Part publicity stunt, part engineering exercise — and all fun and playful. The 1950s Mercedes-Benz Racing Division needed a rapid transport vehicle to supplement the big trucks with closed canopies that typically moved racecars and teams among the European circuits.
Lower, faster and far more nimble than the big trucks, the Blue Wonder could navigate under any bridge or within any narrow city streets — areas typically off-limits for a heavy heauler.
Powered by a race-ready engine from the 300SL and plopped into Mercedes sedan chassis, the ‘Blue Wonder’ was billed as the fastest transporter in the world. A top speed of 105-mph with a W196 R racecar on the back would certainly be a daunting drive!
But despite the silly appearance of the long-overhang design, the engine here is actually mid-mounted behind the cab. Steering is then controlled by an extended and multi-segment rack (or worm gear, actually). This sends steering inputs from the wheel down toward the front of the cab, then under the driver’s seat to the front axle.
A favorite cabin detail?
The thin wooden stick along-side the driver’s right hip. This appears to be a rudimentary cruise control device — for pegging the throttle to the floor on the autobahn!?
After Mercedes withdrew from racing in in 1956, the Blue Wonder was less of a rock star. It spent the last ten years of its life in the USA as a service vehicle for Mercedes-Benz corporate, before being crushed shortsightedly in 1967.
Mercedes recently created a perfect replica of the original using original photos and period engineering tools. No official blue-prints or designs appear to be around — as this Blue Wonder was a real ‘back-of-the-shop’ special made largely by hand by the race team.
This transporter is the fourth shown here: the first around 1920 is a de-bodied Mercedes with custom wooden ruts on which to drive a race-car up atop the frame. This appears to have required partial dis-assembly of the racecars, depending on their length.
The second around 1930 shows a real truck frame, with a flat bed in back to place the cars. They would be wrapped in canvas for high-speed travel, but the flaps could all be brought down and the cars displayed for city-center travels.
The third is another blue beast, but far more typical of a heavy hauler than the light, low and ultra-fast Blue Wonder of 1954.