Mercedes-Benz’s historic car section has found itself in a pickle in recent months, trying to identify the precise shade of bright blue which was worn by its works team’s famous high-speed transporter during its brief reign in 1955.
This magnificent special was built largely at the behest of racing director Alfred Neubauer and development engineer Rudi Uhlenhaut, and was powered by a slightly detuned fuel-injected 300SL six-cylinder engine mounted below and behind the streamline-bodied forward-control cab. It could carry only one car at a time but could sustain 100mph cruising speeds on Europe’s autobahns, autoroutes and autostrada – complete with W196 or 300SLR on top.
It performed yeoman service in the run-up to the Italian GP at Monza, rushing a new car from Stuttgart to Milan after the tailor-made medium-length chassis, aerodynamic-bodied W196s with outboard front brakes proved unstable during practice. A long-wheelbase alternative with 1954-style aero body was assembled for Moss and rocketed down on the transporter.
The original was shipped to the US for the 1956 New York Show, but after its return to Germany it progressively became surplus to requirements, and fell into disuse. It apparently lay abandoned for several years in a corner of the factory test track, before rusting away, Uhlenhaut finally approving its removal for scrap around 1967. This was a decision he regretted, and through the 1990s a wonderful replica was produced by Mercedes-Benz which made its public bow at the 2001 Goodwood Festival.
It’s this replica which adorns the company’s new museum in Stuttgart today, but in their quest for excellence the powers-that-be remain unconvinced they have got the colour spot on. For my money I believe the magnificent 1:18-scale CMC model has it pretty close, but I’ve only ever seen photos and film of the original. And so, it appears, have most of M-B’s people. Stuttgart – we have a problem…