: on 18 May the cars start in Brescia and head west, past Lake Garda to Padua. The stage of 19 May then runs south through San Marino and Italy’s hinterland to Rome In the capital the peleton embarks on the third stage on 20 May, northwards to Parma. The fourth and last stage will reach Brescia again on 21 May.
The regularity run through the heart of Italy is one of the most exciting events globally in the automotive classic world . This is down to highlights such as the 2017 Mercedes-Benz Mille Miglia Challenge 2017 as well as the actual competition. This exclusive regularity run is taking place as a reminiscence to the major triumphs of the Mercedes-Benz brand in the competition held from 1927 to 1957.
The participants in the Mercedes-Benz Mille Miglia Challenge will drive ahead of the classic cars on the same route and will subject themselves to the same special stages. Vehicles permitted to take part are Mercedes-Benz SL sports cars of various generations, numerous vehicles from Mercedes-AMG plus models of particular historical value from product history.
For further research, Mercedes-Benz Classic M@RS is available as a comprehensive multimedia archive and search system. It is the world’s largest digital archive of an automotive manufacturer and unique in terms of its public accessibility: https://mercedes-benz-publicarchive.com/marsClassic.
Mercedes-Benz drivers at the Mille Miglia 2016
Roland AschBorn on 12 October 1950 in Altingen, Germany
Trained as a master automotive mechanic, Roland Asch began his motor racing career as a hobby but achieved victories like a true professional: after winning the German Hill-Racing Championship in 1981 and the German Motor Racing Trophy in 1983, he made his debut in the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) in 1985. He became Runner-Up in 1988 in his own Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.3-16. In the late 1980s he won the overall rankings in the Porsche 944 Turbo Cup three times, and in 1991 took the championship title in the Porsche Carrera Cup. In the early 1990s he achieved a total of five wins and various good placings in the DTM for Mercedes-Benz. In 1993 he became DTM Runner-Up for the second time, and in 1995 moved to Ford in the Super Touring Car Cup. As a Brand Ambassador Roland Asch enjoys close links with Mercedes-Benz to this day and from time to time he can be seen at events when he takes the wheel of important racing cars from the Mercedes-Benz Classic collection.
Ellen Lohr Born on 12 April 1965 in Mönchengladbach, Germany
Ellen Lohr came to motorsport via karting, in which she was active from 1979 to 1983. Her greatest triumphs were taking part in the Junior Karting World Championship as well as 1st place in the Northwest German Regional Karting Championship. After competing in the German Formula Ford 1600 series (German Champion in 1987) and first races in the DTM (BMW) and German Formula 3 Championship with VW in 1989/90, she was signed up by the AMG-Mercedes team for the German Touring Car Championship. Ellen Lohr is the first and only woman to date to have achieved a DTM victory, which she won in May 1992 at the motor racing festival in Hockenheim at the wheel of an AMG-Mercedes 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II. For the 1995 season, she moved to the Mercedes-Zakspeed team, and in 1996 drove for the AMG-Mercedes Persson MS team. In 1997, she competed in the European Truck Racing Championship at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz racing truck. Subsequently, Ellen Lohr has continued to be actively involved in numerous other racing series, including the Paris–Dakar Rally since 2005 and again in truck racing since 2012.
Bernd MayländerBorn on 29 May 1971 in Waiblingen, Germany
Bernd Mayländer makes regular appearances in Formula One at the front of the field. That‘s because the racing driver, born in Waiblingen in 1971, has since 2000 been the official driver of the Mercedes-Benz Formula One safety car – currently a Mercedes-AMG GT S (C 190). Mayländer began racing in 1990, first taking part in Porsche Club Sport, Porsche Carrera Cup (overall victory in 1994) and Porsche Super Cup as well as in long-distance races. Driving for the Persson Motorsport team, from 1995 he participated initially in the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) and the International Touring Car Championship (ITC), while, from 1997, he drove an AMG-Mercedes CLK-GTR in the FIA GT Championship, in which, together with Klaus Ludwig and Bernd Schneider, he won the 1997 race in Spielberg in an AMG-Mercedes CLK-GTR. In 2000, he was victorious in the 24 Hours Nürburgring at the wheel of a Porsche 996 GT3. Bernd Mayländer contested his final DTM season in 2004 as a member of the Rosberg team driving a Mercedes-Benz C‑Class.
Mille Miglia 2017: Mercedes-Benz Classic vehicles
Mercedes-Benz SSK (W 06, 1928)
The Mercedes-Benz, SSK (W 06) was the most exclusive and fascinating model of the S-series, a range of high-performance sports cars equipped with supercharged six-cylinder engines and introduced in 1927. The model designation of the 7.1-litre sports car stood for Super-Sport-Kurz (Super Sport Short) and featured a shorter wheelbase alongside its particular sportiness. After the S-type as the first model of the series had scored numerous victories, its successor models SS and SSK continued the success story. In the summer of 1928, works driver Rudolf Caracciola won the Gabelbach Race at the first attempt as well as the races at Schauinsland and Mont Ventoux with the brand-new SSK. In 1930 the SSK took him to victory in the European Hill-Climb Championship. In the same year the supercharged sports car was entered in the Mille Miglia for the first time: Rudolf Caracciola and Christian Werner took sixth place in the overall rankings with a time of 17 hours and 20 minutes. The weight-reduced 1931 version with an increased output of 220 kW (300 hp), also known as the SSKL (Super-Sport-Kurz-Leicht - Super Sport Short Light), achieved a spectacular success in the Mille Miglia: In April 1931, Rudolf Caracciola was the first non-Italian to win this demanding road race from Brescia to Rome and back – setting a new course record of 16 hours and 10 minutes.
Technical data of the Mercedes-Benz SSK (standard-production version)Production period: 1928-1932 Cylinders: 6/in-line Displacement: 7065 cc Output: 125 kW (170 hp), with supercharger 165 kW (225 hp) Top speed: 192 km/h
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing sports car (W 194, 1952)
When Mercedes-Benz planned to return to motor racing following World War II, sports racing cars were initially the only consideration. This was due to the fact that new Formula One regulations were announced for 1954, and the limited resources prevented previous development of a Grand Prix car based on the old formula. The new 300 SL racing sports car (W 194) used many existing components such as axles, gearbox and engine from the prestigious Mercedes-Benz 300 (W 186) saloon. A brand-new innovation was the extremely light yet rigid space frame, enveloped by a streamlined body made of light-alloy sheet metal. Because the space frame was built relatively high on the sides, the racing sports car was fitted with the characteristic gullwing doors. The car was powered by a 129 kW (175 hp) M 194 in-line six-cylinder engine with a displacement of three litres. In its very first race, the 1952 Mille Miglia, the 300 SL achieved a second place with Karl Kling and Hans Klenk. After this, one victory followed another: The 300 SL scored a one-two-three victory at the Grand Prix of Bern (Switzerland), followed by spectacular one-two victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (France) and at the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico. In the “ Nürburgring Jubilee Grand Prix” the 300 SL, which was entered in a roadster version in this race, even achieved the top four places.
Technical data for the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing sports car (W 194) In use: 1952 Cylinders: 6/in-line Displacement: 2996 cc Output: 129 kW (175 hp) Top speed: 230 km/h
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL “Gullwing” (W 198), 1954-1957)
In February 1954, the 300 SL standard-production sports car (W 198) celebrated its world premiere at the International Motor Sport Show in New York. The coupé was referred to as the “Gullwing” owing to the distinctive roof-mounted doors resembling a gull’s wings. The high-performance sports car was based on the legendary 300 SL racing car (W 194) from the 1952 season. It was the first standard-production car with a four-stroke petrol injection engine. With an output of 158 kW (215 hp) – a good 20 percent more than the carburettor-fed racing version of 1952 – and a maximum speed of up to 250 km/h, the W 198 was in the top echelon of standard-production sports cars in its day, which also made it predestined for racing. One legendary triumph was the triple class victory of the 300 SL standard-production sports car in the 1955 Mille Miglia. John Cooper Fitch and his co-pilot Kurt Gessl achieved fifth place in the overall ranking in his car bearing starting number 417 (which stood for their starting time of 4:17 a.m.), heading the class for standard-production sports cars above 1.3 litres and followed by two more “Gullwing” cars. Between 1954 and 1957, a total of 1400 units of the 300 SL “Gullwing” were produced, no fewer than 867 of them in the year of its Mille Miglia class victory in 1955.
Technical data of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL “Gullwing”& amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; lt; br />Production period: 1954-1957 Cylinders: 6/in-line Displacement: 2996 cc Output: 158 kW (215 hp) Top speed: up to 250 km/h
Mercedes-Benz 190 SL (W 121, 1955-1963)
Along with the high-performance sports car 300 SL, in February 1954 Mercedes-Benz unveiled the prototype of the elegant, compact roadster model 190 SL (W 121). The open-top two-door model was conceived as a sportily-elegant two-seater touring vehicle and was, especially in its revised production version, closely based at a stylistic level on the 300 SL “ Gullwing” sports car (W 198. Designed as a roadster right from the beginning the 190 SL established the tradition of open-top SL sports cars. At a technical level, it was more closely related to the Mercedes-Benz 180 “Ponton” saloon (W 120), using the latter’s shortened floor assembly. The 1.9-litre petrol engine rated at 77 kW (105 hp) was newly developed. The four-cylinder power unit featured an overhead camshaft and was to found an entire family of engines. The 1956 Mille Miglia was contested by the French team of Michel Bianco/Jean Loup Pellecuer in a 190 SL (starting number 347). This is confirmed by documents in the archives of Mercedes-Benz Classic and in the Museo Mille Miglia in Brescia. This fact, rediscovered in 2015, made the 190 SL Roadster, which is popular among collectors, eligible for the Mille Miglia from 2016. A total of 25,881 units of this model were built from 1955 to 1963, some 10,000 of them going to the USA.
Technical data of the Mercedes-Benz 190 SL (standard-production version) Production period: 1955-1963 Cylinders: 4/in-line Displacement: 1897 cc Output: 77 kW (105 hp) Top speed: 171 km/h
Mercedes-Benz 220 (W 180, 1954-1956)
Unveiled in spring 1954, the 220, also called the 220 a (W 180) internally to differentiate it from its predecessor model bearing the same name, was the first Mercedes-Benz six-cylinder model with a self-supporting design. Its modern, spacious “Ponton” body, which Mercedes-Benz had unveiled six months earlier in the mid-size model, offered previously unknown spaciousness and comfort. A single-joint swing axle, which had been introduced into standard production with the 220, ensured safe handling. Several Mercedes-Benz 220s participated in the 1956 Mille Miglia in the class of standard-production special touring cars. In this class, the vehicle chassis and engine could be modified. The Erwin Bauer/Erwin Grupp team won its class in the legendary Italian road race in a special 220: in the racing division headed by Karl Kling, three vehicles were prepared specifically for the Mille Miglia. They were already equipped with the twin-carburettor system of the 220 S successor model, with which the engine developed approximately 85 kW (115 hp). Shorter and harder springs as well as modified shock absorbers were fitted for sporty driving. In addition, the driver could change gears via a floor shift, as in the 190 SL – instead of the otherwise fitted column shift.
Technical data of the Mercedes-Benz 220 (standard-production version) Production period: 1954–1956 Cylinders: 6/in-line Displacement: 2195 cc Output: 63 kW (85 hp) Top speed: 150 km/h