Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR #19 – Spark

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR #19
Pilots: J. Fangio, S. Moss
Team: Daimler Benz Ag.
Race: DNF (S 3.0 class) at Le Mans in 1955
Spark - S4733 (resin)

Published 03/04/22

After World War II, Rudolf Uhlenhaut came back to Mercedes-Benz in 1948. In 1952 he designed the 300 SL (W194), a commercial success even though under-powered. Despite that, due to its low weight, aerodynamics and reliability, the car won Le Mans. Spurred by race results like that, Mercedes decided to get back to Formula One. So, based on the 300 SL, in 1954 Uhlenhaut designed the W196R (or “W196 Stromlinie”) and W196 monoposto. Both cars (specially the monoposto) were highly successful, crowning Mercedes-Benz F1 world champion in 1954 and 1955. As a result, Mercedes had basically a race-ready model for endurance racing – the 300 SL-R (or W196S). First called 300 SL-R, for Sport Leicht-Rennen (“Sport Light-Racing”), later on the SL-R became just 300 SLR. In a nutshell, the 300 SLR was a lighter W196R though with a bigger engine. 

The right-hand side panel had to stay open to cool the inline-8 engine.

The engine was the same direct-fuel injection inline-8 from the F1 cars, but bigger. Displacing 2982 cm³, it sat longitudinally just behind the front axle for better weight distribution. It was highly advanced for the era, with desmodromic valve drive and direct fuel injection. Delivering 300 hp, it could take the car to 300 km/h. For a chassis, Uhlenhaut based his design on the 300 SL’s, which was strong and light. Therefore, it was a welded aluminum tube space frame chassis, covered by an ultra-light Elektron magnesium-alloy bodywork. Stopping the car was the job of huge inboard drum brakes, mounted in front of the engine. Furthermore, for Le Mans, to enhance braking power and preserve tires, the 300 SLR also counted on an “aero brake”. The light alloy wing, hinged up above the rear deck, had only  70 cm². However, when deployed it sensibly reduced the car’s speed.

On the rear you can see the fuel nozzle for the SLR’s huge fuel tank.

Despite being a technological masterpiece, the 300 SLR never won at La Sarthe. Mercedes brought three cars to Le Mans in 1955, and they were a clear favorite. However, in the third hour of the race car #20 suffered a fatal accident and Mercedes withdrew the remaining two cars. This #19 is chassis #0007/55, and after the race, Rudolf Uhlenhaut made it his personal ride, driving it daily to work. He transformed it into the most outrageous company car ever, the “Uhlenhaut Coupe”. At the time, it was the fastest passenger car in the world.

The 300 SLR was an impressive machine, and SLR #19 here could have won Le Mans.

Without a doubt, the 300 SLR #19 is a grail model for me. With its Silberpfeil roots and despite the tragic history, it was a must-buy-model. In fact, I first bought it at the end of 2017, from Minichamps. A very nice model, though an older one and definitely poorer than a current Spark. So when Spark’s version became available by the end of last year, it wasn’t hard to convince myself that I needed an upgrade. Though not cheap (at all!), it is as stunning as my Targa Florio #104 model. A true gem of a model, however, expensive💸.

PS: In a few days I’ll post a comparison between both versions of the model.

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