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Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Mille Miglia - last drive before the museum

Hardy Mutschler
Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Mille Miglia
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A ls the Japanese motorcycle giant Honda Mitte presented the RC 166 in the 1960s, a 250cc GP racing machine with six cylinders and a hair-raising sound, some said that the engineers in Hamamatsu first came up with a sound - and then a machine that could produce it.

No other engine sounds as nasty as that of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR

It had to be like this a decade before in Stuttgart- Untertürkheim. “No other engine sounds as nasty as that of the 300 SLR,” says Stirling Moss, and the Briton is not entirely wrong: What the in-line eight-cylinder roars from the two thick exhaust pipes on the right-hand side of the body can knot the entrails of inexperienced listeners.

The announcement of the eight explosion chambers is clear: No, we didn't come here to play. Nobody would have expected that when the Mercedes mechanics pushed four 300 SLRs gleaming silver in the sun on April 30, 1955, for vehicle inspection at the Mille Miglia in Brescia. The Stuttgart-based company had already driven the competition in the premier class to the ground last year with the new W 196 R - and what the inspection officers now saw under the long bonnets looked suspiciously like the successful Formula 1 technology.

The engine of the 300 SLR consists of two coupled four-cylinders

In fact, the 300 SLR is a Formula 1 monoposto that has been redesigned into a sports car, and that too the internal type designation W 196 S clarifies (R stands for racing car, S for sports car). For this purpose, the tubular space frame was expanded in the middle and the engine, which is now completely cast from light metal, was enlarged from 2.5 to three liters. The principle of the ingenious power source, however, remained the same: an eight-cylinder in-line consisting of two coupled four-cylinder blocks with power take-off in the middle of the engine and force-controlled valves.

The increase in displacement increased the power to 302 hp at 7,500 tours. Hans Herrmann, Karl Kling, Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio, who had won his second world championship crown for Mercedes in 1954 and was now heading for the third title, were signed up as drivers. But as unreachable as the Argentine was for everyone else in a Formula 1: In the sports car he had to bow to Stirling Moss. This stormed, led byBritish journalist Denis Jenkinson, with inimitable elegance through Italy, took the lead from Rome (where the Ferrari troop had long since dismantled itself) and thundered through the finish line half an hour before Fangio.

New record for the mercedes 300 SLR: almost 10 hours for 1,606 km

The clock showed 5.29 p.m., minus the start time of 7.22 a.m. - hence the start number 722 - resulted in a journey of ten hours, seven minutes and 48 seconds for the 1,606 kilometers, an average of 157.6 km /h. New record. And one for eternity, because after a terrible accident in 1957 there was no more Mille Miglia. So it's no wonder that Moss gives his SLR, which has long been nicknamed the 722, with a particularly loving look at every encounter.

'It is unique, I am always happy to drive it,' he said when he got behind the wooden steering wheel at this year's Mille Miglia storico. After a lap of honor through Brescia, the 75-year-old handed over to Jochen Mass for health reasons, who once again chased the Silver Arrow over the Futa Pass with the suction throats so wide that the leaves fell from the trees. It should be the last appearance of the 722 for a long time, after all, it is one of the stars of the new museum, and it is mounted in a steep curve that is difficult to move.

But first some sound technicians take care of it in order to capture the expressions of life of the eight-cylinder on the approach lane in Untertürkheim. And on the occasion, Motor Klassik can also do a few farewell laps. “Don't let the clutch slip”, warns Mercedes man Gert Straub and gives me a clap on the shoulder: “Have fun.” Thank you, but first I have to get used to the strange seating position: The legs are spread wide from the high transmission tunnel, Left clutch, right brake and accelerator, I can only reach the steering wheel with outstretched arms.

The Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR is (not only) an acoustic cultural asset

The irritation fades the moment the fabulous engine ignites and stand up all the hair on the back of your neck. This rumble, which increases to an unbelievably loud and unbelievably evil acoustic inferno with the slightest step on the gas pedal, knows only one direction: forward, as fast as possible. The forward thrust at full combustion pressure is breathtaking, half a century ago it could hardly be compared with any other earthbound vehicle: if a modern Mercedes is electronically limited, the SLR can increase 50 speed units.

Nevertheless, the rear does not wedge even when accelerating hard on the undulating slope, the rear axle gently wanders towards the exit of the curve. The steering is extremely precise, and the two-seater makes an extremely light-footed impression despite its size. TheDrum brakes are supported by a servo depending on the speed - luckily for Stirling Moss, who in 1955 only braked with metal on metal well before the finish line. The driving pleasure ends far too early. One last throttle for the microphones, one last goose bumps, then it's quiet. Fortunately not forever: In the new museum, visitors will be able to access the sound of the Mille Miglia winner at any time. As an acoustic cultural asset, so to speak.


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