Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR – 1955
The story of Stirling Moss’s 1955 Mille Miglia win is almost as legendary as the man himself. Over the weekend of April 30th to May 1st , 1955, with motoring journalist Denis Jenkinson in the navigator’s seat, Moss drove the almost 1,000-mile course through Italy in 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds, maintaining an average speed of 97.96mph, and crossing the line thirty-two minutes ahead of team-mate, and runner-up, Juan Manuel Fangio.
Both Moss and Fangio were behind the wheels of Mercedes-Benz 300 SLRs, which were effectively two-seater versions of the previous year’s W196 Grand Prix car, sharing much of its drivetrain, chassis, spaceframe design and straight-eight engine.
Admittedly, the 300 SLR’s straight-eight was constructed from sheets of a silicon and aluminium alloy, silumin, rather than cast like the W196, and was mounted on an incline in order to keep the bonnet low. Over the W196’s unit, the engine saw a displacement increase from 2.5- to 3.0-litres, which allowed it to produce 310hp.
The chassis differed between the two cars too, with the SLR adding torsion bar springs front and rear, plus double wishbones at the front and swing axles at the rear. The designers kept the W196’s in-board mounted drum brakes, which helped to lower the unsprung weight. The chassis was clad in a magnesium alloy open two-seater sports car body, which featured a hydraulically operated rear deck that doubled as an air brake, as well as adding rear-end downforce during cornering. Headlights and a few other road-going effects were added to make it a bonafide endurance racer.
Unfortunately, Moss’s success at the Mille Migla was overshadowed by the Le Mans disaster later that year, when Pierre Levegh’s 300 SLR was catapulted into the air in an accident which killed him as well as 83 spectators, and led to the cancellations of the French, German, Spanish, and Swiss Grands Prix. As a result, Mercedes withdrew from racing and shelved the SLR.