Rudolf Caracciola is the most successful German racing driver of the 1930s: amongst other titles, he claimed three European Championships at the wheel of Mercedes-Benz racing cars.
Caracciola also set numerous records: in January 1938, he reached the incredible speed of 432.7 km/h at record-breaking attempts on the motorway.
Discover numerous fascinating stories from the career of this exceptional sportsman at the Mercedes-Benz Museum. Let’s go and hunt for some clues!
Contemplative, successful driver: Rudolf Caracciola was not a daredevil, but someone who linked his driving abilities to accurate analyses. Major accidents were nevertheless part of his career. However, he survived them all – unlike many of his fellow racing drivers.
Pit stop with muscle power: Rudolf Caracciola's SSKL being lifted up with the racing jack at preparations for the race.
What if the cars in which Caracciola raced and images from his life merged into one? The photomontages on this page bring together history and the exhibition, thus making the correlation between images tangible. For instance, in Legends 3: Times of Change – Diesel and Supercharger, 1914 to 1945. This is where the standard version of the Mercedes-Benz SSK is on show.
It formed part of the range of famous compressor vehicles K, S, SS and SSK. Caracciola celebrated great success at the wheel of the racing versions. His victory at the 1931 Mille Miglia in Italy with the SSKL was a legendary feat – he was the first non-Italian racing driver to claim the title.
It goes without saying that Rudolf Caracciola also plays a part in the banked curve at Legends 7: Silver Arrows – Races and Records. All in all, his career covered over three eras of motorsport at Mercedes-Benz.
He celebrated his first victories at the wheel of 1920s compressor vehicles. In the 1930s, he became the big star of the first Silver Arrow generation. He experienced Mercedes-Benz’s return to racing after the Second World War at the wheel of the 300 SL racing car (W 194).
The W 25 – introduced in 1934 – is on the very inside of the museum’s racing turn: powerful and with an aggressive stance, as if it is aiming to overtake the other vehicles on the track in fiercely fought duels.
It was the first ever Silver Arrow. All that’s missing is Caracciola, the racing driver who was born in Remagen in 1901.
Masterful: In 1938 Rudolf Caracciola claimed his third European Grand Prix Championship title with Mercedes-Benz (on the left). Trophies and racing driver outfits in the museum's Legends 7 exhibition space showcase the brand's unique motorsport success story.
Caracciola won the European Grand Prix Championship for the first time in 1935, claiming two further championship titles in 1937 and 1938. These titles are comparable to today’s Formula 1 Championship.
The display case in Legends 7, containing numerous trophies won by Mercedes-Benz racing drivers, bears witness to the many victories during this era and beyond. These also include trophies Rudolf Caracciola won.
The W 25 propelled Rudolf Caracciola to his first championship. Its power unit, the M 25 six-cylinder inline engine, was continuously developed until 1936, ultimately reaching a peak output of up to 363 kW (494 PS).
The mighty assembly indicates its full potential from its display case – just as if it were to spring to life again at any second.
All of Caracciola’s Silver Arrows are on display along the banked curve: the W 25 (1934 to 1936), W 125 (1937) and W 154 (1938 to 1939). A W 165 is also amongst the exhibits. At the wheel of the 1.5-litre racing car, a vehicle that was built to compete in a single race, Caracciola finished as the runner-up at the Tripoli Grand Prix – only beaten by his teammate Hermann Lang.
From Bern to Mexico: in 1952 Caracciola started at the Mille Miglia and the Bern Grand Prix in the 300 SL racing car – this black-and-white portrait was taken at the race in Switzerland.
However, his automotive biography would be incomplete without the racing car in the top left of the banked curve. In 1952 the brand celebrated its return to motorsport after the Second World War with the 300 SL (W 194), and Rudolf Caracciola was there in the thick of the fight.
With his co-driver Paul Kurrle they claimed fourth place at the Mille Miglia. The Bern Grand Prix that same year was his last race. He quit following a severe accident.
Here he has been combined with the exhibit at the Mercedes-Benz Museum – the racing car version that was used at the Carrera Panamericana with the infamous guard to protect from collisions with vultures.
It’s not only the successful racing cars and legendary record-breaking vehicles, such as the 1938 W 125 twelve-cylinder record-breaking car, that keep the spirit of Rudolf Caracciola alive at the Mercedes-Benz Museum. It’s also the small details that bring the high-speed working environment of the racing driver who passed away in 1959 to life.
For instance, Caracciola’s protective goggles: they are on show in a display case opposite the banked curve in the Legends 7 exhibition space – together with an overall used at the time, the linen cap and light gloves typical of the era.
Damage to the right lens shows just how important the goggles are – the crack was probably caused by a tiny stone that had been whirled up from the carriageway.
Goggles and cap: Rudolf Caracciola with racing drivers’ typical protective equipment in the 1930s. The photograph depicts him after his victory at the Tripoli Grand Prix on 12 May 1935. On the right, his racing goggles on display at the Mercedes-Benz Museum.
Stimulus: the W 125 twelve-cylinder record-breaking vehicle is reminiscent of Caracciola’s record that almost stood for eternity.
The brand’s famous record-breaking vehicles are on show along a severely banked turn at the Mercedes-Benz Museum. Racing at the very front of the pack: the record-breaking W 125 twelve-cylinder car in which Caracciola achieved his legendary record in 1938. Back then, racing mechanics pushed him to the starting line on the motorway. It took until November 2017 – almost 80 years later – until the record for highest ever top speed on a public road of 432.7 km/h was broken.
Hunt around for the clues in the Mercedes-Benz Museum and discover the fascinating automotive history.