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    The making of the Blue Wonder 2.

    Creating a classic copy: a 1:18 scale model of the 1930s Mercedes-Benz racing car transporter.

Taxi for the Silver Arrows.

'The Silver Arrows are one of the most amazing phenomena ever seen in motor racing.' Albrecht Würschum, Sales Manager at CMC Modelcars, could back up his claim with sales figures of their model range, but there's no need: just a glimpse of the 1:18 scale model of the Mercedes-Benz formula racing car from the 1930s and 1950s – or indeed the actual thing – is more than enough to convince most people.

'The Blue Wonder racing car transporter of the 1950s is a best-seller in our product range,' Würschum adds. 'That's why we've also made its counterpart from the first great age of the Silver Arrows.' Now collectors can provide their W 25, W 125 and W 154 models with a mobile garage, as originally used to transport the winning cars to the Grand Prix circuits and back.


Close-up view of the unfinished loading platform.
The racing car transporter in its good old days.

No surviving original.

CMC Modelcars, which is based in Fellbach, not far from the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center, is one of the world's best known makers of accurate 1:18 scale models of historic cars and as such is an excellent partner for the creation of Mercedes-Benz miniatures. The Mercedes-Benz Classic Archive provides frequent support for CMC and allows the model-makers to take measurements from its original vehicles.

However, one major challenge they faced with the Lo 2750 racing car transporter used by the Mercedes-Benz racing division from 1934 to 1938 was that there is no surviving original vehicle and nor are there any design drawings of it. 'The reconstruction had to be carried out based on old photos and comparable vehicles,' says Werner Junginger, who has been a product developer at CMC Modelcars since 2001.


The reconstruction.

The Mercedes-Benz Classic vehicle collection does in fact include a reconstructed racing car transporter modelled on the original Lo 2750. 'This vehicle actually has a petrol engine and a shorter platform than the racing car transporter of the 30s, but it was still a good guide for us,' says Junginger. The experts at CMC were able to take measurements from an original diesel engine from the period at the Mercedes-Benz museum.

The dimensions of the loading platform and the positions of the spare wheels, the toolbox and the large fuel tank for long non-stop journeys could all be calculated by analysing archive photos. 'The transporters were used with the Silver Arrow W 25, W 125 and W 154 models, as you can see from the photos,' explains Junginger. 'The load area therefore has to be the correct size to be able to accommodate each of these model types.'


The previous reconstructed model was a good guide for the team.
The 3D print model.

Measured, scanned and printed.

Once the measurements have been taken – either by hand or using a scanner, and sometimes supplemented by reconstructions – the quickest and best route to the finished model is via the data highway. Instead of making a master model by hand, the designers now convert their measurements into STL format, which can be sent to a 3D printer. This then produces an initial impression of the whole vehicle in white plastic. After this is checked against the original dimensions, the CAD data for almost every component – and for the Lo 2750 racing car transporter there are no fewer than 2365 individual parts, of which almost 2000 are metal – is sent one part at a time to the production department. Sales manager Albrecht Würschum puts the development costs prior to production at over 300,000 euros.


Around 15 hours of hand craft.

CMC Modelcars operates its own production site in China. Unlike the construction plant, most of the work here is done by hand: the parts are produced at the factory and the models assembled – screwed, clipped, riveted, soldered and glued together. The parts are painted and printed with the relevant designs prior to assembly. It takes a total of around 15 hours to assemble the racing car transporter from the 2365 separate parts.


The Reconstruction requires a lot of handcrafting.
The reconstruced transporter with a racing car on top of it.

Fascination in every detail.

Strictly speaking, the type Lo 2750 Blue Wonder 2 should really be called the Blue Wonder 1, having appeared at least 20 years before the high-speed transporter of 1955. The latter was equipped with a 300 SL engine and remained a one-off production. The racing car transporters from the 1930s often travelled in convoy: Mercedes-Benz fitted out at least seven Lo 2750 vehicles from the Gaggenau plant as racing car transporters. The CMC model, order number M-144, is also available from the Mercedes-Benz Classic store, priced at 719 euros.

Classic Store

  • Placed on shelves: The Oldtimers await their new owners.
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    Mercedes-Benz Classic Center Irvine.

    The road to Irvine – California’s star-studded treasure trove is hard to find.

Adenauer cabriolet.

California’s star-studded treasure trove is hard to find. For the most exclusive Mercedes-Benz classic cars in the USA are well hidden away in an industrial park some 45 minutes south of Los Angeles. Behind the unprepossessing gates lie automotive gems that make any visitor’s eyes pop.

The grey Mercedes-Benz 300, one of the rare “Adenauer cabriolets”, is the most spectacular model to have paid a visit to the Classic Center in recent months. The grey specimen is probably the finest of its kind to be found anywhere in the world. “In the last four years, we’ve painstakingly restored the vehicle,” says Michael Kunz, General Manager of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine.

Extraterrestrial: The gullwing models remind of intergalactic vehicles.
Every car an individual piece with its own story.

Mirror image of progress.

In the late 1950s, the sales brochure for the closed-top 300 model used such slogans as “mirror image of progress” and “island of safety and comfort”. None of that appears an exaggeration even by today’s standards, because the open-top 300 “Adenauer” is a flying carpet, the like of which has scarcely existed even in the history of the automobile. “The owner wishes to remain anonymous,” says Michael Kunz, adding even more suspense to the story. “He has many cars, including a gullwing.”

Highly complex restoration.

The 300 d Cabriolet originates from 1960 and was in a truly pitiable state prior to its restoration. As the original moss green was not to the liking of the present owner, the open-top four-door vehicle was painted grey. “The entire restoration was highly complex. During that time, we learned a great deal about the car and its technology,” admits Kunz.

The Adenauer cabriolet in its whole beauty.
In the showroom there are vehicles of any kind – a paradise for Oldtimer fans.

A paradise for automotive fans.

The location of the star-studded treasure trove is hardly a surprise, because southern California is home to more expensive classic cars worthy of preservation than anywhere else. That was also the thinking of the Daimler management when, in 2005, the decision was made to set up a Classic Center on US soil. Since 2006, wealthy customers have been lining up to bring their historic cars to Irvine for inspection, repair or complete restoration. The showroom itself is enough to send a mild tingle down the spine of most automotive fans.


Absolute gems.

On the immediate left behind the entrance stands a white 560 SL of the R 107 model series from 1987. An absolute gem – in its original condition, of course. The white sun worshipper with beige leather seats is resplendent with its full equipment specification. Welcome to a treasure trove of classic cars! That much becomes apparent to the visitor upon setting eyes on a dark grey Mercedes-Benz 300 S. The mighty cabriolet from 1956 is one of just 49 produced units of the Sc variant with petrol injection. Its key attributes include 175 hp, perfectly restored condition and rare graphite grey paint finish, as well as the grey interior.


Re-varnishing: Grey varnish is supposed to make the vehicle look great again.
A white Mercedes-Benz with opened bonnet.

A gleaming white Mercedes.

The lady behind the decorative reception counter initially leaves the visitor in peace. This is probably not the first time she has seen a visitor's eyes pop on entering the Classic Center. At the rear right of the showroom stands a gleaming white Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9. The windscreen wiper is adorned with a handwritten label: 229 miles – with none of the expected zeros behind the number. The interior is in dark blue leather. Luxury radio, heated seats in front and rear, automatic air conditioning – 'fully loaded', as the Americans say.


'Developed marvellously.'

Unless one is a true automotive aficionado, it is advisable to stay well clear of the Classic Center in Irvine. For the showroom itself boasts only a few vehicles, just those that are for sale. The jewels currently in the process of being restored are parked in the workshops at the back. Michael Kunz has been in charge of the Classic Center since its official opening almost 11 years ago: 'Everything has developed marvellously. Of course, we ourselves weren't sure initially whether customers would take up our offer.'


Placed in shelves: The Oldtimers await their new owners
The inner structure of the dream car.

From all over the USA.

They did – since then, vehicles from all over the USA have been making their way to Orange County, to the south of Los Angeles. Some customers bring in a 'gullwing' for servicing, while others want a dent repairing on their 107 model. Yet others are in search of a suitable retro roadster as a birthday present for their wife. 'We do all the same things that our colleagues at the Classic Center in Fellbach can do,' explains Michael Kunz, 'just on a slightly smaller scale.'


A memento.

The yard at the back of the building is home to the odd Mercedes-Benz 300 TD Turbodiesel of the 123 model series. 'The customer, who lives close to San Francisco, brought the car to us a while ago because he wants to continue using it as an everyday vehicle and it needs a few faults ironing out. The vehicle is still with its first owner and has 230,000 miles on the clock,' adds Kunz. 'The complete repair job, inside and out, with new paintwork and everything finally came to over 40,000 dollars. A lot of money for a car that's actually worth a lot less. Yet the vehicle is quite simply a memento. We have many such customers.'


Often the clients bring their cars to continue using them as their everyday vehicle.
One look under the lifting platform.

Nothing for bargain-hunters.

The Classic Center makes half of its money from the sale of parts. Located in Whatney Avenue in Irvine, the Classic Center currently employs around 20 people, no fewer than eight of them in the workshop. The technicians there can look forward every day to working on gems such as rare 'gullwings' or even racing versions of the 300 SL. 'Most customers come to us with major repairs. The kind of jobs Mercedes-Benz dealers can no longer do,' explains Classic manager Kunz. Just like the vehicles for sale in the showroom, the services of the specialists in the workshop at the Classic Center are nothing for bargain-hunters.


With a three-pointed star.

Such a one is car collector Aaron Weiss, who owns arguably the largest collection of 16-cylinder models in the USA. The fleet of the soon-to-be retiree is currently undergoing a transformation – with help from the Classic Center. The building adjacent to his private collection houses not only majestic 16-cylinder battleships from Marmon and Cadillac from the early 1930s, but also specimens bearing the three-pointed star.


Eight technicians can look forward every day to working with rare .varities of the Mercedes-Benz cars.
The Cabriolet with its blue and white interior.

The Californian's new love.

Here a Mercedes-Benz 380 SLC, there a 'Pagoda' and, on the stage, the Californian's new love: a Mercedes-Benz 290 Cabriolet A from 1936. 'We're in the process of restoring it to its original condition. It comes from Wiesbaden. The previous owner even opted for heated seats because of the cool temperatures there,' says Weiss, shaking his head. The green beauty will soon be finished. At that point, the wife of Aaron Weiss will probably switch to a different Mercedes than her beloved E 320 from 1995.


The appropriate everyday family runabout.

The blue 190 SL might be the appropriate everyday family runabout; it has just returned from an inspection at the Classic Center. Aaron Weiss intends to take it out for a run this very moment – because, in the Californian's opinion, a classic car is not just there to be looked at. So it's fortunate that his five children, too, have slowly acquired a taste for their father's passion. All their first names begin with A – which explains why, when the Weiss family hits the road on a classic trip, they simply call themselves the 'Flying A Garage'.

Contact


An Oldtimer is inspected at the Classic Center Irvine.
Popular
Mercedes Motoring.

Mercedes Motoring restores models from the 70s and 80s.

History.

Once again the trend first started in the USA.

Those wanting to look cool behind the wheel on the West Coast of the USA rarely opt for a new car. More and more drivers are on the road in a recent classic. No wonder that the Mercedes-Benz model series 123, 126 and 107 are sought-after collectors items.

Mercedes Motoring.

Mercedes Motoring in Glendale turns such recent classics into gems fit for everyday motoring.

Mercedes Motoring.

The automotive heart of the American West Coast.

The automotive heart of the American West Coast beats in Burbank, Pasadena or Glendale. Nowhere else in the USA are there as many specialist workshops. Around half an hour’s drive to the north of the suburban sprawl of Los Angeles, accident-damaged cars are turned into classics, hot rods are created and recent classics are brought back to showroom condition.

 

One of these specialists is J. G. Francis, aged just over 40 and decidedly casual in appearance, with a five-day beard, jeans and a vintage shirt. He fell in love with Mercedes-Benz cars just under 15 years ago and ever since has devoted himself to turning older and more recent models bearing the star into sought-after classics. And the customers certainly keep him busy.

Image Gallery.

House number 1721.

The workshop of Mercedes Motoring cannot be found by accident. No sign, no advertisement and not a single classic car even hints at the automotive gems to be found behind the unprepossessing brick facade of the building. Those looking more closely might notice a rusting Mercedes-Benz hub cap to the left above the fading house number 1721.

Mercedes Motoring.
Mercedes Motoring.

Anybody finding this place knows what he has come for.

J.G. Francis and his fellow enthusiasts at Mercedes Motoring are hardly able to cope with the demand for restored classics. They are more artists and conservationists than conventional car tinkerers. “Many cars are already sold before we actually start working on them.”

Anybody finding this place knows what he has come for.

J.G. Francis and his fellow enthusiasts at Mercedes Motoring are hardly able to cope with the demand for restored classics. They are more artists and conservationists than conventional car tinkerers. “Many cars are already sold before we actually start working on them.”

Mercedes Motoring.
Mercedes Motoring.

The business in Glendale.

“The market is becoming more and more crazy,” says J.G. Francis, “and that makes it more of an effort to obtain classic cars.

But fortunately there are still enough out there.” The business in Glendale has little in common with a conventional workshop.

An oversize version.

The office looks like a trendy designer loft, with a clutter of workplaces, kidney-shaped tables and armchairs from the 1950s. Everywhere you look there are historical posters, faded owner’s manuals and small parts lying around. An oversize version of a printer’s letter case not only brings tears to the eyes of Daimler fans.

 

It holds only seemingly forgotten door pins, grab handles, hubcaps and assembly instructions from decades gone by.

Mercedes Motoring
Mercedes Motoring.

The key fobs and badges that once embellished.

Right alongside it is a stack of dozens of old Becker radios, ranging from the Europa and the Nürburg right up to the legendary Grand Prix. The key fobs and badges that once embellished the radiator grilles of cars from all over the world are a show of their own.

The key fobs and badges that once embellished.

Right alongside it is a stack of dozens of old Becker radios, ranging from the Europa and the Nürburg right up to the legendary Grand Prix. The key fobs and badges that once embellished the radiator grilles of cars from all over the world are a show of their own.

Mercedes Motoring.

The high-bay storage warehouse.

The high-bay storage warehouse is home to seats, door panels, carpets and much more besides. Items no longer available elsewhere are obtained from the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, so that the classics are also technically in as-new condition.

Mercedes Motoring.

Most of the cars I buy.

In the workshop itself, the cars are parked so close together that they have to be pulled out by hand, as the doors cannot be opened. J.G. is doing just that with a light-green “Stroke 8” Coupé in order to inspect the interior.

The seats have been completely reupholstered by his employees, and the odometer reading is less than 90,000 miles. “Most of the cars I buy have less than 100,000 miles on the clock,“ he explains as he carefully pushes the venerable Coupé back into place, “a high mileage is something you just can’t remedy.”

Replacement parts are often unavailable.

“And if possible, I avoid buying old classics with a cracked dashboard. Replacement parts are often unavailable, and when they are, they are really expensive.” Francis discovered his taste for Daimler cars almost by accident. “It was quite by chance that I used the 700 dollars I had to buy a 300 SD in the autumn of 2003,” he remembers, “and I spent weeks tinkering with the 300 before it ran properly again.

Mercedes Motoring.

Its seat belt buckle nearly drove me insane. But anyway, that was what inspired me to found Mercedes Motoring.”

Mercedes Motoring.

J.G. has always been a great car enthusiast.

In his home town in Nevada he would spend hours sitting on the saddle of his BMX bike, watching a neighbour who operated a car workshop. After an excursion into the property business, J. G. Francis turned his passion for automobiles into a profession.

Mercedes Motoring.

For usually more than a fistful of dollars.

For usually more than a fistful of dollars, he purchases older and more recent Mercedes-Benz classics – preferably dating from 1968 to 1985 – and sells them on at a healthy profit after extensive restoration work.

It is not the exclusive luxury models that make up the bulk of Mercedes Motoring’s business.

J.G. himself currently drives a 250.

Day-to-day models from the W 108, W 123 and R 107 series stand close together in the confines of the garage. “The roadsters are particularly sought-after,” says J.G., pointing to two models from the late 80s, “each of those is priced at just under 40,000 dollars. But nowadays more and more customers want the 123 series, an old S-Class or a Stroke 8.” J.G. himself currently drives a 250 from the W 123 series.

Mercedes Motoring.

“But I’ve installed a 280 E engine in it. Now it runs much better,” he comments drily. Most customers attach importance to the greatest possible originality, and they are willing to pay accordingly.

Mercedes Motoring.

Now increasingly.

The classics are completely disassembled, then fitted with reconditioned technical components and a freshened-up interior. Commonly seen cars of yesteryear such as the 300 TDT, 250 or the popular luxury model 300 SDL are now increasingly sought-after by customers. More and more companies rent models from the in-house classic fleet for TV productions and photoshoots.

Nothing comes cheap here.

Anybody looking for parts for his own Mercedes-Benz classic is also welcome to pay a visit to Mercedes Motoring. Radiator grilles, sets of wheels or headlamps for the 123 – almost everything is available. But as unassuming as many of the models in the garage might look, nothing comes cheap here.

Mercedes Motoring.

At present the team is giving its attention, among other things, to a beige 300 D dating from 1978, a 1975 “Stroke 8” Coupé in blue metallic and a yellow 300 CD Diesel Coupé. Diesel models are particularly in demand at Mercedes Motoring. The company has another 30 or so cars in stock in various stages of restoration.

Mercedes Motoring.

Most of the vehicles are sold in the USA.

“But again and again we also sell cars to Europe, Asia or, most recently, also to Bahrain,” says the self-made Mercedes-Benz specialist, “the demand is constantly increasing – especially for the 123 series.” Which means that he has to range correspondingly far afield to bring classics to Glendale.

Image Gallery.

Related topics.

Mercedes-Benz: “White elephants”.

Victory march of the “white elephants”.

In the decade before the first Silver Arrows, Mercedes-Benz caused a sensation with its now legendary supercharged sports cars.
Mercedes-Benz: Drawing of powertrain.

Daimler ‘invents’ the supercharger.

The history of the “white elephants” and their racing successes began in 1919. Paul Daimler, the son of company founder Gottlieb Daimler, embarked on initial experiments to raise the output of car engines using superchargers. The technology had its origins in aircraft engine production. At altitude, where there is a shortage of oxygen, superchargers were used to supply sufficient combustion air to the cylinders. On the ground, Daimler hoped that a supercharged engine would result in more efficient combustion of the fuel-air mixture with a consequent increase in output. The first Daimler supercharged models with 1.5-litre and 2.6-litre four-cylinder engines were unveiled in 1921 and went into series production in 1922. The supercharger featured a rotary vane blower of the kind originally conceived by the Roots brothers in the USA in 1860 as a blower for blast furnaces.

Victory thanks to supercharged power.

The forefather of the later victorious vehicles was the six-cylinder Mercedes 24/100/140 PS of 1924, which in 1928 was given the slightly catchier name of Model 630. In the original name, which consisted of three numbers, the first figure stood for the so-called “tax horsepower”, a number that was based only on the tax-relevant displacement and, in this case, meant a value of 6.3 litres. The second number stood for the engine output without supercharger, while the third stood for the hp output with the blower in operation. Rudolf Caracciola (1901-1959, here at the wheel) began his career in the 1.5-litre four-cylinder model and, from 1925 onwards, was also successful in races with the high-displacement six-cylinder models.

Mercedes-Benz: Type 630.

The co-driver's seat was occupied by the approximately ten years older Christian Werner, who celebrated many victories in that era as a successful works racing driver whose most spectacular triumphs included victory in the 1924 Targa Florio.

Mercedes-Benz: Model K.

Shorter, more agile, faster.

The Model 630 was also a touring car, which, with an output of up to 140 hp (when supercharged; the supercharger went into operation whenever the accelerator was fully depressed), was also suitable for use in sporting events. In 1926, the same vehicle served as a basis for the 24/100/140 hp Model K, an especially sporty model that was more clearly cut out for racing, ranking in its day as the world's fastest touring car. While the engine, which came with the complicated name M 9456, had an unchanged displacement of 6.3 litres, the output was raised to up to 160 hp thanks to higher compression and twin-spark ignition. The wheelbase and overall length were shorter, making the car more manoeuvrable.

The ‘K’ in the model designation stood for ‘kurz’ (German for ‘short’) and not for ‘Kompressor’ (German for ‘supercharger’). With a length of 4.74 metres and a total weight of up to 2600 kilograms, the racing tourers required excellent men behind the wheel. Rudolf Caracciola, for over a decade the most successful Mercedes works driver and one of the greatest racing drivers of all time, drove his Mercedes Model K to victory in the touring car class of the 1926 Semmering Race. At that time, following the merger into Daimler-Benz AG in late June 1926, the Model K was already available under the new brand name of Mercedes-Benz.

Mercedes-Benz: Model S.

Drum roll at the Nürburgring.

It was a double premiere: on 19 June 1927, following a two-year construction period, the Nürburgring in the Eifel was inaugurated with a car race. Designed as a “mountainous racing and testing track”, the circuit on non-public roads was 28 kilometres long, packed with curves and gradients and, according to Rudolf Caracciola after his first test drives, “extremely testing”. Mercedes-Benz used the occasion for the first outing of its new supercharged Model S. The name said it all: the S stood for “Sport”.

The Model S.

With its displacement increased to 6.8 litres, the supercharged Model S now boasted an output of 180 hp, the top speed being given as 176 km/h. The starting grid pointed to the differences from the previous model: at the front of the grid were the two new Model S racing tourers of Caracciola (start number 1) and Adolf Rosenberger (start number 2), with a Model K from the previous year behind them. Thanks to its redesigned frame, the Model S had a lower centre of gravity and paved the way for a superb one-two victory, Caracciola finishing ahead of Rosenberger, while von Mosch finished third in a Model K.

Mecedes-Benz: Nürburgring.
Mercedes-Benz: Model S on a mountain road.

The “white elephants”.

The Model S soon acquired for itself the reverential name “white elephant”, which was also given to its later versions. White was the internationally customary racing colour of German manufacturers. The Mercedes-Benz Model S was mightier of stature than its lighter rivals; yet even mightier was the output from its six-cylinder engine. The deafening howl of the superchargers at full speed also helped to impress spectators and competitors alike. Although Grand Prix formula racing existed in the 1920s, its weight and engine-size limits did not suit the Mercedes-Benz racing cars, which weighed over two tonnes. For that reason, the company chose to enter vehicles in the sports and touring car classes. In this era, Mercedes-Benz did not bring out any outright formula racing cars – the Model S and its successors were also available as customer vehicles, albeit with slightly less powerful engines than the works racing cars with their especially large-volume Roots blowers. In August 1927, Rudolf Caracciola in a Model S was also victorious in the Klausen Pass Race in Switzerland.

Mercedes-Benz: Model SS.
Mercedes-Benz: Model SS.

From Sport to Super-Sport.

Just one year after the debut of the Model S, an even more powerful car was entered in the Grand Prix races: the Model SS (“Super-Sport”). Mercedes-Benz had in the meantime introduced model series designations according to the still valid pattern: the Model SS belonged to model series W 06, while the engine went by the name M 06.

Thanks to larger cylinder bores, the displacement grew to 7.1 litres. On 15 July 1928, the new racers with up to 200 hp (the works versions had a supercharged output of up to 250 hp) dominated the German Grand Prix for sports cars. Mercedes-Benz entered five works cars at the Nürburgring, the Model SS finishing first, second and third. The winner was the team of Rudolf Caracciola and Christian Werner, who shared the cockpit in the high-speed race. As was usual in this class of racing, the seat next to the driver was occupied by a mechanic.

Mercedes-Benz: Mountain pass.

Kings of the mountain.

In these years, hill-climb racing was popular with organisers and spectators alike. The routes were seldom longer than 20 kilometres, leading uphill through countless curves and hairpin bends. Famous venues included the Semmering Pass in Austria, the Klausen Pass in Switzerland and the Schauinslandstrasse in Germany. This specialist discipline was regularly plagued by serious accidents.

The SSK’s agility and power made it a versatile car.

Almost contemporaneously with the Model SS, Mercedes-Benz brought out for such races the agile Model SSK (“Super-Sport-Kurz” – Super-Sport-Short), which, while benefiting from the same engine output, was shorter and lighter than the Model SS. In 1928, Rudolf Caracciola won several hill-climb races in the SSK, including on the SSK’s very first outing in the Gabelbach Race on 29 July and in the tradition-steeped Semmering Race on 16 September. The SSK’s agility and power made it a versatile car, Caracciola finishing third in the 1929 Monaco Grand Prix in the racing car class.

Mercedes-Benz: Model SSK.

In 1930, together with Christian Werner, Caracciola was victorious in his class in the Mille Miglia, which started and finished in Brescia.

Mercedes-Benz: Model SSKL.

Finale furioso.

In 1931, the final stage of evolution of the 'white elephants' was unveiled: the Model SSKL ('Super-Sport-Kurz-Leicht' – Super-Sport-Short-Light). While weight-reducing holes on the frame as well as on many vehicle parts lowered the weight of an SSKL to around 1350 kilograms, the output was also raised to up to 300 hp.

Only few units were produced, probably a total of just four. The designation SSKL was not used from the outset, the order books initially referring to the new vehicle as “SSK, Model 1931“.

Mercedes-Benz: SSKL Streamliner.

SSKL Streamliner.

At the wheel of an SSKL, Rudolf Caracciola in 1931 became the first non-Italian to win the overall classification in the Mille Miglia and – as in the year before – he was also European hill-climbing champion. In 1932, Hans Stuck won the Brazilian hill-climbing championship in an SSKL, while Manfred von Brauchitsch triumphed at the wheel of an SSKL Streamliner in the AVUS Race in Berlin in May 1932. The specially streamlined body, designed by the famous aerodynamics engineer Reinhard von Koenig-Fachsenfeld, was produced by the coachbuilder Vetter. In 1932 and 1933, Mercedes decided not to field a works racing team for economic reasons. It was not until 1934 that the company made a return to motor sport – the era of the “Silver Arrows” was to begin.

SSKL Streamliner.

At the wheel of an SSKL, Rudolf Caracciola in 1931 became the first non-Italian to win the overall classification in the Mille Miglia and – as in the year before – he was also European hill-climbing champion. In 1932, Hans Stuck won the Brazilian hill-climbing championship in an SSKL, while Manfred von Brauchitsch triumphed at the wheel of an SSKL Streamliner in the AVUS Race in Berlin in May 1932. The specially streamlined body, designed by the famous aerodynamics engineer Reinhard von Koenig-Fachsenfeld, was produced by the coachbuilder Vetter. In 1932 and 1933, Mercedes decided not to field a works racing team for economic reasons. It was not until 1934 that the company made a return to motor sport – the era of the “Silver Arrows” was to begin.

Mercedes-Benz: SSKL Streamliner.

Photo gallery.

Related topics.

One million kilometres in the 200 D.

Mercedes-Benz engineer Michael Nickl and his W 124.

There are 200 D in better condition.

Most are faster, many better equipped, and the dark-blue W 124 is unlikely to make it to a car museum. There are clear signs of rust on the wheel arches, bonnet and boot lid, and it’ll be at least another five years before the vehicle is eligible for H (“Historic”) number plates. Yet a million kilometres in an everyday car is anything but an everyday achievement.

There are 200 D in better condition.

Most are faster, many better equipped, and the dark-blue W 124 is unlikely to make it to a car museum. There are clear signs of rust on the wheel arches, bonnet and boot lid, and it’ll be at least another five years before the vehicle is eligible for H (“Historic”) number plates. Yet a million kilometres in an everyday car is anything but an everyday achievement.

The sticker with the twelve stars of Europe.

The blue Germany sticker with the twelve stars of Europe next to the right-hand tail lamp has seen better days. Swabian temperature fluctuations have caused fissures in the sticker.

 

At the same time as the EU officially came into being in 1992, the 200 D left the plant in Sindelfingen with Michael Nickl at the wheel. Five years after joining Daimler, the Mercedes-Benz engineer had just taken delivery of his first very own vehicle sporting the Mercedes-Benz star. Having paid for the 200 D by EC card, he showed a special exit pass to the gatekeeper before setting off for his first kilometres on the open road.

 

 

A perusal of the relevant price lists.

When Nickl first fulfilled his dream of car ownership over 25 years ago, the original intention was that this should be nothing more than a one-year intermezzo. Having repaid his student loan to the public purse, the Mercedes-Benz developer, who worked on axle design, finally had enough money for his first automobile.

After a perusal of the relevant price lists, Michael Nickl decided in spring 1992 on a 200 D with a very modest equipment specification. Metallic paintwork, air-conditioner and power windows are just as absent from the spartan interior as leather seats or an automatic transmission.

Mercedes-Benz 200 D (W 124): rear view.

The list of extras is sparse.

Hence, the original manufacturer’s invoice, meticulously archived by Nickl along with all the other documents and invoices, is shorter than those for most other W 124 models of the early nineties. The precise sum of 40,523.81 deutschmarks was enough for a 200 D in timeless standard midnight blue with internal colour code 904 and light-grey fabric interior, colour code 068. The list of extras is sparse, running to not much more than an electric sliding sunroof, rear head restraints, centre armrest, central locking, radio preinstallation (including mechanical aerial) and a five-speed transmission.

Upgraded from 53 kW / 72 hp to 55 kW / 75 hp and 126 Nm peak torque after the facelift including catalytic converter, the rugged OM 601 basic diesel engine was the entry-level variant of the company’s compression-ignition offering, which was crowned by the prestigious 300 D Turbo with its then impressive 147 hp. “The 300 D was too expensive for me and I simply didn’t want a five-cylinder job like the 250 D. So that left the 200 D,” recalls the man from Upper Palatinate. “On 16 July 1992, I picked the car up from the plant in Sindelfingen.”

The prices hit rock bottom.

The original intention was for the dark W 124 to stay for little more than one year with the Daimler man, who at that time worked in axle design in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim and lived nearby. Like many other employees, he then planned to sell his 200 D on the open market. “It was 1993, and there were the first suspicions about diesel particles causing cancer,” recalls Nickl. “The prices for young used cars hit rock bottom. Otherwise, as a company employee, you could sometimes sell it for more then you’d paid new for it. But, as things turned out, I kept it and just carried on driving.” Anyone looking at the 200 D after its almost 25 years of everyday use will soon notice that Michael Nickl is no auto aficionado who spends his every free minute tinkering with his classic car.

Mercedes-Benz 200 D (W 124): On the road.

The dark-blue paintwork has seen better days, and there are only a few places on the body free from rust. “I swapped the four doors years ago for others from the scrapyard,” explains Nickl without emotion. “For me, my car is an object of utility. I rarely wash it.”

Mercedes-Benz 200 D (W 124): In the garage.

We had to have it towed away.

On the other hand, the 55-year-old, now working in Sindelfingen on the GLE complete vehicle, tries to keep the mechanicals up to scratch. Every investment is suitably entered in a spreadsheet. In a quarter of a century, Michael Nickl’s 200 D has been largely spared from major technical problems.

With one exception: with 445,000 kilometres on the clock, on 16 November 2003 it broke down on the motorway near Stuttgart with clutch failure as it was climbing a gradient. “The car got louder and louder, the drive fell away and I finally coasted to a stop,” reminisces Nickl, “we finally had to have it towed away.”

Average consumption over the years.

Otherwise, apart from a cylinder head gasket and the problems with rust, the only parts to have needed replacement are the tyres (now on aluminium wheels), clutch, brakes, alternator and water pump. Ever since the day the vehicle was first registered, Michael Nickl has kept a scrupulous record of his maintenance and diesel costs. Everything is there to see in the meticulously maintained Excel spreadsheets. The current totals stand at 58,563.26 euros for general maintenance and 53,786.28 euros for fuel.

The average consumption over almost 25 years comes to a little over six litres per 100 kilometres. From day one, brisk and breezy driving in the 200 D has been an impossibility. Yet Michael Nickl has long since grown used to the lethargic nature of his diesel: “Today, the trucks steer well clear of me when I join the motorway.” When Nickl moved from Stuttgart to Wildberg near Calw, his annual mileage settled at around 42,000 kilometres.

His colleagues joked that he would never sell his 200 D.

As the years passed, it almost went without saying that Michael Nickl would reach one mileage landmark after another in his W 124. His colleagues joked that he would never sell his 200 D. To begin with, the devoted Mercedes-Benz man aimed to break the 500,000 kilometre mark in his originally owned vehicle. Once he’d done that, his colleagues were already betting on him making it to the million kilometres mark. On one occasion only, it seemed that Michael Nickl might have to bid farewell to his unspectacular dream car.

He had an accident in 2004 when he drove into the back of another car. With the two headlamps, radiator grille and bonnet finding replacements at the local scrapyard, it was just the front bumper that needed buying new. On account of the vehicle’s high mileage, unsuitability for classic-car status and mediocre condition, the insurance company has for years estimated the upper-middleclass saloon to be of almost no value. Nevertheless, just as on day one, the W 124 still benefits from fully comprehensive insurance.

Michael Nickl: “When I enquired and wanted to switch, they told me that third party, fire and theft would cost an extra 80 euros a year – despite the reduced cover. Because my policy was so old.”

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