THE 1.7-LITRE MERCEDES-BENZ TESTED AT THE NORBURG RING
A CONTINENTAL SPORTS CAR
IN a few days’ time the vast Berlin Motor Show, which will be fully reported in the next issue, will be opening, and the moment is not inopportune to review the performance of one of the few German open sports-cars, the 1.7-litre roadster Mercedes-Benz.
It is curious that, in a country where the greatest interest is taken in the production of racing-ears, so few sports models should be extant. Even the 1.7litre Mercedes, the subject of the present test, is not a sports model in the sense that the old and beloved ” SSK was. But, without going into the definition of a sports model for cars of the type of the ” SSK ” are few and far between—the roadster 1.7-litre ” Mere” has at all events a sports body, which is sufficiently rare among German cars to merit interest. In this country the term ” roadster,” borrowed from the U.S.A., is becoming accepted for a model with an opening hood covering the front seats only. The front seat usually accommodates three abreast, while at the rear there is a folding dickey-seat for two more
passengers. Winding glass windows in the doors of the front compartment are also usually implied by the term, while the hood may or may not be of padded, drophead coupe sty le. The roadster 1.7-litre l?Iercedes fulfils all these qualifications, except that it has not got winding glass windows, but may be equipped with detachable side
curtains. This feature distinguishes the model from the numerous eabriolet and drophe ad. toitp6 bodies which fl E• so popular on the Continent, and enhances its claim to be termed a sportwagen.
The body, with its rounded, streamlined tail, in which the folding dickeyseat is neatly enclosed, certainly lends itself for sports work, while there is a fold-forward screen of the usual sports pattern. The hood also, of non-padded type, folds away behind the front seats, where it is completely concealed. The car is also interesting as embodying the X-shaped tubular frame which was developed by the Grand Prix racing models. The four-cylinder engine, with bore and stroke 73.5 x100 mm., giving 1,607 c.c., is carried in the front portion of the X, and the tubular side-members are then swept sharply in, crud form fashion, to be joined by a welded steel plate in the centre before sweeping out
again at the rear. All four wheels are independently sprung, at the front by transverse leaf springs, and at the rear by coil springs.
The model was tested in Germany, and my friend, who arrived with the car., knowing the English love of der SPOri, had the screen folded flat. It therefore became necessary for me to buy some goggles, as we intended to do some fast driving, being quite near the Niirburg Ring.
Arriving at the track, we lost no time in setting out for a lap. The independent springing of the car and its rigid frame gave it excellent cornering, and, as I knew the circuit reasonably well—though wily ‘• reasonably,” for one could drive round the innumerable curves and twists of the Ring for weeks on end before claiming complete knowledge of what was ahead round the next bend—we got along in style. Half way round the circuit we met another friend in a much bigger Mercedes, with touring saloon body, and gave chase. Our light, little car, open to the fresh air, was more suited for fund cornering, and, with a great broadside, at the Aremberg turn, we managed to pass our bigger rival, amid much cheering from the occupants of the saloon. Giving the car its head down the slope of the Puchsrahre„ we attained just over 80 m.p.h., although this is not the true speed of the 1.7-litre model on the level,
as vill be described later. However, the .engine, turning over at about 4,400 r.p.m., was quite happy even above its customary limits. On the long trying slopes up from Adenau, the car showed fine pulling power on third gear. The Grand Prix modds flash up this long. gradual rise without noticing it, but it is a good touring car
indeed which can keep up any speed over this section. Many are brought down to second gear. Arriving at the banked Karnssell hairpin, we dipped down onto the con
crete ” ditch ” on the inside. I was too busy dicing at the wheel to look at the instrument board, bat my friend informed me that we had got round at 43 m.p.h.
On the tricky, downhill section that follows the steep rise from the Kartissell to Hobe Acht, through the desperate corners of Vipperman and the Briinuchen, and the banked Swallow Tail hairpin, the brakes stood us in good stead. They are of the hydraulic pattern, smooth and powerful.
Travelling along the h,une straight, one half expected to jump at the bridges, haying watched the (‘,rand Prix models in action, but as our speed was less than half theirs, at something over 70 m.p.h., all the wheels naturally stayed on the ground. We completed the lap, consulted our stopwatch, and found that we had averaged approximately 43 m.p.h. This sounds slow, compared with the speeds of racing-cars, but, nevertheless, the car had done well round one of the most tricky circuits in Europe.
Its maximum speed, which we afterwards clocked over a measured kilometre on an autobahn to be 71.24 m.p.h., is not really high, and an average of 43 m.p.h. was due very largely to the way it stuck to the corners, and corrected easily from any skids which occurred.
It was on the autobahn that we could test the staying capabilities of the model, which on most Continental cars are considered more highly than maximum speed. According to list the “autobahn speed” of the car is said to be oo m.p.h., but this seems conservative, as we drove it at 70 m.p.h. for mile after mile without any signs of overheating or fuss and bother. ‘When driving a car of this type on an autobahn, there is a tendency to rest the throttle foot comfortably on the floorboards. It may be possible to overdrive the car in top gear, but it is diffi cult to see how. The exhaust v;:tlyes,
incidentally, have seatings of a special metal shrunk into the head, in order to assist durability.
Before leaving the vicinity of the Niirburg Ring, we had carried out several other tests of varying natures. Inside the course there is a narrow, winding track leading up to the outside of the Karussell hairpin. This path, which has a loose, dirt surface, with numerous cross-gullies, would in winter be a veritable trials hill, and has at least half a dozen acute hairpins, on all of which, driving other cars with less generous steering lock, I have had to reverse on occasion.
On the 1.7-litre Mercedes we blotted our escutcheon once, on the first and sharpest hairpin of all, but got round all the others without difficulty. Annoyed at having to reverse at all, we descended the hill and tried again. This time we managed it without even running up the bank, by means of a different angle of approach, and then resolved to get round in one going down, which was far more difficult. Going down it was not pOssible to skid the wheels round, while on the outside of the hairpin was a steep and precipitous slope, to overrun which would have meant disaster. It took u8 several efforts, but in the end we managed it, with about a foot to spare. A steering lock like this, for which one has again to thank the independent front suspension layout, is a great blessing for ordinary touring work. On another rough track outside the circuit, we made a trip with three people in the front seat, and even on the most pot-holed surface the all-independent springing was up to its work. It would be interesting to see one of these cars in an English trial, as the suspension and the pulling powers would prove a big advantage. The ground clearance is
8 in., the wheelbase 9 ft. 4 in., and the track 4 ft. 4 in. The overdrive gearbox has been discontinued on these models, and the four matically controlled heating for the induction pipe. It was noticeable, however, that the car started from cold very easily, and could be diiven away at once, if need be, without a period of
speed box has synchromesh on third and top gears, with a pleasant, quick change on all ratios. At the time of the test the weather was warm, and thus one had no opportunity to appreciate the latest system of auto
warming up. Fuel consumption worked out at about 28 m.p.g.
The roadster, of the type known as the Type 170V, to distinguish it from the Type 170H, or rear-engined car, costs in this country L525.
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