Streamliners – Daimler-Benz Through the Decades – Page Two
In 1937, there were more stunning battles between Mercedes and Auto-Union. Four of the W125 12-cylinder cars went to Tripoli for Lang, Seaman, Caracciola and von Brauchitsch and Auto-Union countered with five rear engine cars, all C-Types for Stuck, Hasse, Fagioli, Rosemeyer and von Delius. Lang’s W125 led home four Auto-Unions followed by three more silver cars, and only von Brauchitsch managed to retire a German machine. The Alfa Romeos and Maseratis trailed in their wake.
Three weeks later came the Avusrennen on Berlin’s famed banked track, and in practice cars were running 170 mph laps! As this race was not run to the 750 Kilogram formula, a number of special cars were entered, two streamlined Auto-Unions for Rosemeyer and Fagioli, and three W125s with fully enclosed bodywork for Caracciola, Lang and von Brauchitsch, the latter also having a new development 12-cylinder engine. The Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo team decided it was not worth going, so only two Maseratis would try to keep the Germans in sight. Caracciola and Rosemeyer finished the first heat a fraction of a second apart, with von Brauchitsch’s Mercedes leading Hasse in the second heat. Von Brauchitsch averaged 160 mph in the streamlined W125, and spectators couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
In the final, both Caracciola and von Brauchitsch had rear axle failure in the first few laps and it was left to Hermann Lang to take the victory in his streamlined Mercedes, raising the average speed to 162 mph and setting fastest lap at 168 mph.
The rivalry between the two German teams continued to increase, and even as war in Europe drew inexorably closer, greater efforts were made by each manufacturer to beat the other. Mussolini’s attempts in Italy to try and support an Italian challenge was interesting and brave, but could not cope with the might of the German effort. 1938 saw even more astounding record breaking attempts by streamlined cars which began to look more and more ‘other worldly’. The 1938 W125 record car was now putting out a massive 736 bhp and had raised speeds to 433 kph, or 270 mph.
The following year saw Mercedes take the pursuit of speed two steps further. Always based on the principle of an immensely powerful engine in as light a chassis as possible, there were on-going attempts to reduce drag and improve air penetration. The 1939 W154 was another V12 with twin superchargers, but this time it was a 3-litre machine. Its 468 bhp saw Caracciola achieve 400 kph.
In the same year, with war edging closer still, a further development from Mercedes was the T80, featuring a supercharged 4-stroke V-12 with direct injection and charged air cooling. This bizarre machine would produce 3500 bhp from its 44,500 cc and had a proposed top speed of 650 kph. It was going to be the fastest car ever seen. It never ran as the war saw the entire world change, and many people thought they would never see Mercedes Benz again.