1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Pilots: S. Moss, D. Jenkinson Team: Mercedes-Benz Race: 1st place (class S+ 2.0) in the 1955 Mille Miglia Minichamps - B6.604.0252 (diecast - Mercedes-Benz Museum edition)
Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR #19 (09/12/17):
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.
With the promising results of the 300 SLR, consequently Mercedes-Benz wanted to try the car at the Mille Miglia. The Mille Miglia was a race against the clock. The winner would be the car that did the 1597 km long Brescia-Rome-Brescia route in less time. It was common for over 500 cars to start the race, and their numbers would be according to starting time. The first car launched at 9:01 pm, therefore it was car #901. And about every minute afterwards another car would launch, using the start time as it’s number. It was an absolute hellish race, with competitors going over 250 km/h in country roads. And just to add some spice, those roads were NOT closed to the public. Yep, a race through country roads and small villages, with normal traffic on the road. Italians are mad.
The 22. edizione Mille Miglia happened on April 30th through May 1st, 1955. That year, 661 (!!!) cars started. Mercedes-Benz had four cars in the race, all 300 SLR. Stirling Moss, with copilot Denis Jenkinson would start the race at 7:22 am, therefore their 300 SLR was #722. Months before the race, both Moss and motorsports journalist Jenkinson gathered notes about the route. Jenkinson developed a home-made roller scroll with these pace notes and transmitted them to Moss via hand signals. Consequently, Moss was able to go much faster through blind spots throughout the race. They did the 1597 km at an average of 157.650 km/h and finished in 10h7’48”, a new record. And, as a bonus, they also won the Index of Performance, normally won by smaller cars.
The Thousand Miles started in 1927, and the last race was in 1957. That year, Alfonso de Portago’s Ferrari 335 S crashed through spectators, killing pilot, copilot and nine spectators. And afterward, when arriving in Brescia, Joseph Göttgens crashed his Triumph TR3 and died on the scene. As well as the other great road races Carrera Panamericana and Targa Florio, the Mille Miglia was just too dangerous. So after the casualties in 1957, specially because five children died, the race was cancelled. Thus, Moss’ record will never be broken. You can hear Stirling Moss here (4’10” video) comment a little on the race.
The 300 SLR #722 is a model I always liked. I like it so much that I still have CMC’s gorgeous 1:18 from my late 1:18 collection. In 1:43 form it’s almost as good as my Silberpfeile also from Minichamps. An older mold, from when Minichamps was still “Paul’s Models Art”. Therefore wheels are not photoeched and tail lights are not lenses. Still, in the end, a quite nice model of an outstanding car. And thus, good enough to be exempt of the Only Le Mans rule. Definitively a car so important that it’s almost mandatory to have in any race car collection.