1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR
Pilots: J. Fangio, S. Moss
Team: Daimler Benz Ag.
Race: DNF (S 3.0 class) at Le Mans in 1955
Minichamps - 432553019 (diecast)
Designed in 1955 by the great Rudolf Uhlenhaut, the 300 SLR was based on the W196. The W196 brought Mercedes-Benz the Formula One championship in 1954 and 1955. The SLR name came from Sport Leicht-Rennen or “Sport Light-Racing” – later on the SL-R became just SLR. Internally known as the W196S, it had a welded aluminum tube space frame chassis covered by an ultra-light Elektron magnesium-alloy bodywork. The engine was a straight-8 with 2982 cm³ of displacement with an output of around 300 hp. For better weight distribution, it sat longitudinally just behind the front axle. Certainly a pretty sophisticated engine, with desmodromic valves and mechanical direct fuel injection.
Stopping the car was the job of huge inboard drum brakes, helped by a large rear mounted “aero brake” that hinged up above the rear deck. The use of Elektron made the car very light, but also very dangerous: magnesium is highly flammable. And to make matters even worse, the engine ran on a high-octane mixture of 65% gasoline and 35% benzene. Consequently, that combination was the recipe for probably the worst disaster in the history of motorsports. Pierre Levegh’s 300 SLR #20 rear-ended an Austin-Healey, exploding and going airborne over the crowd of spectators. The fireball killed 82 people, and injured dozens more.
Subsequently, director of motorsports Alfred Neubauer pulled the remaining SLR #19 and #21 cars from the race, and Mercedes-Benz would only return to motorsports in 1985. This #19 is chassis #0007/55, and after the race it was modified by Rudolf Uhlenhaut. He transformed it in to the most outrageous company car ever, the “Uhlenhaut Coupe”. And of course, he drove it daily to work! A fantastic car with a tragic history, and because of that, another grail car for me. Model-wise it’s a pretty good Minichamps, exactly what you would expect from them. Maybe not a model for everybody but probably a must-have for the Le Mans nut.