Mercedes ‘Silver Arrow’ race cars set for Amelia Island Concours display

Five of the famed championship cars will be displayed at the March event

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The streamlined 1954 Mercedes-Benz W 196 was an F1 champion | Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

An unprecedented gathering of five Mercedes-Benz “Silver Arrow” champion race cars spanning eight decades of competition will be on special display at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance to help the event celebrate its silver anniversary.

The 25th annual edition of the premier Florida concours, which takes place March 8 on the fairways of the Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island Resort, will bring together about 200 classic and historic vehicles, as well as hosting a number of automotive celebrities.

The Silver Arrow cars are a 1934 Mercedes-Benz W 25, a 1939 Mercedes Benz Type W154, a 1954 Mercedes-Benz W 196 with a streamlined body, a 1989 Sauber-Mercedes C 9 Group C sports car, and a 2014 Mercedes AMG F1 W 05 Hybrid Formula 1 racer.

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The Mercedes-Benz W 25 at the 1934 International Eifel Race driven by Manfred von Brauchitsch | Daimler archive

“The legend of the Silver Arrows begins with the 1934 Mercedes-Benz W 25 Grand Prix racer and its birth in an ancient mountain forest, the Eifel Mountains of southwestern Germany,” according to an Amelia Island Concours news release. “The car is still labeled ‘the first modern racing car’.”

As the story goes, the W 25 was entered in the formula race that had a maximum allowable weight of 750 kilograms – about 1,650 pounds – minus fuel, lubricants and tires.  But when the race car was weighed at German’s famed Nurburgring for the 1934 Eifelrennen, the scales pegged it a 751 kg, one kilogram over the limit. 

So how, at the last minute, would the racer shed that kilogram, equivalent to about 2.2 pounds?

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1939 Mercedes Benz Type W154 | The Revs Institute

Mercedes-Benz’s legendary racing-team manager, Alfred Neubauer, was considering the options for the car – which was painted white in Germany’s then international racing color – when racing mechanic Willy Zimmer spoke the words that led to the solution: “The paint has to go.” 

With that, the team laboriously fine-sanded the paint off the entire body, leaving the W 25 in bare aluminum, now a raw, gleaming silver, which was enough to put the car below the weight limit. 

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“They devised a solution that was simple, elegant and still echoes in motorsport legend and lore,” the Amelia Island release says. 

The 1954 Mercedes-Benz W 196 | Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

During that race, a Berlin newspaper said the winning car was “fast as a silver arrow.” Henceforth, the German grand prix racers wore silver, and were dubbed Silver Arrows. They ruled the grand prix championships in 1937, 1938 and 1939, boosted by funding from the Adolf Hitler regime, which then plunged Europe into World War II.

“When Mercedes-Benz returned to competition in the early 1950s, their new racers also wore silver,” the concours release says. “There was power in it. Victories at Le Mans and the Carrera Panamericana (in Mexico) were restorative and rejuvenating for the cars from Stuttgart. The grand marque – the inventor of the automobile – reclaimed its heritage wearing silver.

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1989 Sauber-Mercedes C 9 Group C racing sports car | |Daimler

“Two Formula 1 World Championships (Juan Fangio in 1954 and 1955) and a Sports Car World Championship in 1955 joined Mercedes’ list of unparalleled pre-war accomplishments and became the vanguard of the ‘German Miracle’.”

In 1989, a team of Mercedes-Benz prototypes appeared at the 24 Hours of Le Mans wearing silver, when Jochen Mass – the 2014 honoree of the Amelia Island Concours – drove more than 11 hours to lead the new Silver Arrows in a one-two finish, more than 25 miles ahead of third place.

Mercedes-AMG F1 W 05 Hybrid Formula 1 racer | Daimler.

In 2014, 80 years after the first Silver Arrow victory, the hybrid Mercedes-AMG W 05 won the Formula 1 World Championship, which Mercedes has won every year since.  Five of those six championships were at the hands of driver Lewis Hamilton.

For more information about the 25th anniversary Amelia Island Concours, visit the event website.

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

2 COMMENTS

  1. That ’54 W 196 is the beauty of the group for me. The race cars of the 50’s were just getting serious with their streamlining and all that experimenting to find the best shapes created some beautiful artwork in metal.

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