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Thursday, 24 July 2014

A Trip Through The Mercedes-Benz Museum, Part 1: Motorsport

Winners in German Touring Cars [DTM], Le Mans, Formula 1, Indy 500 and Truck Racing, all in one shot... and that's not all!
2014 marks a rather significant anniversary for one of the world's oldest car companies. On 22nd July 1894, an event widely considered to be history's first motor race took place, called Paris–Rouen, Le Petit Journal Competition for Horseless Carriages (when translated from French). The first four non-steam-powered cars to cross the line used internal combustion engines that were designed and engineered by Gottlieb Daimler, whose company would later become known through various mergers as Mercedes-Benz. 120 years after powering a Peugeot chassis 1192km towards victory, and 100 years after filling an entire podium at Lyon (read more here), Mercedes-Benz are now treating the current Formula 1 grid like Brazilian defenders, with the crushingly fast AMG F1 W05 having won nine of the ten Grands Prix held thus far. Back in March, I visited their gigantic museum in Stuttgart, where the company is based, and an entire floor was dedicated to showcasing their motorsport history, arguably longer and more illustrious than any other, and possibly the most varied to boot. Let's take a nice, long look.

As this far from subtle wallpaper points out, the German giant has seen victories in pretty much every major race event or series going, be it road races, open-wheel circuit and oval racing, sports cars, endurance, a dash of rallying, and of course truck racing. The racing floor of their frankly excellent museum (you start on the top floor and work your way down) has you spiraling downstairs before being met with what looks like a huge banked corner, full of racing cars from the very beginning to almost the present day, covering road racing, F1, Indycar (briefly), Le Mans, DTM, rallying and truck racing. But the staircase's walls aren't just adorned with the names of races and championships that have been won by the "Silver Arrows," they also contain a few of the significant engines that powered them.


This is one such engine, and it's amusingly extreme. And huge. This twin-turbo V6 diesel engine sat inside Mercedes's racing trucks from 1996 to 2001, tasked with getting the 5500kg machines up to their limited top speed of 100mph in a jiffy. The total cylinder capacity? Twelve litres. TWELVE. That's two litres per cylinder!! With explosions that big being fed huge amounts of air by the beefy turbochargers (the snail shells in the top corners), this behemoth can produce 1500 horsepower at 2000rpm. By contrast, a V8 Formula 1 engine made ~750bhp at 18,000rpm. Perhaps there really is no replacement for displacement? Sadly, the little info plaque doesn't include the torque figure, which is probably incredible in the case of this giant diesel racing engine...


Twelve-litre V6 engines are all well and awesome, but ask an American race fan about a "monster Mercedes engine" and they'll recount what they know about the 1994 Indianapolis 500. 20 years ago, the rules in IndyCar - or CART - were a little more open than they are now. To cater for older, lower-cost engines in the prestigious 500-mile oval race, engines designed with two valves per cylinder operated by pushrods were allowed to be bigger, and run higher turbo boost, than the more modern engines running four valves per cylinder and overhead camshafts. The thing is, pushrod engines were only allowed in the Indy 500, not in the other Indycar races, so teams that raced for the whole year didn't use them... apart from the venerable Team Penske.

To win big in motor racing, you need a huge budget and a point to prove, which you would ideally do by exploiting loopholes in the rules. Mercedes-Benz wanted a go at the Indy 500, so they collaborated with Ilmor in the UK to build Penske a bespoke pushrod engine specifically for this race, allowed to displace 3.43 litres rather than just 2.65 and run an extra 10psi of boost. Using a rule meant to balance the performance, they made probably the most advanced pushrod engine of the time. They had to test the resulting "500I" V8 when it was still snowing heavily outside, on Roger Penske's own oval tracks in Pennsylvania, and driving on a cold track with banks of snow on either side (read more in another tab) was probably a lively activity in the Penske PC-23B... because it had over a thousand horsepower.

Designed and developed in total secrecy in just six months, with a huge budget, the methanol-drinking Ilmor/Mercedes 500I turbo V8 powered Al Unser Jr. to a crushingly dominant victory in the '94 Indy 500, lapping all but one of the opponents due to having roughly 200 more horsepower than everyone else (and 582lb/ft of torque to boot). After that? Job done, that was it. The engine was retired, and the rules were tightened up. All that effort and supreme engineering for just one race. That's quite something.


Personally, though, I've never really followed Indycar (apart from clips on YouTube of the 500). For me it's always been Formula 1, and the ultimate era was undoubtedly the one that involved engines such as this: the 3.0L V10. Raced and developed from 1995 to 2005 for McLaren, it ultimately boasted as much as 950 horsepower, revved like hell and generated hitherto unparalleled levels of ear porn along with the other V10s from Honda, Renault, Ferrari and Cosworth (the Honda revved as high as 22,000rpm!). During the 3.0 V10 era, "Flying Finn" Mika Häkkinen won two world titles for McLaren-Mercedes in 1998 and '99. This particular V10 on display is from 2002, producing 870 horsepower at 18,300rpm. It gave Kimi Räikkönen his first two victories in Formula 1, but ultimately nobody could compete with Michael Schumacher and Ferrari that year. Or the two years before. Or the two years afterwards.


From 2006-2013, we saw a dilution of the V10 era, with longer-lasting 2.4-litre V8s - revving to a limited 19,000 and then 18,000rpm and not stretching far over 750 horsepower - replacing them to reduce costs. McLaren-Mercedes's only title came with the sudden arrival of Lewis Hamilton. After narrowly missing out on being F1's first ever rookie world champion in 2007, he made it stick in 2008 with some impressive drives and a Hollywood finish to the final race in Brazil, when arch rival Felipe Massa won the race and Hamilton only got into 5th place (thus scoring enough points to win the championship) at the last corner of the last lap. Massa was devastated. Many others still struggle to believe it. The following year, a Mercedes V8 was shoehorned into the Brawn GP001 after Honda had pulled out of the sport pre-season, and Jenson Button won six of the first seven races on his way to his own world title.


As power levels dropped, downforce levels rose, until "winglets" and other protruding air guides were banned for 2009. The McLaren MP4-23 that took Hamilton to glory had arguably the most complex aero package ever seen on a Formula 1 car. This area behind the front wheels wasn't allowed to be photographed at the time, for secrecy's sake, but these days you can have at it! It's crazy how elaborate it all is. How much of an effect can it have had?


As for the rest of the car, there was a swan-wing protrusion up front that resembles a "hood ornament," a front wing that engulfed the pointy nose, turning vanes here and heat chimneys there, and at least four large winglets ahead of the rear wheels. The front wing size was dictated by rules which aimed for less downforce, hence the efforts to generate more elsewhere. In 2009 the front wings were made lower and much wider, with rear wings doing the opposite, while the main bodies had to be smooth. This made the cars more agile and slipperier at high speed, helping to bring more overtaking to the sport. In 2008 there were races when only two or three on-track overtakes took place...


Visibly significant aerodynamic aids aren't limited to Formula 1 in any way. This is a 1990 Mercedes 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II DTM, a car that rivals Subaru and Mitsubishi for big wings and long names, but rivalled BMW on the track in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschäft, or German Touring-Car Championship if you prefer. The "W201" saloon had been used in DTM since 1988 and just two years later it had sprouted a large front splitter, streamlined wide arches and an adjustable rear wing nearly as high as the roof. The 2.5-litre 16-valve straight-four engine was fettled by Cosworth and made 330 horsepower. A similarly-named road car was made with the same bodykit and a de-tuned engine to satisfy homologation regulations. Supposedly it lowers drag to 0.29Cd while adding downforce, and BMW joked that "if that wing works, we need to redesign our wind tunnel." Supposedly, they did, although even Wikipedia calls this anecdote vague...


Mercedes has a long history in DTM. After the black 190E came the D2-sponsored C-Class up at the top, followed by the CLK in front and later the C-Class again. As time progressed they became less and less related to the road cars they resemble, to the point that the two cars on the left are "silhouette racers," which pretty much only share the lights, door handles and roof shape with the road cars.


 The white car was driven to the 2010 title by former F1 driver Paul di Resta, who has now returned to the series after losing his seat at Force India. He's currently 12th with 12 points.


It goes without saying that homologation rules have long been absent from DTM, and indeed most motorsport. This is a shame, because it directly linked manufacturers' racing cars to their road cars, and gave us some pretty incredible special editions. Imagine if they'd had to homologate this with 250 road versions!


Is it wrong that I wish this rear air guide (with five canards!) was parallel to the edge of the tail lights?


It's not wrong to want a gigantic side-exit exhaust, though! It would even negate the need for heated seats...


On the other end of the stage were road racers such as the 300-SLRs up front and the classic Grand Prix cars behind them. In the 1950s when Formula 1 was brand new, the cars had their engines in the front, with tiny cockpits often holding fuel or even the gearbox as well as the driver, who wore a leather hat, some goggles and a shirt. Quite a contrast to today!


On the subject of 1950s motorsport, this seems as good a time as any to show you this, which was sitting elsewhere in the museum. This is the 300S Renntransporter, and it's cooler than whatever car you've got, even though it's a weird car-truck crossover made out of spare parts. The chassis is a modified 300S saloon, along with the suspension (double wishbones at the front) and other mechanicals, but the engine is a 192-horsepower straight-six from the 300SL sports car.


It also has more front overhang than any beer belly you've ever seen. I can only assume that using an existing chassis limited how much they could stretch the wheelbase, so the cabin had to sit in front of the front axle to make space for the broken racing cars it was designed to transport.


You see, this was designed for when the Silver Arrows (or 'Silberpfeil' if you're into your German) had a fault that couldn't be fixed in the paddock. They would dispatch the Renntransporter to pick it up, identify the problem in the meantime and then send the stricken racer back to Stuttgart to have it fixed properly. With a top speed of 105mph at a time when most vans and trucks weren't comfortable over 50, it earned itself the nickname "The Blue Miracle." Sadly, the original was later destroyed, so Mercedes-Benz have subsequently built this recreation using photographs. It's great. If you can't make the trip to Germany, then it also turns up at the Goodwood Festival Of Speed... ironically almost definitely doing so in the back of a lorry.


The Racing Floor, like some of the floors in the museum, don't span the full width of the building, giving you tantalising looks at the next phase of the exhibit. Overlooking the café is a comparison between 1950s and 1990s Formula 1 cars.


This is a W196 Grand Prix car, which was driven by Juan Manuel Fangio to the 1954 and '55 Formula 1 World Driver's Championships (his second and third of five). The first naturally-aspirated Mercedes racing car since the 1920s, it featured a 2.5-litre straight-eight engine originally developing 257bhp, which rose to 290 in 1955 (this engine was also enlarged to 3.0 litres for sports car racing, where it made 310bhp). While not as easy to drive as the Maserati 250F of the time - says Fangio, who raced both in '54 - it was much more reliable and still very fast. The distinctive offset air intake was originally underneath the car, but Mercedes found that it clogged up with leaves and stuff, so it was moved to the top. It's offset because the engine is mounted at a 37° angle to lower the centre of gravity and give a lower nose, the latter of which benefits reduces the frontal area - the part of the car that hits the air first - and thus lowers overall drag.


Fast forward to 1999 and we have the McLaren-Mercedes MP4/14, as driven by Mika Häkkinen to his second World Driver's Championship in a row. The engine is the same displacement, but makes 2.7 times more power with 780bhp. While the W196 uses a tubular frame, the MP4/14 uses a carbon fibre tub as a chassis. While the '50s car is front-engined, the '90s car is mid-engined. While Fangio's car is smooth and almost rectangular in section, Häkkinen's car is pointy like a fighter jet and has large wings at each end to force the car into the ground more and more the faster it goes.


Despite displacing the same amount of air in the cylinders, give or take a few cc, the McLaren's engine is physically much smaller. Partly this is because it's a Vee configuration rather than straight, thus making it much shorter, but also the highly advanced materials and engine technologies used allow them to make a significantly more efficient engine that does so much more with quite a lot less. Both engines have their distinctive sounds, but for me the V10 is the pinnacle of noise. This is the F1 I grew up with, mind, so I might be biased!


The gearbox sits behind the engine, as you might expect. While Fangio had to use an H-pattern manual gearbox, Häkkinen and David Coulthard used a 6-speed sequential gearbox with paddles and a hand-operated clutch, that latter feature to allow a narrower nose by removing a pedal.


The aforementioned narrow nose makes it a tight fit in an F1 car, which is just one of a number of reasons why the drivers these days need to be very fit. As well as squeezing in in the first place, they have to be fit enough to withstand up to 5g of force under braking (and as much as 3.5g in long corners) for two hours or so, which also requires supremely strong neck muscles to hold their head and helmet up through corners, strong arms to keep it pointing in the right direction after 90 minutes and legs able to exert around 100kg (981N) of force onto the brake pedal. You need the stamina of a marathon runner, and the effort required is enough to sweat 3kg (6.6lbs) of weight out of your body in a hot race!


Of course, it's the entire car that's tightly packaged, not just the cockpit. A smaller car generates less drag, see. This protrusion guides air around the rear wheels. The amount the the body tucks in around it is dramatic.

Understandably, the inside of the engine cover is wrapped in a material to deflect heat. Often it's gold leaf, but her it's silver-coloured, so I couldn't tell you what it is. Probably not kitchen foil, though...


I didn't see any "DO NOT TOUCH" or "VERBOTEN" signs, so I squeezed the paddles on the wheel a few times, which was strangely wonderful when I thought about Mika Häkkinen doing the same thing to the same paddles (although in hindsight this could easily be a display car or something). It felt mechanical and deliberate, with a decent amount of travel.


Of course, getting into it was still very much 'verboten' because even un-raced Formula 1 cars are staggeringly expensive (I was at the London Motor Expo looking at a 2010 Red Bull-Renault RB6 when the guy told me the steering wheel in that is worth £200,000 alone!!). But I still used a world champion's steering wheel! Probably! It looks used, actually, so I'm saying it's legit.


Here we have one of the two side-mounted radiators and some other cooling bits. This is the left side, and you can just see how close it is to the engine.


The gearbox casing is also used as a mounting point for the rear suspension, so the gearbox has to be a stressed member of the chassis.


Multi-element rear wings were fitted at tracks that required high downforce, like Monaco or the Hungaroring. The info plaque didn't say which race this car is from, or even whether it's just a jumble of bits. You wouldn't be allowed that extra two-part wing at the front these days.


Another look at the gearbox and rear suspension. The black cylinders on top are most likely the rear shock absorbers, or dampers, while the wishbone-shaped, er, wishbones are there to support and hold the wheel hubs. The springs are mounted inboard for weight distribution.


By contrast, here's the straight-eight of the W196... and some other assorted bits and pieces. The air intake that attaches to the little teardrop grille at the front is attached to the very top of the engine, which is slanted at 37 degrees.


The exhaust system exits from the right-hand side of the engine, and thus car. On the 300 SLR, which is based on the W196 in many ways, the side-exit exhausts remain, giving a distinctive coolness to it.


While the McLaren's steering wheel had a multitude of buttons and paddles on it, the W196's would look at home on a small yacht or a speedboat. It doesn't move either, so you're still better off being flexible.


I couldn't work out what this watermelon-sized thing is in the middle. It's behind the seat and between the rear wheels, so it could be the differential.


Sitting between the two huge screws/washers and the black tube frame on the left lies the clutch pedal [slightly south-west from centre]. The enormous manual gearbox sits spinning between the driver's legs, under that big piece of metal, so the accelerator and brake pedals are on the other side. No opportunities for left-foot braking here!


After I'd taken enough pictures of undressed Formula 1 cars, I spotted a staircase that allows you to have a better look at the cars on the banked stage. Here we have Stirling Moss's 1955 Mille-Miglia winning 300SLR [right] and the 300SL "Gullwing" that won the Carrera Panamericana [left] along with some more '50s F1 cars and other Grand Prix racers stretching back to the early 20th century. By the time I'd got this far round, I had to consider battery life, so I didn't take a lot of pictures of them. Better the angels you know.


Atop the short staircase was this enormous trophy, commemorating Juan Manuel Fangio's record fourth F1 title. He went on the win a fifth in 1957, but it was with Maserati, so you won't find that trophy here.


Not the only German trophy involving four stars these days, of course. I have no idea what animal that's supposed to be though...


Here's one of the racing trucks that's powered by the epic 12L V6 turbo diesel engine we started with. All 1500 horses will be needed to get 5500kg+ to hurry up. I vaguely remember a racing game on PC called Mercedes-Benz Truck Racing.


People don't readily associate Mercedes-Benz with rally racing, but that's their loss. This modified 280E (W123) won the 1977 London-Sydney rally, which saw intrepid British drivers Andrew Cowan, Colin Makin and Mike Broad traverse 30,000km in 30 days to win AU$30,000. The race started in Covent Garden in London and trekked all the way to Madras in India, before they were flown to Malaysia for the second leg, down to Singapore. From there they then flew to Perth in Australia and drove right across on a significantly detoured route to the Sydney Opera House. It remains the longest rally event of all time, and Mercedes scored a 1-2 finish ahead of Citroën. You can read more about it (in another tab) here. No wonder the "W123" has a reputation for being robust...


This beast may not have covered quite the same kind of distance, but it's one of few to win a race in 1/30th of the time it took the London-Sydney Rally to complete. This is a 1989 Sauber-Mercedes C9, and players of Gran Turismo will need no introduction. Packing a 5-litre twin-turbo V8 developing 720bhp and weighing just 905kg, it achieved a top speed of 247mph (398km/h) on the 4km 'Mulsanne Straight' during qualifying for the 1989 24 Hours of Le Mans. After a troublesome two years beforehand, the Mercedes-powered Sauber recorded a 1-2 victory at this race. As the second car to brush 400km/h on the Mulsanne Straight, the C9 prompted the race organisers to put chicanes in for 1990 to slow them down, which remain in use to this day.


With the exhibits arranged as they are, the C9 has suitably esteemed company in the championship-winning 1998 McLaren-Mercedes MP4/13 Formula 1 car.


Mmm, visible turbocharger... [drools]


In GT6, I used the C9 to complete the game by winning the disappointingly short "24 Minutes of Le Mans." You notice that kind of power, and an oil change will get you much more. It has five gears and wheel-spins in third, but aside from that it's actually quite nice to drive. Doesn't sound right at all, of course, but still...


The cockpit is typically snug for a racing car. A narrower car cuts cleaner through the air, simply because there's less car disrupting the air. I still don't know what it's got that bullet-shaped thing on the window for, though...


It's always interesting looking at Le Mans cars and their aerodynamic solutions to the problem of trying to go really, really, REALLY fast for 24 straight hours. Because fuel economy becomes very important when you enter races this long, the aim wasn't just to generate downforce, but to reduce drag. The wheels are the biggest obstacle in this area, so getting the air to move around and away from them often makes some interesting shapes. Group C cars from around this time even went as far as covering the rear wheels entirely, although that can only have lengthened the time it takes to change rear tyres.


Plus, of course, the cars are as low down to the ground as they can be without scraping all the time (well, they may scrape sometimes, as Circuit de la Sarthe is quite bumpy in places). You know it's a proper racing car when the headlights are lower than the top of the tyres.


Flanking Lewis Hamilton's MP4-23 is the evolution of the Sauber C9. Called the C11, it dropped the Sauber name as Mercedes had a bigger influence - and, frankly, more pride in the project after winning Le Mans. Why not C10? Because "C 10" in German is pronounced "Say Zayn," which is apparently difficult for them. How considerate. The C11 ("Say Elf") had an improved version of the C9's engine, now producing 950bhp, while weight stayed at 905kg. That recipe combined with evolved aerodynamics was potent enough for a top speed of 253mph, equal to the Bugatti Veyron. I suspect it's more exciting in this rear-wheel-drive monster, though!


The C11 didn't enter Le Mans, with Mercedes instead focusing on winning the World Sports-Prototype Championship which no longer included the race. It did so in the kind of crushing dominance we're seeing in Formula 1 this year, winning eight of the nine 480km races in the 1990 WSPC season. The venue for the final race was the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, a track which we might also be seeing soon in Formula 1. For this final race, the winning car was driven by Jochen Mass and some kid named Michael Schumacher. What ever happened to him, anyway?


The mid-1990s had little in the way of top-end prototype racing, and by 1996 even DTM had folded (only to be reinvented in 2000). So, for 1997 Mercedes entered the FIA GT Championship with this, the CLK-GTR. Despite using the headlights and tail lights from the CLK road car, it was completely unrelated to any road car to the point that they also had to turn the design into a Street Version and homologate it to satisfy the rule makers by building twenty road cars (and later six Roadsters made of spare parts, which are still worth seven figures).


The CLK-GTR racing version is powered by a mid-mounted 6.0 V12 developing 600bhp - and that's with air restrictors in place to balance the performance. This engine was based on the V12 used in their road cars, and for the Street Version it was enlarged to 7.0 litres to get the same power while meeting road car regulations. This engine (part number M120) later appeared in various forms and displacements (6.0, 7.0 and 7.3 litres) in the Pagani Zonda, so it's got plenty of history all on its own. The racer is also packing a carbon fibre monocoque chassis made by Lola and double-wishbone suspension with pullrod-actuated springs at each end.


Completed at the last minute, both CLK GTRs suffered mechanical failures at the opening round of the 1997 FIA GT Championship at the old Hockenheim. The following two rounds saw them outclassed by the BMW-McLaren F1 GTR "Longtail," but because Mercedes weren't competing at Le Mans they then had nearly a month to develop the car and get it sorted. Of the remaining eight races that season, Mercedes won six, largely thanks to their star driver Bernd Schneider. Next year BMW-McLaren didn't come back, and with turbocharged engines more tightly restricted, the Porsche 911 GT1 still couldn't catch the Mercedes, so a CLK GTR won every race in the 1998 season. Job done. Mercedes themselves only entered the first two rounds, then left a customer team to clean up while they evolved the car into the CLK-LM, to take on Le Mans. Sadly, in 1999, it changed again into the essentially wing-shaped CLR, a car which had a tendency to get picked up by the air as it screamed down the Mulsanne Straight, and thrown back-flipping into the sky. You've probably seen that crash on YouTube by now...


And so we're back at the beginning of the room with DTM cars. But this time from behind and above! The shady car with D2 logos all over it is the 1994 C-Class DTM. In '93, the regulations were completely overhauled and allowed a much more purpose-built machine to be entered. Mercedes evolved the 190E another step, but the all-wheel-drive Alfa Romeo 155 V6 TI (with cool vertical exhausts) was purpose-built for the regulations and walked home with the trophy, so the car you see here was Mercedes-AMG's response. The steel monocoque chassis came from the recently-released "W202" C-Class, but they cut the front of it off to allow for a bespoke engine and full double-wishbone racing suspension, with a multi-link set up at the rear and pullrod-actuated springs all round. The new rules also allowed Traction Control and ABS.


To make the engine - which still had to be 2.5 litres or smaller in capacity - Mercedes started with a production 4.2L V8 and redesigned it with two fewer cylinders to make a 90-degree DOHC V6 which, after being re-built for the track, developed 400 horsepower and weighed just 110kg. While Alfa Romeo made an all-wheel-drive 155, Mercedes only used rear-wheel-drive on the production C-Class, so the racer had to follow suit. While Opel were also running a Calibra V6, it was really a two-horse race against the Italians for the 1994 title, and after all twenty rounds, Alfa Romeo had scored eleven wins against Mercedes's nine... but '92 champ Klaus Ludwig had been more consistent than Nicola Larini had when not winning, so he won the championship on points.

DTM grew to new heights in this era, until 1996 when the FIA's newly-gained reign and the increasingly high costs displeased the manufacturers and caused all of them to pull out.


There was no premier German touring car series for the remainder of the 1990s, but in 2000 it returned without the FIA. Alfa Romeo, BMW and Audi weren't interested, but Opel and Mercedes were. The series now used two-door silhouette racers, which have to have the same side profile shape as a production car (along with lights and grille), but was otherwise purpose-built from the ground up with 4.0-litre, 470-horsepower V8s. Opel used the Astra Coupé, while Mercedes used the new CLK and independent Audi tuner Abt Sportsline used the Audi TT despite it being too small, meaning it needed huge aero extensions at each end. Of the 16 races, Mercedes and Opel won 8 each, with Bernd Schneider's string of podium finishes giving him the title in the car you see here.


Mercedes has long been the dominant force in DTM. This 2010 C-Class was driven by Paul di Resta to the series title. In 2004 the rules were changed to enforce four-door saloons, thus causing Opel to pull out and Audi to finally enter with an A4 (having held off because they couldn't use 'quattro' all-wheel-drive). In 2012, when the series reverted to two-door coupés, BMW finally returned to the series (having been more interested in a continent-wide race series) with an E92 M3 silhouette, and last year they added DRS to all the cars. Today DTM is in a new golden age, with the "Großer Drei" taking each other on in a C-Coupé, RS5 and M4 on tracks in Germany and other parts of Europe.


But let's not forget that there are people in those cars, and their achievements are no smaller. Roughly in line with the age of the cars situated opposite, racing gear and trophies won by the drivers of these cars lined the inside edge of the horseshoe-shaped Racing Floor.


But if standing and looking at things isn't your cup of tea, the-- wait, then what are you doing in a museum?! Well, regardless, this floor also has a simulator. Pay €4 and two of you can sit back and be taken on a journey through history, with a force feedback wheel you can't really steer yourself (it's just there for effect).


Before you descend to the café and ground level, you are presented with cars that have held records of various kinds, mostly speed records.


The middle one in this shot looks like it's from a 1960s Sci-Fi, while the one on the left (W125 "Rekordwagen") hit 268mph in 1938, thanks to its super-slippery body and 736bhp V12 engine. To put that in perspective, the 2010 Bugatti Veyron Super Sport needed 1183bhp to hit the same speed. Oh, and the Rekordwagen was flirting with 270mph on a public road, namely a stretch of German Autobahn.


But the W125 pales in comparison to this, the Mercedes-Benz T80. Sadly, the advent of the Second World War meant that this stunning behemoth never ran for a record, because the engine was removed to be put back into the bomber plane (a Messerschmitt ME 410) it was designed for. Said engine was a supercharged V12 that makes even the truck racing engine up top seem measly. It displaced 44.5 litres. It ran on a mix of methyl-alcohol, benzene, ethanol, acetone, nitrobenzene, avgas and ether, with methanol-water injection to stop it overheating and exploding. The power output? Very close to 3000 horsepower. Three thousand! Considering that fact that this Ferdinand Porsche-designed car is over eight metres long, over three metres wide and has four rear wheels (all driven by the engine), the fact that it has a drag coefficient of just 0.18 is little short of astonishing. The complete car weighed over 2700kg, despite its slinky tube frame chassis and steel body. The original target speed was 550km/h, or 342mph, but after British land speed record attempts had pushed the benchmark higher, the target became 600km/h, or 373mph. In the end they predicted that it could hit a top speed of 750km/h, or 466mph, which would've seen it set the Land Speed Record for wheel-driven vehicles... and keep it to this day. Alas, we never found out due to the war. The car in the museum is no model, it's the real thing, the complete car minus the engine, because it survived the war. With the sophistication of modern simulators, I'd love to know what their computers say it can really do...

You can read more about '30s land-speed cars here. The T80 also has a Wikipedia article.


And that's about it! I hope you found at least some of it interesting. I'll leave you with a camera-phone video that sweeps the whole room, and a photo of the memorial sculpture that sits outside the museum, recognising an Argentinian man that many (including Murray Walker... unless I'm very much mistaken) regard as the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time. El Maestro. Juan Manuel Fangio.


If you still have plenty of time to burn, then you're in luck! I've already uploaded a tour of the entire Porsche Museum from the same day (11th March 2014 - it was a good day), and a nice long report on my time at the Goodwood Festival Of Speed. At some point in the future I will post more of the Mercedes-Benz Museum, which essentially takes us through the entire history of the car, from 1886 to this decade. Thank you for your patience.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful article you have written Michael. I hope to one day visit this historic museum.
    Cheers,
    Vince

    ReplyDelete