Mercedes-Benz Classic at the 90th Anniversary of the Mille Miglia

To mark the 90th anniversary of the Mille Miglia, Mercedes-Benz Classic is entering the race with a total of ten vehicles. The classics represent various eras in the involvement of Mercedes-Benz in the road race from Brescia to Rome and back held from 1927 to 1957. This year, the Mille Miglia is taking place from 18 to 21 May in four stages. Mercedes-Benz is again supporting the event as an automotive sponsor. The Mercedes-Benz Mille Miglia Challenge 2017 will be starting ahead of the peloton of classic vehicles. This regularity run for sports cars from the Stuttgart brand will be taking the route and special stages of the Mille Miglia.

Mercedes-Benz and the Mille Miglia stands for many star-studded highlights in racing history. The Stuttgart brand will be calling these to mind in May 2017 with its involvement in the jubilee edition of the 1000-mile race, whose leitmotif is the “magic 7”: In 1927 the Mille Miglia was held for the first time, in 1947 it started up again for the first time after the end of the Second World War, in 1957 it took place as a classic road race for the last time, and in 1977 it was reborn as a historical motorsport event. Since 2012 the automotive club of Brescia has been holding the Mille Miglia through its subsidiary 1000 Miglia Srl. Today the only vehicles allowed to participate are those whose models entered the original road race between 1927 and 1957.

Mercedes-Benz has been involved since 1930, virtually since the first event. Back then factory driver Rudolf Caracciola with his co-driver Christian Werner entered in a Mercedes-Benz SSK (“Super-Sport-Kurz”, (“Super Sport Short”)) and promptly finished in 6th place. One year later Caracciola won the Mille Miglia in 1931 as the first non-Italian driver with his co-pilot Wilhelm Sebastian in a Mercedes-Benz SSKL (“Super-Sport-Kurz-Leicht” (“Super Sport Short Light”)). It is this triumph in the era of the supercharged racing touring cars that is being remembered in 2017 with the participation of a Mercedes-Benz SSK from Mercedes-Benz Classic.
Racing renaissance of 1952.

The Mille Miglia in 1952 was the scene of the first redeveloped competition vehicle from Mercedes-Benz after the Second World War, the 300 SL racing car (W 194). In 2017 it is precisely this vehicle with the chassis number 5 that Mercedes-Benz Classic is sending to the starting line in Brescia, the very model in which Caracciola and Peter Kurrle (starting number 613) finished in 4th place. Their team colleagues Karl Kling and Hans Klenk drove the new 300 SL racing car and finished in 2nd place. At the Mille Miglia 2017 the vehicle will be driven by Mercedes-Benz Motorsport boss Toto Wolff and Aldo Costa, Engineering Director of the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team.

With no less than six 300 SL “Gullwing” (W 198) models Mercedes-Benz Classic is celebrating the outstanding success of the Stuttgart racing team at the Mille Miglia of 1955: back then Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson drove the 300 SLR racing car (W 196 S) to overall victory. And with the standard 300 SL “Gullwing” Mercedes-Benz also dominated the Gran Turismo class over 1300 cc displacement in this successful racing season.

The year 1956 is recalled with two further vehicles from Mercedes-Benz Classic in the peleton of this year’s Mille Miglia: in a Mercedes-Benz 220 a (W 180) Christian Boucke, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic, will be at the wheel together with Bernd Mayländer, regular driver of the Safety Car in the Formula 1 World Championship. In 1956 Erwin Bauer and Erwin Grupp won in their class driving a vehicle of this model. What’s more, the racing version of the Mercedes-Benz 190 SL Roadster (W 121) is taking part in the regularity run on the trail of the road race. Last year a car of this model took part in the modern Mille Miglia for the first time. This has been made possible due to findings from 2015 relating to automotive history. They prove that in the 1956 road race a 190 SL took part (Michel Bianco and Jean Loup Pellecuer, starting number 347).

  • Mercedes-Benz SSK, year of construction 1928, Mille Miglia 2016
    Image© Daimler AG
  • Mercedes-Benz SSK, year of construction 1928, Mille Miglia 2016.
    Image© Daimler AG

Mercedes-Benz Mille Miglia Challenge 2017

The 2017 Mille Miglia will be held from 18 to 21 May in four stages from Brescia to Rome and back. In the tracks of the legendary road race the organisers have chosen a clockwise route: on 18 May the cars start in Brescia and head west, past Lake Garda to Padua. The stage of 19 May then runs south through San Marino and Italy’s hinterland to Rome In the capital the peleton embarks on the third stage on 20 May, northwards to Parma. The fourth and last stage will reach Brescia again on 21 May.

The regularity run through the heart of Italy is one of the most exciting events globally in the automotive classic world. This is down to highlights such as the 2017 Mercedes-Benz Mille Miglia Challenge 2017 as well as the actual competition. This exclusive regularity run is taking place as a reminiscence to the major triumphs of the Mercedes-Benz brand in the competition held from 1927 to 1957.

The participants in the Mercedes-Benz Mille Miglia Challenge will drive ahead of the classic cars on the same route and will subject themselves to the same special stages. Vehicles permitted to take part are Mercedes-Benz SL models of various generations, numerous vehicles from Mercedes-AMG plus models of particular historical value from product history. Registration for the Mercedes-Benz Mille Miglia Challenge is possible until 28 February 2017.

Mercedes-Benz SSK (W 06, 1928)

Of the six-cylinder supercharged sports cars of the Mercedes-Benz S-Series, the SSK (W 06) was the most exclusive and fascinating model. The model designation stood for Super-Sport-Kurz (Super Sport Short) and featured a shorter wheelbase alongside its particular sportiness. In the summer of 1928, works driver Rudolf Caracciola won the Gabelbach Race at the first attempt as well as the races at Schauinsland and Mont Ventoux with the brand-new SSK. In 1930 and 1931, the SSK took him to victory in the European Hill-Climb Championship. The weight-reduced and further modified 1931 version, also known as the SSKL (Super-Sport-Kurz-Leicht – Super Sport Short Light), likewise achieved spectacular successes. Among the most important of these was the victory in the legendary thousand-mile “Mille Miglia” race. In April 1931, Rudolf Caracciola was the first non-Italian to win this demanding road race from Brescia to Rome and back in an SSKL.

Technical data of the Mercedes-Benz SSK (standard-production version)

Production period: 1928-1930
Cylinders: 6/in-line
Displacement: 7065 cc
Output: 125 kW (170 hp), with supercharger 165 kW (225 hp)
Top speed: 192 km/h

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing sports car (W 194, 1952)

When Mercedes-Benz planned to return to motor racing following World War II, sports racing cars were initially the only consideration. This was due to the fact that a new rule was announced for 1954, and the limited resources prevented previous development of a Grand Prix car based on the old formula. The new 300 SL racing sports car (W 194) used many existing components such as axles, transmission and engine from the prestigious Mercedes-Benz 300 (W 186) Saloon. A brand-new innovation was the extremely light yet rigid space frame, enveloped by an elegantly arched, streamlined body made of aluminium- magnesium sheet metal. Because the space frame was built relatively high on the sides, the racing sports car was fitted with the characteristic gullwing doors, which were hinged at the roof. The car was powered by a 129 kW (175 hp) M 194 in-line six-cylinder engine with a displacement of 2996 cubic centimetres. Among the major racing successes were the one-two-three victory at the Grand Prix of Bern (Switzerland), the spectacular one-two victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (France) and at the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico as well as the top four places in the “Nürburgring Jubilee Grand Prix”.

Technical data for the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL sports racing car (W 194)

In use: 1952
Cylinders: 6/in-line
Displacement: 2996 cc
Output: 129 kW (175 hp)
Top speed: 240 km/h

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL “Gullwing” (W 198), 1954-1957)

In February 1954, the 300 SL standard-production sports car (W 198) celebrated its world premiere at the International Motor Sport Show in New York. The coupé was referred to as the “Gullwing” owing to the roof-mounted doors resembling a gull’s wings. The high-performance sports car was based on the legendary 300 SL racing car (W 194) from the 1952 season. It was the first standard-production car with a four-stroke petrol injection engine. With an output of 158 kW (215 hp) – a good 20 percent more than the carburettor-fed racing version of 1952 – the W 198 was in the top echelon of standard-production sports cars in its day, which also made it predestined for racing. Various suspension setups and final drive ratios were optionally available for racing purposes, allowing top speeds between around 225 km/h and 250 km/h. One legendary triumph was the triple class victory of the 300 SL standard-production sports car in the 1955 Mille Miglia. John Cooper Fitch achieved fifth place in the overall ranking in his car bearing starting number 417, heading the class for standard-production sports cars above 1.3 litres. Between 1954 and 1957, a total of 1400 units of the 300 SL “Gullwing” were produced, no fewer than 867 of them in the year of the Mille Miglia victory in 1955.

Technical data of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL “Gullwing”

Production period: 1954-1957
Cylinders: 6/in-line
Displacement: 2996 cc
Output: 158 kW (215 hp)
Top speed: up to 250 km/h
Mercedes-Benz 190 SL (W 121, 1955-1963)

In 1954, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the elegant, compact roadster 190 SL (W 121). It was conceived as a sports car “which, due to its high standard of comfort, [is] intended for a group of buyers wishing to cover even long distances at high cruising speeds in this vehicle of highly sporty outer appearance,” as designer Josef Müller retrospectively described the vehicle in 1957. Designed by Karl Wilfert and Walter Häcker, the sportily elegant two-seater touring and utility vehicle was closely based at a stylistic level on the 300 SL “Gullwing” sports car (W 198), which was initially available only as a coupé. The roadster, for its part, was more closely related at a technical level to the Mercedes-Benz 180 “Ponton” saloon (W 120), using the latter’s shortened floor assembly. The 1.9-litre petrol engine rated at 77 kW (105 hp) was newly developed. The four-cylinder power unit featured an overhead camshaft and was to found an entire family of engines. The 1956 Mille Miglia was contested by the French team of Michel Bianco/Jean Loup Pellecuer in a 190 SL (starting number 347). This is confirmed by documents in the archives of Mercedes-Benz Classic and in the Museo Mille Miglia in Brescia. This fact, discovered in 2015, now makes the 190 SL Roadster, which is popular among collectors, eligible for the Mille Miglia. A total of 25,881 units of this model were built, some 18,000 of them going to the USA.

Technical data of the Mercedes-Benz 190 SL (standard-production version)

Production period: 1955-1963
Cylinders: 4/in-line
Displacement: 1897 cc
Output: 77 kW (105 hp)
Top speed: up to 180 km/h
Mercedes-Benz 220 a (W 180, 1954-1956)

Unveiled in spring 1954, the 220, also called the 220 a (W 180) internally, was the first Mercedes-Benz six-cylinder model with a self-supporting design. Its modern, spacious “Ponton” body, which Mercedes-Benz had unveiled six months earlier in the mid-size model, offered previously unknown spaciousness and comfort. A single-joint swing axle, which had been introduced into standard production with the 220, ensured safe handling. Several Mercedes-Benz 220s participated in the 1956 Mille Miglia in the class of standard-production special touring cars. In this class, the vehicle chassis and engine could be modified. The Erwin Bauer/Erwin Grupp team won its class in the legendary Italian road race in a special 220: in the racing division headed by Karl Kling, three vehicles were prepared specifically for the Mille Miglia. They were already equipped with the twin-carburettor system of the 220 S successor model, with which the engine developed approximately 85 kW (115 hp). Shorter and harder springs as well as modified shock absorbers were fitted for sporty driving. In addition, the driver could change gears via a floor shift, as in the 190 SL – instead of the otherwise fitted column shift.

Technical data of the Mercedes-Benz 220 a (standard-production version)

Production period: 1954–1956
Cylinders: 6/in-line
Displacement: 2195 cc
Output: 63 kW (85 hp)
Top speed: 150 km/h

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