Hidden treasures

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Some added detail to demystify the wartime whereabouts of motor racing’s most charismatic fleet

In our story about the Collier Collection’s Mercedes-Benz W154 last month, I mentioned its wartime refuge somewhere within the Esterhazy Castle estate at Eisenstadt, between Graz and Vienna in eastern Austria. The advancing Soviet Army occupied the area in 1945 and remained there until as late as 1955, when Austria regained its full freedom. Today the Esterhazy Castle is a favourite tourist attraction, though I doubt many would view it with nostalgic awe just because of its connection with fugitive Grand Prix cars…

As we described, Daimler-Benz had stored its racing cars in and around the factory at Unterturkheim, Stuttgart, until 1942-43 when Allied bombing really intensified and they dispersed valuable cars for safety. D-B tended to consign them in pairs, variously to trusted Mercedes agencies, rural cultural sites or to mining and industrial facilities. Postwar, on March 15, 1946, among the chilly rubble stacks of shattered Stuttgart, a D-B employee listed 21 cars’ last-known whereabouts and (where possible) their contemporary locations. I won’t include all the recorded detail and serial numbers here — “you’ll never guess what we have found” — but for posterity here’s an abstract of that remarkably historic listing of which pre-war works team cars went where:

5.66-litre straight-8 cars

W125/5: to Kulmbach, Bavaria. 1946: Unterturkheim works, in Halle Grotz (the great factory halls being known variously by the name of either their current, or particularly respected past, foremen)

W125/6: Unterturkheim works. 1946: at M-B Hamburg. W125/9: to E Laise at Briesnitz, near Dresden. 1946: Unterturkheim works, in Halle Grotz.

W125/10: to A Siegal, Brieg bei Breslau (now Brzeg, Poland). 1946: whereabouts unknown either destroyed or engulfed by the Soviet advance and confiscated for inspection and research.

Record cars

W125/11: streamlined record car without engine: to Niederlassung (branch) Dresden, then to Kulmbach. 1946: Unterturkheim works, in Halle Grotz.

W125/166 366′: enclosed-wheel record car with V12 engine: had been hidden at J F Kuhnel, Leipa, Bohemia (now Ceska Lipa, Czech Republic). 1946: unknown, again engulfed by the Soviet advance. 180 SuperRennwagen ‘439 805’: Land Speed Record car, without engine: Pluderhausen, east of Stuffgart. 1946: Unterturkheim works, in Halle Grotz.

3-litre V12 Grand Prix cars

W154/3: without engine: to Krutina & Mohle cement works, SaarbrOcken, in western Germany. 1946: recovered from Allies and returned to Unterturkheim, in Halle Grotz.

W154/6: to M Rossler, Sproffau (now Szprotawa, Poland). 1946: unknown, plainly lost within Sovietoccupied territory.

W154/7: to Vienna Mercedes-Benz dealership then into hiding on the Ducal estate of Schloss Esterhazy, Eisenstadt, Austria. 1946: unknown (actually taken by Soviet forces but abandoned at Braila, Rumania; later to Jozska Roman; subsequently sold to Dieter Holterbosch in the USA, then to Joel Finn; now in Arturo Keller’s private collection at Sonoma, California).

W154/8: to M Rossler, Sproffau (now Szprotawa, Poland) with W154/6, above. 1946: unknown.

W154/9: probably from Poland to Neupaka (now Nova Paka, Czech Republic), or into an old textile factory at nearby Stara Paka. With car 10 below, walled up in workshops of pre-war Czech motorcyclist and racing driver Antonin Vitvar. 1946: unknown, but in fact one sold via UK to Don Lee, USA, for Indy 500; other to Prague National Technical Museum. W154/10: see above.

W154/11: to Kulmbach, Upper Frankonia. 1946: Unterturkheim, in Halle Grotz.

W154/12: Unterturkheim works. 1946: surviving at Mercedes-Benz branch in Hamburg.

W154/15: to Vienna Mercedes-Benz dealership then into hiding on the Ducal estate of Schloss Esterhazy, Eisenstadt, Austria. 1946: unknown (actually taken by Soviet forces but abandoned at Braila, Rumania; later to Jozska and Tibor Roman; then as described in last month’s issue to Dr Andre Bilciurescu, later Yoshiyuki Hayashi; eventually to The Collier Collection, Florida, USA. Entrusted to Rob Hall for the Goodwood Revival ‘Silver Arrows’ demo).

W154/16: hidden at J F Kuhnel, Leipa, Bohemia (now Ceska Lipa, Northern, Czech Republic). 1946: unknown, taken by the Soviets.

1V2-litre V8 W165 V8, `Voiturette’ racing cars

W165/1: at Moritzburg, Lower Saxony. 1946: at M-B Zurich, Switzerland (pp Rudi Caracciola)

W165/2: at Moritzburg, as above. 1946: at M-B Zurich, Switzerland (pp Rudi Caracciola)

W165/3: at Kaltwasser bei Luben (now Zimna Woda), Poland). 1946: unknown

W165/4*: hidden at JF Kuhnel, Leipa, Bohemia (now Ceska Lipa, Czech Republic). 1946: unknown. “Conventional wisdom has been that only three W1 65s were built, two completed and finishing 1-2 in the 1939 Tripoli GP. A third car set of parts was made, yet here’s a fourth car being listed in 1946 as ‘missing’.

So there, just for the published record, is a little light upon a hitherto most obscure period in the history of the most charismatic Grand Prix cars that the world has yet seen.

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