Racing and record cars between 1934 and 1939 and between 1954 and 1955
Racers with a legendary aura
Silver Arrows revived after World War II
Where Mercedes-Benz is concerned, the fascination of competition and of continuity at the highest level is as strong as the trademark itself. This is attributable to first-class products in all vehicle segments, as well as to the all-out determination to engage in sporting competitions. Customer wishes and markets in the global environment change all the time – and the company is responding to these changes on an ongoing basis.
Determination to show one's mettle in competition is also, and in particular, expressed by Mercedes-Benz's activities in motor sports. In racing, it is clear to see who's out in the lead – this is where engineering, team and tactics must be well matched to score success. The commitment reflects positively on the brand, and this in turn justifies the enormous costs. As early as 1907/1908, the annual report of Benz had this to say: "We consider the additional expenditure on racing to be indispensable for our brand to hold its own in international competition." Today, sponsors and partners use the popularity of motor sports for their own interests and thus reduce the financial risk.
While still in its infancy at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, the automobile already demonstrated its performance and reliability in competitions. Vehicles of Benz and Daimler competed in all famous racing events around the world. And they established new speed records time and again. The Lighting Benz is an impressive example of this; in 1909 it was the first car to exceed the magic mark of 200 km/h. Soon afterwards, the supercharged racing cars from Mercedes-Benz appeared on the scene and dominated all major racing events.
The classic Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows
The company's early racing history culminated in a very special chapter in the 1930s: the era of the Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows. They scored top results in international races, set the standards in terms of sporting spirit, and put the engineering to the acid test. The Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows were evidence for the company's commitment to competition – every year and with every driver. At the same time, every victory clinched with these special racing cars and every record established contributed to a legend which has been intriguing people to this very day, and which is effortlessly being continued by the modern-day Silver Arrows which have been entered in racing since the 1990s.
Silver Arrows – the words have a magic. The popular racing car designation originated in the 1930s when Mercedes-Benz changed the colour of their Grand Prix cars from white to silver at the beginning of the 1934 racing season.
In the decades that followed the popular name "Silver Arrows" turned out to be quite flexible. In the 1930s, it was also used for competitor Auto Union. And the name resounded quickly throughout the country after the McLaren-Mercedes MP4-12 had been presented in mid-February 1997, sporting the attractive livery of its sponsor West, in which silver prevailed. First and foremost, however, the legendary name is applied to the Mercedes-Benz racing and record cars of the 1930s and 1950s.
Series of successes in several steps
Four racing car models shaped the first Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrow era during the five years between 1934 and 1939. The series of triumphs began with the W 25 (1934 – 1936) and the W 125 (1937) for the 750-kilogram formula. Then came the W 154 complying with the three-litre formula in 1938/39, and finally the W 165 for the one-and-a-half-litre race in Tripoli in May 1939.
Over and above this, Silver Arrow was also the befitting name for several record-breaking cars, for instance the streamlined versions of the W 25 (1934 and 1936), the record-breaking versions of the W 125 (1938) and W 154 (1939), and finally the awe-inspiring T 80 (1939).
An attempted comeback with the pre-war W 154 at two races in Buenos Aires in February 1951 wilted into a footnote of history. The modern (post-war) period was initiated in 1952 with the 300 SL (W 194) racing sports car. Two years later the Silver Arrow legend came alive again: Entering the W 196 R Grand Prix car from July 1954, the Stuttgart-based company harked back on the unprecedented series of triumphs in 1939. In 1955, the successful 300 SLR racing sports car did its bit to the greater glory of the brand.
The driver personalities
The Silver Arrows were piloted by a number of drivers. The most eminent of these between 1934 and 1939 and then again between 1952 and 1955 were:
Manfred von Brauchitsch
Juan Manuel Fangio