1938 Auto Union Typ C Stromlinienwagen
Pilot: Bernd Rosemeyer
Team: Auto Union
Race: 1938 land speed record attempt
Minichamps - 410.381900 (diecast)
The Nazi party, in the figure of Adolf Hitler, wanted to promote Germany in every way possible. So in 1934 both Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union received official government funds to help their racing departments. That was the birth of the Silberpfeile, with the Typ A from Auto Union and W25 from Mercedes. As a result, the Silberpfeile dominated the Golden Era of GP racing.
But the party also thought that they could maximize their investment if the Silberpfeile established land speed records. And even better, if they did that on Germany’s own Autobahns. Interestingly though, the Nazis were against the Autobahn project before they came to power. The government encouraged the manufacturers to chase records, hence they went after them flat-out. The Auto Union Typ C Stromlinienwagen was one of those Rekordwagen. The car used the same steel chassis of the Typ C Grand Prix car of 1937, but enveloped in an aerodynamic aluminum body with a larger engine. To add in aerodynamics, the radiator was sealed, and an ice cooling system was used instead.
The engine of the beast was the same V16 with SOHC and 16 valves of the 1937 GP car, but expanded to 6500 cm³ that with a Roots supercharger delivered 525 hp. That may not sound much, but on the GP car the normal 6 l engine allegedly could produce wheel spin at 160 km/h! Auto Union produced two versions of the car. One was the “normal” streamlined body, to race at the 8 km-long AVUS track. The second was the more blocky Rekordwagen with added fairings for the land speed record attempt.
January 28th, 1938, Bundesautobahn 5 – the set date and road for the record attempt. Since renting an entire Autobahn was expensive back then, and both Auto Union and Mercedes would have cars on the road for the land speed record attempt, they splitted the bill (uncle Adolf wasn’t that generous). Mercedes would use their W125 Rekordwagen, piloted by Rudolf Caracciola, while Auto Union would field the Typ C Stromlinienwagen driven by Bernd Rosemeyer. The trials started in early morning, and Caracciola was first. His modified W125 (with an unbelievable 0.157 drag coefficient) accelerated up to 432.692 km/h with a flying start, a record that to this day has yet to be beaten on a public road*.
About 90 minutes later it was Rosemeyer’s turn, but a crosswind had started, and some say that Caracciola even counseled his arch-rival to delay his run. Rosemeyer was aware of the wind but was not deterred, and went ahead. Nobody knows what really happened, if it was the crosswinds or if the car just couldn’t handle the stress. Few even suggested that the aerodynamic body generated a ground effect that the car simply couldn’t handle. For whatever the reason, Rosemeyer lost control of the car, that flew into the air and hit a bridge embankment. The car was totally obliterated and Rosemeyer was thrown out of the car and died on site. He was just 29 years old, and his youngest son was born only 10 weeks before his father’s death.
Bernd Rosemeyer was buried on February 1st, with state’s honors. The Nazi propaganda machine transformed him into a national hero. The Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler (I’m sure the WWII buffs will recognize the name) was even ordered as his honor guard. The really sad part is that Auto Union rushed and improperly tested the whole Stromlinienwagen project. Therefore, the tragedy could have been avoided. Regardless, Auto Union went as far as launching a cover-up campaign in the weeks that followed.
Above all, not counting the car part, the story really touched me. In fact, the accident and this car are the prime reasons why the Silberpfeile caught my eye. Interestingly, this model also showed up out of nowhere, just a few days after I got the Typ A. One of those blink-and-you-miss opportunities that I eagerly grabbed. And coincidentally, almost exactly on the 80th anniversary of Bernd Rosemeyer’s death. Another fine model from MC, but maybe not as enticing as the Typ A because of the body panels. Though if I had to make one criticism, it’s the lack of swastikas on each side behind the cockpit.
PS: I’ve read everything I could ever find on the web and books about the Silberpfeile and Rosemeyer’s accident. But without a doubt THE best source of information on the accident (and somewhat on Silberpfeile in general) is A ROADMAP FOR A TENTATIVE EXPLANATION OF BERND ROSEMEYER’S JANUARY 28, 1938 ACCIDENT”, by Aldo Zana. A long read, certainly, but very well written with lots of factual information.
* Caracciola’s record stood for 79 years. In November 2o17, on a public road, a Koenigsegg Agera RS went officially faster.
I aim to collect the most historically accurate model as possible. However, Minichamps decided to be PC and suppressed the swastikas on the car. And like it or not, the fact is the car did have swastikas. As a result, I had to “fix” the model. So I commissioned the right decals and now my Typ C Stromlinienwagen is more accurate:
There, now it’s right.