S celebrates its birthday.
If only every ninety-year-old could enjoy such a lively birthday party. Its name is short and sweet: S. Once preceded by the name Mercedes-Benz, everything immediately becomes clear: in 1927, the brand launched its new sporty top-of-the-range model, the S. It was the first of a series of supercharged vehicles, known as 'White Elephants', that dominated the racing scene of the late 1920s and went on to achieve worldwide fame. White because that was the racing colour of Germany at the time, before it was superseded by silver in 1934.
A super-blockbuster both in 1927 and today: Mercedes-Benz S Model.
Six cylinder with compressor.
A further analogy with the pachyderm was the enormous size of the S Model, which, when let loose, stormed off so mightily that it was better not to stand in its way – certainly not once a trumpeting sound was added to the engine noise from the six-cylinder machine. For this meant that the driver had floored the accelerator to activate the supercharger, which supplied extra power for added acceleration. With the supercharger in operation, the 6.8-litre engine delivered 132 kW (180 hp). In 1927, that was really something: the Mercedes-Benz S Model was quite simply a super-blockbuster. And so it went from victory to victory at international races.
11.7 kilometres of finest racetrack.
A similar blockbuster is Solitude Revival 2017 – a very special festival of old motor vehicles and, more particularly, those with links to racing. 'We present historical heritage on a historic circuit,' bellows the voice through the loudspeaker system. Experts refer to the circuit on the outskirts of Stuttgart quite simply as 'Solitude', the name of the nearby Württemberg palace. From 1903 onwards, Solitude first hosted motorcycle races, with car racing being added later. After the Second World War, the circuit even welcomed Formula One with all its international flair. In 1965, things then came to an end – to the great regret of many racing fans. Solitude Revival brings the great days of yesteryear back to life in a fun atmosphere – on the original, last-used circuit, which is 11.7 kilometres in length and is now open to historical racing vehicles from various eras.
Well equipped: the interior of type S.
Defying the lateral forces: the bulky Mercedes-Benz takes on the field.
At 120 km/h in the wind.
The airstream is completely unhindered as it flows into the faces of both driver and front passenger. That's what it feels like to drive at 120 km/h au naturel. The wind bites and it roars. Of course, both occupants are wearing helmets. But the windscreen is down, as was usual in former times, in order to minimise the air resistance. Jochen Mass works his way through the gears of the S Model. Is he in awe of the almost 90-year-old car? 'Of course,' he yells amid the roar, 'you need to drive with plenty of feeling and also respect. Yet it is and remains a vehicle that demands to be moved.' Whereupon he floors the accelerator to activate the supercharger along with its distinctive howl.
It isn't as if the high-performance car was going slowly before, but a spot of extra speed is still possible through the wide curves as we head back towards the start-finish straight. The former Formula One pilot and Le Mans winner steps up the pace a little at this point – while staying well away from any limit, for the benefit of both vehicle and passengers. Even so, the front passenger holds tight, and the cameraman on the back seat fights bravely against the considerable lateral forces while still shooting some thrilling photos.
At 120 km/h in the wind.
Historical Motorsport at the Solitude Revival 2017.
Fast and accurate steering.
Mass appears almost relaxed as he sits behind the huge steering wheel and operates the long gear lever. Yet this is genuine sport, for it takes considerable strength to steer the heavy racing tourer safely and smoothly through all the bends and curves. But Mass is enough of a professional to concentrate fully on everything that is happening at all times. Which is just as well, for the racetrack is also home to other competitors. And although they are all civilised in their driving styles, they sometimes play things a little too close for comfort. Such as at this tight corner, which is designed to force a reduction in speed.
An old hand at the wheel.
Everything is going well – until perhaps two or three racers too many have overtaken the massive S Model and positioned themselves in front of it. Our stopping distance becomes tight. But Mass doesn't hesitate even a tenth of a second, employing fast and accurate turns of the steering wheel to navigate his way through the only available, very narrow gap before smoothly rejoining the field in his White Elephant. How fortunate we are to have an old hand at the wheel.
Old hand at the wheel: the 'White Elephant' is piloted by former Formula One racing driver and Le Mans winner Jochen Mass.
Right at the front: then as now, the Mercedes star is a symbol of timeless beauty.
'Around Solitude' 1927.
The Mercedes-Benz S Model made its racing debut in June 1927 at the Nürburgring. At the inaugural race on the circuit in the Eifel region of Germany, the car took the first two places. Soon afterwards, it gave another thrilling performance on home ground in Stuttgart: in the 'Around Solitude' race on 18 September 1927, Otto Merz won the class for racing cars over three litres displacement, with Willy Walb being triumphant in the class for sports cars over five litres. This feat is celebrated at Solitude Revival 2017. While the other vehicles may be younger and faster, 'our' S Model, produced in 1928, despite being the oldest in the field, is still a robust competitor. On the challenging circuit, no hill is too steep for it, no bend too tight.
Care and safety are essential.
It doesn't go without saying. Because careful maintenance and expert conservation are needed before this icon in the history of technology is able to compete so actively in its former domain. This is made possible by the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center with its excellent mechanics. Michael Plag has been one of them for many years. He gives the S Model a thorough check during a break at the Solitude track. 'Everything in order,' he reports with satisfaction, taking another look at the brakes. 'Alongside the steering and the wheels, the brakes are most important when it comes to safety, and we don't accept any compromises on that front.' These parts must always be in absolutely tip-top condition. 'To avoid taking any risk whatsoever, we'd rather replace a component earlier than planned.' A good strategy, as evidenced by the minor incident we just witnessed out on the circuit.
Careful maintenance is a must: Michael Plag gives the S Model a check.
Sought-after signature: Dieter Glemser is happy to sign autographs for the fans.
Race drivers delight fans.
In addition to Jochen Mass, Mercedes-Benz Classic is represented by two other brand ambassadors: Dieter Glemser and Hans Herrmann. Herrmann still holds the lap record: 'On 12 October 1953, this same circuit, which has now been brought back to life for Solitude Revival, was the one on which I set the fastest lap in the 300 SL racing car during practice and training: 4 minutes and 52 seconds for the 11.7 kilometres,' recounts Hermann. 'I was faster than considerably more experienced drivers. That's what finally enabled me to be included in the Silver Arrows works team for the 1954 season.' The then racing manager Alfred Neubauer commented on that brilliant performance as follows: 'One of the surprises was the performance by our young driver Hans Herrmann, who was the only one to go under the five minutes mark and beat the official lap record set by motorcyclist Kavanagh.'
Red showpiece at the entrance.
Solitude Revival also acknowledges this exceptional driving feat by Stuttgart racing driver Hans Herrmann. Mercedes-Benz has close links with this circuit and, as a sponsor of this classic car event, is also responsible for safety: racing driver Jan Seyffarth is at the wheel of an original DTM safety car from the Mercedes-AMG GT model family (combined fuel consumption: 11.4-9.3 l/100 km, combined CO2 emissions: 259-216 g/km*). AMG, the performance brand, this year celebrates its fiftieth anniversary and has brought with it, among others, an authentic replica of the famous AMG 300 SEL 6.8 racing car from 1971, which shone in that year's 24-Hour Race in Spa-Francorchamps and catapulted AMG into the headlines.
The impressive red showpiece welcomes visitors directly as they enter the Solitude grounds. Also represented is ALL TIME STARS, the vehicle trading platform of Mercedes-Benz Classic, which presents a rare 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II as well as an SL and an SLK sports car – all three in excellent condition, making them mouthwatering prospects for any collector.
Further information about the purchase of the vehicle can be found here.
Back at work at Solitude: original DTM safety car – from Mercedes-AMG, with Jan Seyffarth on the steering wheel.
Over ten thousand spectators.
Countless classic cars, engine noise, the smell of petrol and, above all, lots of historical motor sport feeling for the over 300 competitors and more than ten thousand spectators during the two and a half days: that's Solitude Revival. Standing side-by-side, fans line the track. In the paddock, they even come into close contact with the famous vehicles and drivers. Of course, other brands are also present, such as Porsche, which is likewise represented by various sports cars and racers. The event is currently held every two years. For those unable or unwilling to wait so long to see the iconic Mercedes-Benz S Model in action again, there are the Classic Days Schloss Dyck from 4 to 6 August 2017, featuring the SS and SSK, which evolved from the S Model in 1928. Auf Wiedersehen in the Rhineland.