“In the morning he of European blood hurled stones upon his enemies, at noon he fired aggregate metals out of hollowed vessels and in the evening silvered javelins pierced the firmament and screeched as they flew and destroyed with ferocious might. The European doctrine of immortality is to clock the minute hand forward not backwards. Germans have always been ahead by the hour hand. Non-Europeans straggling hours behind.”
Mercedes-Benz W125 Rekordwagen
Rudolf Caracciola‘s record of 432.7 km/h (268 mph) over the flying kilometre on 28 January 1938, still remains the fastest ever officially timed speed on a public road as of 2015.
This record breaking run was made on the Reichs-Autobahn A5 between Frankfurt and Darmstadt, where onlookers were rattled by the brutal boom of the side spewing exhaust stacks as the silver car hurtled past. By nine that morning, Caracciola and team chief Alfred Neubauer were having a celebration breakfast at the Park Hotel in Frankfurt.
Sadly, popular driver Bernd Rosemeyer was killed later the same day when trying to beat that record for Auto Union. This also put an end to the record attempts of Mercedes, even though Hans Stuck later wanted to beat the overall land speed record with the Porsche-designed Mercedes-Benz T80 which was powered by a 3,000 horsepower (2,200 kW) airplane engine.
- Engine: MD 25 DAB/3 60 Degree V12
- Engine position: Front longitudinal
- Aspiration: Twin Roots superchargers
- Valvetrain: DOHC 4 valves per cylinder
- Displacement: 5,576.75 cc / 340.31 in³ (82.0 x 88.0 mm)
- Compression: 9.17:1
- Power: 541 kW (736 PS; 725 hp) @ 5800 rpm
- Power/displacement 131.97 PS (97.06 kW; 130.16 hp) per litre
- Power/weight: 621.1 PS (456.8 kW; 612.6 hp) per tonne
- Transmission: 4-speed manual
- Engine cooling: Ice supplemented normal coolant as air intakes were kept very small to improve aerodynamic flow over and around the car.
Mercedes-Benz T80 – Mercedes-Benz T80 – 1939
World-renowned German auto racer Hans Stuck‘s pet project was to take the world land speed record and he convinced Mercedes-Benz to build a special racing car for the attempt. Officially sanctioned by Adolf Hitler (a race car fan influenced by Stuck), the project was started in 1937, while the Third Reich was at the height of its powers. Automotive designer Dr. Ferdinand Porsche first targeted a speed of 550 km/h (342 mph), but after George Eyston‘s and John Cobb‘s successful LSR runs of 1938 and 1939 the target speed was raised to 600 km/h (373 mph). By late 1939, when the project was finished, the target speed was a much higher 750 km/h (470 mph). This would also be the first attempt at the absolute land speed record on German soil, Hitler envisioned the T80 as another propaganda triumph of German technological superiority to be witnessed by all the world, courtesy of German television. The same Autobahn course had already been proven ideal for record-breaking in smaller capacity classes, Britain’s Goldie Gardner having exceeded 200 mph (320 km/h) there in a 1,500 cc MG.
The massive 44.5 litre Daimler-Benz DB 603 inverted V12 was selected to power the record-setting car. The engine was an increased displacement derivative of the famous DB-601 aircraft engine that powered the Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter in production at the time, with the DB 603 ending up as the largest displacement inverted V12 aviation engine in production for Germany during the World War II years. The DB-603 fitted was just the third prototype (V3) engine of this variant and tuned up to 3,000 hp (2,200 kW), roughly twice the power of the Bf 109 or the Supermarine Spitfire. The engine ran on a special mixture of methyl alcohol (63%), benzene (16%), ethanol (12%), acetone (4.4%), nitrobenzene (2.2%), avgas (2%), and ether (0.4%) with MW (methanol-water) injection for charge cooling and as an anti-detonant.
The difficulty of the challenge was met with money and engineering genius. By 1939, the T80 was fully completed at a cost of RM 600,000. The car was over 8 meters (26 feet) long, had three axles with two of them driven, weighed over 2.7 metric tons (three short tons), and produced 3,000 hp (2,200 kW) together with the aerodynamics of specialist Josef Mickl to attain a projected speed of 750 km/h (470 mph). Aerodynamically, the T80 incorporated a Porsche-designed enclosed cockpit, low sloping hood, rounded fenders, and elongated tail booms. Midway down the body were two small wings to provide downforce and ensure stability – these wings were inspired by the wings of Opel’s famous rocket cars from 1928. The heavily streamlined twin-tailed body (forming the fairings for each pair of tandem rear wheels) achieved a drag coefficient of 0.18, an astonishingly low figure for any vehicle.
As ambitiously planned, Hans Stuck would have driven the T80 over a special stretch of the Reichsautobahn Berlin — Halle/Leipzig, which passed south of Dessau (now part of the modern A9 Autobahn) between the modern A9 freeway’s exits 11 and 12, which was 25 metres (82 ft) wide and almost 10-kilometre (6.2 mi) long with the median paved over as the Dessauer Rennstrecke (Dessau racetrack). The date was set for the January 1940 “RekordWoche” (Record Week), but the war begun on September 1, 1939 prevented the T80 run. In 1939, the vehicle had been unofficially nicknamed Schwarzer Vogel (Black Bird) by Hitler and was to be painted in German nationalistic colors, complete with German Adler (Eagle) and Hakenkreuz (Swastika), but the event was cancelled and the T80 garaged.