1939 Mercedes-Benz Typ 80 Rekordwagen Pilot: Hans Stuck Team: Mercedes-Benz Race: 1940 land speed record attempt Neo - 46975 (resin)
By the mid-1930’s, Hans Stuck had an idea: he wanted to beat the absolute Land Speed Record (LSR). In 1935, Malcolm Campbell aboard the Blue Bird achieved a speed of 484.598 km/h. That was the first time a car went over 300 mph, and Stuck wanted to beat that. But on German soil, though. Until 1937 he was one of Auto Union’s main pilots, but in the end of the year he quit. Well, some say he was actually fired… But the fact is that he didn’t have any ties left with Auto Union. So he first talked to Adolf Hitler, that believed a LSR in German soil would be a jolly good idea. Then he approached Mercedes-Benz and his long time friend Ferdinand Porsche to design the car. With official government encouragement, the Typ 80 (T80) project started in 1937.
The initial goal was to reach 550 km/h. But with British George Eyston reaching 575 km/h in 1938, the target speed became 600 km/h. However, in 1939 John Cobb’s “Railton Special” achieved 595 km/h. And with that, the new target became 650 km/h. To reach those speeds the engine used had to be nothing but extraordinaire. So Porsche chose the Daimler-Benz DB-603. The DB-603 spawned from the Messerschmidt Bf-109 fighter’s DB-601 aircraft engine. It was an inverted V12 expanded to unbelievable 44.5 liters, with an output of 3000 hp. It had to use a special mixture of methanol, benzene, ethanol, acetone, nitrobenzene, avgas and ether. Just as a comparison, the Bf-109’s DB-601 produced around 1500 hp. So the thing was mammoth-strong.
The body of the T80 went over a wire frame on the chassis. And to accommodate that ginormous engine, it was huge – over 8 m long, and 1.75 m wide, not counting the wings. Built by aircraft manufacturer Heinkel Flugzeugwerke, it had two winglets at the middle to provide downforce and ensure stability. With enclosed wheels and twin-tailed, the car had a drag coefficient of just 0.18. It had three axles, with power transmitted to both rear axles via a hydraulic torque converter. Consequently, the T80 was not on the light side, weighing 2896 kg.
Unofficially nicknamed Schwarzer Vogel (“Black Bird”) by Hitler, the Typ 80 was to be painted in German nationalistic colors. With German Eagle, Swastika and all. Hans Stuck would pilot it at the Dessauer Rennstrecke, on the Dessau Autobahn. That’s the same stretch of road where the W154 Rekordwagen established a Class D LSR in February 1939. The record attempt would take place in January 1940, and there were hopes that the T80 would go over 700 km/h! However, WWII canceled all race and record activities, so the T80 never actually raced.
As soon as the war started the military confiscated the engine, and body and chassis went into storage. Fortunately body and chassis survived the war, and you can see the body at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. In model form there’s at least three brands that offer the Typ 80, and mine is from Neo. A relatively simple model, as the real thing, but huge even in 1:43. But all in all a very nice one, that stands out among my other Silberpfeile. Well, admittedly this is more a LSR car than an actual Silberpfeil, but the thing is friggin’ cool. So…