Mercedes W 196 Silver Arrow, 1954/55

 © Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Traffic & Transport
Road Traffic
1950 - 1959
A streamlined racing car with an eventful history: the Mercedes Silver Arrow was a close symbiosis of technical know-how and successful marketing.

The name Silver Arrow is already the stuff of legends. Mercedes racing manager Alfred Neubauer tells the story that, in 1934, the W 25 racing car weighed 1 kg more than was allowed during scrutineering on the eve of the race. So the mechanics set about scraping all the white paint from the bodywork, exposing the shining aluminium underneath: thus, legend has it, the nickname Silver Arrow was born.

However it is thought that Mercedes had adopted the silver colour from its rival. The Auto-Union racing car designed by Ferdinand Porsche was also silver. From 1934 to the start of World War II Auto-Union and Mercedes dominated international motor racing. Nazi propaganda celebrated the silver vehicles as “miracles of technology”, proclaiming the drivers as national heroes.

After World War II Mercedes returned to Grand Prix racing in 1954 with the W 196 racing car model. The in-line eight cylinder engine with a 2.5 litre capacity featured two overhead camshafts and desmodromic valves. Direct fuel injection helped boost the output, at around 260 - 280 bhp. The fuel itself was a special mix and engine consumption was in excess of 35 litres per 100 km.

The streamlined bodywork increased the maximum speed to over 300 km/h. The lower air resistance meant that the racing car performed better on fast circuits. But on twistier tracks even good drivers were soon struggling not to impact the track barriers. So Mercedes opted to use different bodyworks depending on the race: the more nimble monoposto with exposed wheels for winding circuits, and the elegant streamlined finish for faster circuits.

The Silver Arrow on show at the Technisches Museum Wien (Vienna Technical Museum) was driven mainly by Stirling Moss.

Inv.Nr. 16798

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