Sir Stirling Moss won the 1955 Mille Miglia driving this gorgeous Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR. Departing at 7.22 am, Moss and navigator Denis Jenkinson maintained an average speed of 97.96 mph on the 1000 mile figure eight course from Brescia to Rome and back again, while competing with other racers and dodging public traffic to whom the entire course was still open. The pair completed the course in 10 hours, 7 minutes, 48 seconds, and finished 32 minutes ahead of second place teammate Juan Manuel Fangio. The SLR’s edge was that under its magnesium bodywork it was essentially Mercedes’ W196 Formula One car, which had won 9 of the 12 races and both of the world championships that it had been entered in. Modifications included adding a second seat for the navigator, headlights, and enlarging the W196’s 2.5 litre straight 8 engine to 3 litres. The car produced 310 horsepower, and took sports car racing by storm in 1955.
Tragically, one of the SLRs collided with an Austin Healey at the end of the pit straight Le Mans the same year while being piloted by factory driver Pierre Levegh. The Frenchman’s Mercedes was still travelling at 150 mph, and he had no time to react. The car became airborne and disintegrated, with parts flying into the tightly packed crowd before flames from the fuel tank ignited the magnesium bodywork. 84 people including Levegh lost their lives in the single worst motorsport accident in history. Mercedes had already been courting the idea of ceasing motorsport operations at the end of 1955, and the Le Mans disaster was the final nail in the coffin.
After the end of Mercedes’ racing program the SLR’s deisgner, Rudolf Uhlenhaut, appropriated one of the SLR/SL coupes (built with an enclosed cockpit to increase driver comfort in long distance races like the Mille Miglia) as his personal daily driver and enjoyed what was by far and away the world’s fastest road car with a top speed approaching 180 mph (remember, this was essentially a Formula One car with enclosed wheels). The car came to be known as the Uhlenhaut Coupe, and now resides in Mercedes’ museum near Stuttgart. It is undoubtedly one of the world’s most valuable cars.
Published @Whippstagram on Instagram, Dec 15th 2015