Nine Favorite Cars from the Mercedes-Benz Museum
Race cars, industrial trucks, and a Popemobile
Stop number three in our brief tour around Germany is the futuristic Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. After some quality time in the 2019 VW Arteon and a short stint at the Nurburgring, we had a blast at the Porsche Museum. The latter was wonderful, but rather intimate in size. The Mercedes-Benz Museum couldn't have been more different - it's a massive, towering construct packed to the gills with the best four-wheeled objects to wear the tri-pointed star. Here are our favorites.
1955 Mercedes-Benz Rennwagen-Schnelltransporter
Looking at historical race photos, it's apparent that vintage race transport trucks were almost cooler than the race cars they carried. Ferrari and Scarab used hollowed-out, bus-style trucks, while '60s drag racers were using rigs with inclined ramps to shuttle their Mustangs and Camaros.
Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz did it in style. During the '50s, Merc's racing team designed this fabulously chic 300-based flat-bed transporter for its various race cars. It was powered by a 3.0-liter inline-six that pushed out around 200 hp. This, combined with a relatively slippery profile, allowed the Schnelltransporter to cruise on the Autobahn at 106 mph.
The original was lost to history, so this is a perfect replica, with a period-correct SLR in tow.
1928 Mercedes-Benz 27/170 Typ SSK
The name's quite the mouthful, but you probably know this handsome open-wheeler as simply the SSK. Perhaps no other pre-war sporting, road-going Merc represents the marquee's relentless efforts toward motorsports and sports prowess as the SSK.
It cuts a dramatic figure, with its skinny fuselage and characteristic angled front grille. This was developed specifically for hillclimb dominance, especially with its 220-hp, supercharged inline-six.
1980 Mercedes-Benz 230 G "Papamobil"
Before Pope Francis' moves toward austerity and his eschewing of past Pope's lavish lifestyles, the Popemobiles were luxurious affairs. And, in the case of this Geländewagen, also interesting to look at.
Somehow, we have trouble picturing any pope ensconced above the aggressive mug of the G-Wagen. This was specially built for Pope John Paul II for his visit to Germany, and was revised in 1981 to incorporate projectile protection.
We have to admit - it's quite prescient to see gold adornment on an early G-Wagen, especially considering the truck's current baller status.
1955 Mercedes-Benz SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe
It doesn't get better than this, as far as vintage Mercedes go. Think of the Uhlenhaut coupe as a blend of the 300SL "Gullwing" coupe and the dominant 300 SLR roadster race car. After development stalled on a race SLR coupe, Mercedes Motorsports head Rudolf Uhlenhaut requisitioned one of the test mules for personal use.
What resulted was a long, lithe gullwing coupe packing the chassis and mechanical bits from the SLR race car. This included the 3.0-liter inline-eight engine putting down 310 hp. In an era where most cars struggled to go much faster than 100 mph, the Uhlenhaut coupe was brutally fast, capable of blitzing 180 mph.
1938 Mercedes-Benz L6500 Pritschenwagen
Let's slow it down for this Benz. Surrounded by glossy S-Class', shouty AMGs, and the automaker's current dominance in Formula 1, it's easy to forget a large portion of the brand's success comes from its industrial endeavors.
Here's an example of what mobilized much of industrial Europe during the pre-war era. This cargo truck was used by all manner of business for hauling, and was capable of managing up to 20,000 pounds of payload in some double-axle models.
This L6500 packs a whopping 12.5-liter six-cylinder diesel engine, hanging out in front of the forward axle. With this powertrain, this was capable of transporting up to 14,000 pounds of payload.
1980 Mercedes-Benz 500 SLC Rallyewagen
Despite a robust platform, Mercedes' didn't take the R107 SL racing very often. This is one of the rare moments of SLC competition in the form of a long-distance rally car.
This particular 500 SLC crushed 3,315 miles in the African Bandama Rally down the Ivory Coast. After a 1-2 finish, Mercedes ceased its rallying efforts.
1909 Benz 200 HP "Blitzen-Benz"
It's hard to believe that at one point in history, 200 hp was seen as a monumental amount of power. With a massive 13.1-liter four-cylinder pushing out 200 hp, this white behemoth became the first European car to reach the 125 mph mark, going on to hit 142 mph on Daytona Beach in 1911.
1939 Mercedes-Benz T80
Oh, what could have been. This voluptuous silver missile is the mighty T80, a stillborn land speed record car developed by Ferdinand Porsche for Mercedes-Benz.
The effort was officially sanctioned by Adolf Hitler himself, who envisioned the T80 as an example of German dominance. Racer Hans Stuck was to drive the car on the record setting attempt, initially predicted at 342 mph. Eventually, the predicted speed cap was raised to 373 mph, and then to a breathtaking 470 mph record.
The record vehicle was powered by a monstrous 44.5-liter (you read that correctly) Daimler-Benz DB603 V-12 lifted from Daimler's aeronautics division. The V-12 was strangely inverted, returning a stunning 3,000 hp.
World War II broke out as the project was nearing completion, and the T80 was stuffed in an Austrian garage. After the war, it was brought to the Mercedes-Benz museum, where it remains on permanent display. Mercedes could conceivably resurrect the car, but bringing a Nazi-sanctioned speed project to life is likely low on the automaker's priority list.
Stirling Moss' 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR
Let's end this list with the big one. This silver roadster has long been considered one of the most valuable and significant race cars in existence, thanks to Sir Stirling Moss' record-setting win of the 1955 Mille Miglia.
With an average speed of 97.96 mph over 990 miles, Moss claimed a stunning victory that will never be beaten, thanks to the discontinuation of the race in full capacity.
See that "722" painted on the front of the car? That represents the time of the start, 7:22 A.M.
As a bonus, if you peek behind the SLR, you can see the 300SL that won the 1952 Carrera Panamericana.