1939 Mercedes-Benz W154 Rekordwagen
Pilot: Rudolf Caracciola
Race: 1939 land speed record attempt
Best of Show - BOS43750 (resin)
By the end of 1936, the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (AIACR) changed the rules for European Grand Prix racing. Starting in 1938, GP cars could only use engines up to 3 liters, if supercharged, or 4.5 liters if normally aspirated. Mercedes-Benz dominated the 1937 season with the W125. Yet, because of the new rules, they needed a new car for 1938. The new car, called W154, came from the talents of Max Sailer, Max Wagner and the great Rudolf Uhlenhaut. It used the same chassis as its predecessor – a tubular steel frame covered with aluminum panels. The engine, however, was new. Designated M154, it was a V12 at 60º with 2996 cm³ of displacement, and with two Roots-type superchargers it delivered from 433 to 474 hp, depending on tune. The W154 did VERY well in the 1938 season, giving Mercedes’ driver Rudolf Caracciola his 3rd European title.
The W154 would be used again in 1939. But before the racing season started, upper management had a different plan. With heavy encouragement by the Nazi government, they decided to use the car to attempt a Class D (for engines from 2 to 3 l) speed record. So chassis #11 was modified by enclosing the wheels and suspension with aerodynamic fairings. The sides of the cockpit received panels, and the car was stripped of everything possible to make it lighter. Since the record runs were brief, there was no need for a radiator. Instead, an ice tank was installed above the rear axle to cool the engine through a closed circuit liquid cooling system.
The record attempt would take place at the Dessauer Rennstrecke (Dessau Racetrack), a special section of the Autobahn south of Dessau. Made specially for record attempts, this 10 km stretch of Autobahn had a paved 25 m wide median. So on February 9th, 1939, Rudolf Caracciola aboard the W154 Rekordwagen traveled 1 km in 9.04 seconds at 398.230 km/h and 1 mile (1.6 km) in 14.50 seconds at 399.561 km/h – you can see here the actual record run in video (3’31”). That was the last speed record attempt in Germany before the madness of World War II.
Though not my first Silberpfeil from Stuttgart this is my first Best of Show model. The car looks fantastic, and in my eye it looks just perfect. However it’s such a simple model that I think even Brumm could score a home run here. Still, I think it’s sub-zero cool. In fact, my inner 12yo says that’s the kind of car that you would drive if on a Mars colony. My only criticism is that it should sport a swastika behind the cockpit. Unfortunately though, it seems that BoS is a modern PC model brand. However, that’s an issue that’s easy to fix, right?
Like Minichamps with the Auto Union Typ C Stromlinienwagen, BoS also went the PC route. Hence, they did not represent the car with swastikas. Fortunately, it wasn’t difficult for me to order the decals and make the car more historically accurate: