1937 Mercedes-Benz W125
Pilot: Rudolf Caracciola
Race: 1st place in the 1937 German GP
Minichamps - 400370012 (diecast)
In the 1936 Grand Prix season Mercedes was using the W25, a very (for its time) straightforward design from 1933. Despite moderate success on racetracks, the W25 was considered noncompetitive by Mercedes, not only because of the car per se but also because of how the company was managing it’s race efforts. So at the end of 1936 things would have to change, and a new ”Rennabteilung’’ (racing department) was set up within Mercedes-Benz in order to work on a new car for the next season. Rudolf Uhlenhaut, previously a production car engineer for the company, was selected to lead the design team, and despite being an engineer, Rudolf Uhlenhaut was a very good pilot in his own right, and was able to really understand what was wrong with the W25.
During trial runs, Uhlenhaut discovered that the W25 had such a stiff suspension and flexible chassis that the rear axle could bend up to 7 to 10 cm under braking, so the new car would have to have a much more stiffer tubular frame chassis and softer suspension. The body of the new car resembled a lot it’s predecessor, also made of bare aluminum, but lower and with better aerodynamics. By the end of 1936 the W125 was ready, and many consider it as the ultimate pre-war Grand Prix car.
The W125 also received a completely new engine, called M125. It was a supercharged inline-8 with 5662 cm³ of displacement. It had hemispherical combustion chambers and 2 inlet and 2 exhaust valves per cylinder. Burning a custom mix of 40% methyl alcohol, 32% benzene, 24% ethyl alcohol and 4% gasoline it could deliver up to 640 hp (though in race trim output was around 575 hp). That’s a LOT – power outputs like that would only reappear in the 80’s, during the Turbo Era of F1 racing.
The X Großer Preis von Deutschland took place at Nürburgring, on July 27th 1937. Before the race it was decreed that public displaying of affection, like kissing your wife or girlfriend on the pit lane, was a “non-Aryan behavior”. Therefore, it should not happen. As always, all GP races in Germany were true propaganda circus for the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (= Nazis). So after brass bands and endless motorcycle parades the cars finally lined up on the grid for the start.
But before the start all pilots, led by Bernd Rosemeyer, got out of their cars and ran to the pits. Just to give their wives and girlfriends a long kiss, to the delight of the spectators. Despite the cheery start, it was a very tumultuous race. The worst happened on lap six. Ernst von Delius, driving a Typ C, tried to pass Richard Seaman’s Mercedes W125. But while doing 250 km/h, the cars touched and both drivers crashed badly. Because of his injuries, von Delius died the next morning. Rudolf Caracciola in his W125 #12 started in the second row. However, on the 14th lap he took the lead and held on all the way to the checkered flag.
With six victories, nine second places and five third places, the W125 dominated the season. And gave the 1937 European championship to Rudolf Caracciola. So being perhaps the best Silberpfeil from Stuttgart and definitively my favorite Mercedes Silver Arrow, I obviously needed one. It goes without saying that it should be one driven by the best Mercedes pilot of all times*, Caracciola. Once again Minichamps delivers, with awesome detail level and those GORGEOUS wire wheels. Admittedly the W125 #12 is not a car for every collector. But if you wanted to well represent the Silberpfeile you just need two cars. With just a W125 and a Typ C you’re set.
*After Caracciola’s death, the legendary Alfred Neubauer described him as “… the greatest driver of the twenties and thirties, perhaps even of all time. He combined, to an extraordinary extent, determination with concentration, physical strength with intelligence. Caracciola was second to none in his ability to triumph over shortcomings.”