While making plans for Mercedes Benz re entry into the top echelon of Motorsport in the 1954 season team manager Alfred Neubauer chose 1951 World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio as his de facto Number 1 driver.
Mercedes Benz were late turning up for the show in 1954 and Neubauer allowed Fangio to race in the 1954 Argentinian and Belgian Grand Prix which he promptly won.
At the French Grand Prix Mercedes Benz showed up with three streamlined cars that were powered by 257hp straight 8 motors with desmodromic valves, that were positively closed by a cam activated lever as opposed to a valve spring and direct fuel injection developed from the Mercedes Benz DB601 inverted V12 engines used in the fearsome Messerschmitt Bf 109E fighter plane.
The body and chassis made use of the light but highly flammable Elektron magnesium alloys, perhaps the only surprise was that W196 streamliners did not follow the latest aircraft technology by using the latest in disc brakes instead opting to use massive inboard mounted drum brakes.
Fangio led home team mate Karl Kling in an emphatic show of strength though the third car driven by Hans Hermann, seen driving the #10 below, retired with engine problems.
The British Grand Prix at Silverstone showed up the draw back of the streamlined body work when Fangio could not position the car accurately to avoid hitting the concrete filled oil drums that marked the inside of the course and as a consequence Juan could only finish fourth behind two Ferrari’s and a Maserati.
For the German Grand Prix Mercedes Benz built an open wheel car for Juan, the streamliners henceforth would only appear at Monza in 1954 and ’55, and he went on a three race winning streak in Germany, Switzerland and Italy enough to claim the 1954 World Drivers Championship.
Today’s featured W196 chassis #000 08/54 was the last W196 to be completed in 1954 and was finished in time for Fangio to drive it in the season ending Spanish Grand Prix where he qualified 2nd behind the debutant Lancia D50 driven by Alberto Ascari and finished 3rd after slowing his pace due to an oil leak.
At the non championship 1955 Gran Premio Ciudad de Buenos Aires Karl Kling drove this car to a second place finish behind team leader Fangio.
Fangio scored chassis #000 08/54’s only win at the 1955 Belgian Grand Prix which along with three more wins on his way to securing his third World Drivers Championship title.
Hans Hermann seen driving today’s featured car at a Goodwood Revival Meeting a few years ago, when he was 82, scored a career best third place finish in the 1954 Swiss Grand Prix he continued driving Formula one cars sporadically until 1961 a year after falling out of his BRM P25 at the German Grand Prix.
1970 Hans retired from motor racing aged 42 after driving the winning Porsche 917 in the 1970 Le Mans 24 hours with Richard Attwood.
Thanks for joining me on this “Elektron Desmodromic Fuel Injection” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be taking a look at a Prototype Maserati. Don’t forget to come back now !