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  Mercedes-Benz W154
 

  Article Image gallery (39) Chassis (3) Specifications User Comments (1)  
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Country of origin:Germany
Produced from:1938 - 1939
Numbers built:16
Predecessor:Mercedes-Benz W125
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:December 21, 2009
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Click here to download printer friendly versionShortly after the first races were held organizers created rules and regulations to create a somewhat level playing field and to keep things relatively safe. In that light the rules setup for Grand Prix racing from 1934 to 1936 made little sense. The main element was a maximum weight of 750 kg, leaving the rest to the imagination of the very talented designers. Not surprisingly this lead to hugely powerful engines bolted on flimsy frames; very unsafe by any measure. To add insult to injury the manufacturers could not agree on new regulations for 1937 so the madness continued for another season. Mercedes-Benz dominated that year with the W125, which featured a 592 bhp engine and little to no protection in case of an accident. Some sanity finally returned in 1938 when a minimum weight linked to a maximum displacement (3 litre supercharged or 4.5 litre Naturally Aspirated) was agreed upon.

A quick calculation in the Mercedes-Benz design office revealed that a supercharged engine would be most competitive. In many ways the new for 1938 W154 was a development of the W125, which was originally developed with the new regulations in mind. The unusually stiff nickel-chrome molybdenum tubular ladder frame was virtually carried over. The biggest difference was the shorter wheelbase of the new car made possible by the use of a smaller engine. What also remained was the ground-breaking DeDion rear suspension. It combined the benefits of independent suspension without the dangerous side effects of the swing axles used by most competitors. Up front the W154 was suspended by double wishbones, which longitudinal torsion bars. Although the maximum weight was discarded, weight saving was still a top priority, so most chassis parts were drilled to add lightness.

Carefully considering their options, the engineers at Mercedes-Benz eventually opted for a brand new three-litre V12 engine. Each bank was constructed from two blocks of three cylinders. The highly advanced heads featured four valves per cylinder. At the nose of the engine two Roots-Type Supercharger were fitted. Although a Fuel Injection system was created, the engines were fitted with tried and trusted Carburetors. Reliability problems forced the team to fit 'mild' cams on the first outings. In this tune the 'M154' engine yielded a commendable 425 bhp and towards the end of the year an impressive 475 bhp was available. The engine was mounted off-set in the chassis, so the prop-shaft could run alongside the driver. The whole package was tightly wrapped in an aluminium skin that was very reminiscent of the W125 body.

The Mercedes-Benz works team was to compete in just nine races in 1938 but they built no fewer than 14 new chassis and 19 engines. The W154 was raced by Rudolf Caracciola, Manfred von Brauchitsch and Hermann Lang. Halfway through the season the three Germans were joined by British talent Richard Seaman. There was a small upset when a Naturally Aspirated Delahaye beat the new 'Silver Arrows' at the season opening Grand Prix at Pau. After that it was business as usual with the W154 taking six victories in the following eight races. All four drivers shared in the honours and they ended the season in the top four positions on the table of the European Championship. Caracciola scored the most points of all and was crowned champion. The only blemish on the season was the cancellation of the trip to the Indy 500 due to technical problems; the 500 mile was very early in the season.

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  Article Image gallery (39) Chassis (3) Specifications User Comments (1)