On May 1st 1955 Stirling Moss and his co-driver, the journalist Denis Jenkinson completed and won the Mille Miglia rally in a record breaking time of 10 hours, seven minutes and 48 seconds; an average of nearly 98 mph on public roads. This record stands to this day. The car was a W196S 300 SLR.
The story of the 300 SLR began some three years earlier when Mercedes-Benz returned to racing, shortly after production had recommenced. In the years leading up to the War, the 'Silver Arrow' Grand Prix cars built in Stuttgart were virtually unbeatable. Many of the talented engineers that developed those cars were still employed by Mercedes, so it really was a matter of time before the company picked up racing again. It was a well planned effort, taking in account the modest financial means available.
Dubbed the 300 SL, the first all new racing Mercedes-Benz racing car was built for the 1952 sports car racing scene. Actually it was not all new as it used the running gear and suspension of the top of the range '300' luxury sedan. The existing parts were bolted to a bespoke tubular spaceframe and covered by an elegant two-seater coupe body. Despite its production car roots, the 300 SL was immediately successful winning the 1952 editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Carrera PanAmericana.
At the end of the year the 300 SL was retired from racing and further developed into the legendary 'Gullwing' road car. In the mean time the competition department continued their work around the advanced spaceframe. Next on the agenda was a Grand Prix car for the revised Formula 1 regulations of 1954. Dubbed the W196, it combined the spaceframe chassis with a bespoke eight cylinder engine. Piloted by the likes of Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss, the W196 absolutely dominated F1 in 1954.
In 1955 the Mercedes-Benz racing program was further expanded with the 300 SLR sports racer. It was effectively a two-seater version of the W196 and third development of the original spaceframe design. The chassis was not identical to its predecessors though as the 'SLR' used torsion bar springs both front and rear. The suspension was by double wishbones at the front and swing axles at the rear. Just like the W196, it sported in-board mounted drum-brakes on all four 'corners' to lower the unsprung weight.
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