1939 Mercedes-Benz W125 Bergrennwagen Pilot: Hermann Lang Team: Mercedes-Benz Race: 1st place in the 1939 Grossglockner Hillclimb Spark - S1031 (resin)
The Großglockner-Hochalpenstraße (Grossglockner High Alpine Road) is the highest mountain road in Austria. Named after the Grossglockner, Austria’s highest mountain, it connects Bruck in the state of Salzburg with Heiligenblut in Carinthia. With an extension of 48 km, the road opened to public traffic on August 4, 1935. So, you had a scenic route through the Austrian Alps, full of curves, what would that be good for? Well, for racing, of course. So on August 5th, just one day after the road opened, the first Grossglockner Race took place.
The organizers closed a section of 15 km of the road and held a time trial for motorcycles and cars. The course started at 1100 m and finished at 2500 m, consisting of 92 curves and 14 hairpins. The winner would be the pilot who got up the mountain in the fastest time. Mario Tadini, driving an Alfa Romeo P3, was the first winner.
Though the first race was a success with drivers from all over Europe, it almost was the last one. The next race would only happen in 1938, but this time Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union were in. By then the Silberpfeile were regularly competing in hillclimb events, so the Germans couldn’t ignore the Grossglockner Race. However, their true focus was GP racing, so neither devoted much resources to hillclimbing. Consequently, Hans Stuck, from Auto Union, and Herman Lang, from Mercedes, wouldn’t use the manufacturer’s top machinery. Therefore, in 1938 Stuck used a Typ-C/D hybrid while Lang had an aging W125. Stuck did the best time (average of 74,67 km/h), while Lang came in second place. As an interesting side note, on race day Ferdinand Porsche drove up the hill piloting his KdF-Wagen, one of the first Volkswagen prototypes.
The next race was held on August 6, 1939. Race conditions were appalling, varying from sunshine to thunderstorms throughout the day. Not to mention the thick fog in some sections… Both Lang and Stuck would use the same cars of the previous year. Lang’s car was basically the W125 of 1937, powered by the M125 engine. It was a supercharged inline-8 with 5662 cm³ of displacement that drank a mixture of gasoline, alcohols and benzene. Since the race was short, the engine was set up to deliver its full potential: around 640 hp! And for 1939 it had a very distinctive feature: to best deliver all that power to the ground, it had six wheels. Consequently it became known as the W125 Bergrennwagen. That year Lang prevailed with an average of 75,09 km/h, with Stuck in his Typ-C/D coming in second place.
The 1939 race was the last of the Grossglockner Races – courtesy of World War II. In 2012 the race was revived as the Grossglockner Grand Prix, where vintage cars compete up the mountain. The W125 Bergrennwagen is a very unique car, and a sui generis Silberpfeil. I was ecstatic to find out that Spark offers the car in 1:43rd, so it took me about a nanosecond to buy one. In scale it’s absolutely fantastic, with a terrific detail level. This is certainly a niche model, but a truly awesome one.