Showing posts with label Mercedes-Benz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mercedes-Benz. Show all posts

Mercedes-Benz W196

Mercedes-Benz W196 1950s German F1 car

In the mid-'50s, the W196 marked a welcome return to GP racing for Mercedes-Benz. As it was, they would only be back for a couple of years. In '54 and '55, Mercedes left the opposition for dead. No great surprise, really. They did, after all, have Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss on their books. Behind the wheel of a W196, both men were in their element. Past masters of their craft, they now had machines to match.

But, there was more to the W196 package - even than Fangio and Moss. Engineer Rudolph Uhlenhaut was likewise at the peak of his powers. While rival teams' technicians trod water design-wise, Uhlenhaut took risks. No parts barred streamlining was key. At first, that included the wheels. Originally, they were fully enclosed. As a result, however, handling was wayward - especially, near the limit. No worries! Uhlenhaut uncovered the wheels again - and the W196 was back to its sure-footed best.

Fangio won first time out in the new car - at the '54 French GP. That was the first rung on the ladder to his second driver's title. That season, there were just two races the W196 did not win. The '55 campaign arrived - and it was the same story. Well, almost. This time around, there was only one race victory it did not take! Sure enough, Fangio soon held aloft his third World Championship trophy. Uhlenhaut's car was packed with cutting edge spec. Its straight-eight engine, for instance, was rotated through its 'default' position. That gave a lower centre of gravity - optimising handling. The motor's valve-gear was desmodromic. Valves were opened and closed via cams. Having no bouncing springs improved efficiency. Plus, it was fuel-injected - almost a decade before that became standard GP practice. In terms of engine and bodywork, Uhlenhaut had gambled and won. Monte Carlo or bust, so to say! A consummately-crafted car, and - in Fangio and Moss - two of history's greatest drivers. Truly, the Mercedes-Benz W196 was a motor racing marriage of man and machine!

Mercedes-Benz 300SL

Mercedes-Benz 300SL 1950s German classic sports car

Whilst car doors have their uses, they are seldom the focal point of the overall design. In the case of the Mercedes-Benz 300SL, though, that is exactly what they were. Dubbed the Gullwing, its dexterously hinged doors 'flew' upwards. And if the seagull might not be considered the height of elegance, the 300SL certainly was. Especially with those doors flung high to the sky, the Mercedes was a magnificent sight. Not when perched on its roof, however ... following an accident, say. prising the doors open would then have proved difficult!

But, even with the SL's 'rubber side down', things were far from glitch-free. For starters, its handling was below par. Mainly, because the rear suspension was way too soft. Comfort-wise, too, it was not the best. In the event of rain, let us just say the 300SL's bodywork was not as 'well-sealed' as it might have been! The SL's 'SuperLight' space-frame was sweetly engineered. That said, it was literally a pain in the neck for mechanics. And the SL's engine was inclined 45° - to accommodate a lower bonnet line. Again - while designers doubtless cheered that to the echo - mechanics were not quite so appreciative!

To be fair, the SL was trying to span the gap between a Le Mans prototype and a well-appointed roadster. To say the least, different automotive worlds. For sheer sports car style, it had few peers. On the practical side, well - room for improvement. While it did not come cheap, if you could afford one, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL was, in fact, good value for money. Though - with its technical blemishes - deep pockets of patience also came in handy!