Mercedes-Benz W154 #46 – Spark

1938 Mercedes-Benz W154 
Pilot: Hermann Lang 
Team: Mercedes-Benz 
Race: 1st place in the 1938 Tripoli GP 
Spark - S1032 (resin)

Published 07/17/18

LUWerner on W143:
By the end of 1936, the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (AIACR) changed the rules for European Grand Prix racing. Starting in 1938, GP cars could only use engines up to 3 liters, if supercharged, or 4.5 liters if normally aspirated. Mercedes-Benz dominated the 1937 season with the W125, but because of the new rules, they needed a new car for 1938. The new car, called W154, came from the talents of Max Sailer, Max Wagner and the great Rudolf Uhlenhaut.

It essentially used the same chassis as its predecessor, with a tubular steel frame covered with aluminum panels. The engine, however, was all new. Designated M154, it was a V12 at 60º with 2996 cm³ of displacement, and with two Roots-type superchargers it delivered from 433 to 474 hp, depending on tune. The W154 did VERY well in the 1938 season, giving Mercedes’ driver Rudolf Caracciola his 3rd European title.

At Christmas just call me Rudolf.

Created in 1933, the Italian National Lottery was built around the Corsa dei Milioni, aka as the Tripoli Grand Prix, raced on the Mellaha circuit in the Italian colony of Tripolitania (currently Libya). Tickets were pretty cheap and sold easily. A week before the race, an initial lottery draw produced 30 lucky winners. These winners then drew another ticket corresponding to a driver on the 30-strong starting grid. So for the lottery to work, there had to be at least 30 cars in the race.

That meant that for the 1938 Tripoli GP, to get enough cars for the lottery, voiturettes and GP cars had to race together. Mixing big and small cars always has a potential for problems, and trouble started right at the beginning. When the light turned green there was voiturettes already rolling behind the GP cars, almost producing a pile-up on the first corner. On the 8th lap an Alfa 312, trying to avoid a slower Maserati voiturette, braked too hard and lost control. It ran straight into a house and the pilot died immediately. Five laps later a new accident happened, again between a GP and a voiturette car. The Maserati voiturette pilot died the next morning from his injuries.

W154 #46
The lines of the cars and overall details are perfect.

With Auto Union absent from the race (their cars weren’t ready in time), Mercedes dominated with three W154 piloted by Hermann Lang (#46),  Manfred von Brauchitsch (#44) and Rudolf Caracciola (#26). Both von Brauchitsch and Caracciola had engine gremlins, but Lang managed first place, his first win for Mercedes. But even with engine issues,  von Brauchitsch and Caracciola stilled managed second and third places respectively. You can see a video here (6’16”) made by Mercedes showing the preparations for the race. Without Auto Union around Mercedes dominated, and though race results were not spectacular, Spark’s W154 #46 is nothing but. Beautifully recreated in scale, I just love everything about it. So for the Silberpfeil collector, a fantastic acquisition.

W154 #46
I have to admit that my windshield job came out pretty nice.

To my utter frustration, the seller “forgot” to mention that on my W154 #46 the windshield glass was missing . So I had to make a new one out of clear acrylic plastic. A bit frustrating, but in the end the job came out quite satisfactory.

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