HomeNews and EventsMercedes-Benz also has reason to celebrate this Fourth of July

Mercedes-Benz also has reason to celebrate this Fourth of July


Fangio (18) and Kling start from the front row with Hans Herrmann in a third Mercedes | Mercedes-Benz Classic

Americans aren’t the only ones celebrating this Fourth of July. That date also marks an important anniversary for Mercedes-Benz — the 60th anniversary of the 1-2 finish by the Silver Arrows in their first post-war Grand Prix race, the 1954 French Grand Prix at Reims.

The victory was important to Mercedes-Benz on several levels, and came 40 years after another historic Mercedes racing performance — a 1-2-3 finish in the 1914 French Grand Prix.

The race also marked Mercedes’ return to Grand Prix competition after a 15-year absence. The company already had returned to racing with touring cars with the 300SL that won both at Le Mans and the Carrera Panamericana in 1951.

On another level, the race occurred the same day Germany won the 1954 World Cup soccer championship at Berne. In Germany, the events would become known as “the miracle of Reims” and “the miracle of Berne.”

At Reims, the race was won by Juan Manual Fangio with teammate Karl Kling second in their silver W 196 R racing cars. Finishing third, more than a lap behind, was Robert Manzon in a Ferrari.

The Mercedes in command early | DaimlerChrysler Heritage photo
The Mercedes pull away | DaimlerChrysler Heritage photo

Fangio would also win the German, Swiss and Italian races in 1954 and the world championship, a title he also scored while driving for Mercedes in 1955.

The W 196 R was designed to meet new 2.5-liter Grand Prix engine rules. The car also was revolutionary for its tubular spaceframe chassis that weighed less than 80 pounds. It also featured a new single-joint swing axle with a low pivot point.

What came as a surprise at Reims was the streamlined bodywork, the magnesium skin even forming fenders over the car’s wheels. While the aero body worked well at a high-speed circuit such as Reims, the car also raced with a more conventional body and exposed wheels at tighter circuits.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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