Mercedes-Benz W125

Greatest pre-war racing car

Long, lean and lithe, the Mercedes Benz W125 stunned the racing world of 1937. It was the embodiment in aluminium and Elektron of those peaks of Stuttgart endeavour which have, at intervals through the century, pushed automotive design up another gear. Gulping alcohol fuel through its enormous supercharger, it unleashed over 580bhp, a level unmatched for almost 50 years, and it humbled all alleged opposition.

This, along with the C-type 16-cylinder Auto Union, was the final achievement of the 750kg formula, demonstrating overwhelming German technical superiority as the silver cars left Italy, France and Britain gasping in their fume-laden wake. Experimentation had replaced intuition, analysis took over from guess-work; it was an all new approach, on an unseen scale.

But despite what seemed like an unlimited budget, the Silver Arrow steam-roller lost its way in 1936, and it took Rudi Uhlenhaut’s reorganisation of the race department to create the unsurpassed W125. Its new rigid frame, the de Dion rear axle, hydraulic damping, blown engine, plus the brilliant driving of Caracciola, Seaman, Lang and von Brauchitsch, brought almost complete triumph throughout the 1937 season.

In the W125, Mercedes-Benz had created a car which was a generation ahead of its peers. Yet at the close of 1937, when the regulations changed, it was unsentimentally scrapped, to make way for another equally advanced Stuttgart contender.