Imagine a combination of all forms of racing – off-road to high-speed – done by one core chassis design.
During the 1930s, the Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows were storming every type of racing one could imagine: both competitively in Formula races and for world record attempts outside the circuit.
This sent the Silver Arrows up hillclimb events, on ultimate Vmax runs, and even a few winter setups that included a dually rear wheel and a closed shell cockpit at one point.
All these variants were highly ingenious engineering achievements around one core chassis design. The open-wheel profile of any Silver Arrow is unforgettable.
But the real achievement for history? The Silver Arrows started out looking like production coupes – but within five years, were totally-streamlined, 200-plus-mph prototypes from the distant future.
Something really spectacular in these vintage racing photos, courtesy of Mercedes-Benz, is seeing the movement of these cars in action.
Perhaps the movement on film, or actual camber changes around corners in real-life: driving these cars looks terrifying.
Another special piece of these images are the fans in the background, and the drivers’ faces visible in close-ups (during this pre-face-helmet era).
A fascinating display of engineering skill and bravery, all in one.
Catch this preview below for some audiovisual gold via these huge beasts.
For hours of vintage racing joy, look for the box set of Magical Moments: The Hour of the Silver Arrows on Blu-ray and DVD in late December 2013.
Official release details below.
“Magical moments”: The motor sport history of Mercedes-Benz
TV series with a playing time of 500 minutes on DVD and Blu-ray disc available on the retail market from December 2013
Silver Arrows at the core of the Mercedes-Benz racing legend
A unique combination of historic film scenes and authentic re-enactments with contemporary documentation
Stuttgart. – The film project “Magical moments. The hour of the Silver Arrows” brings the unique motor sport history of Mercedes-Benz to life in a new format. In a year-long project together with his team, Cassian von Salomon, internationally renowned television producer and until 2011 editor-in-chief and managing director of “Spiegel TV”, has created a brilliant portrait of the Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows and their pilots. In order to show this legend to full effect, “Magical moments” looks beyond the actual time of the Silver Arrows from 1934 to 1955: The series begins with the birth of motor sport and extends to the present day, so that collectors, racing drivers and protagonists of the sport are also seen and heard.
This is one of the greatest stories in the history of motor sport: The Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows and their pilots impressed their seal on motor racing culture in the mid-20th century in a most unique manner. This legend, which to this day inspires the power of fascination of the Mercedes-Benz brand, is the subject of the ten-part television series “Magical moments. The hour of the Silver Arrows”. In a playing time of around 500 minutes, renowned TV producer Cassian von Salomon, until 2011 editor-in-chief and managing director of “Spiegel TV”, and his team, take viewers on a breath-taking journey through the history of motor sport.’
With Saskia Weisheit (director) and Florian Dennert (author), producers Cas-Film realised a film project that for the first time skilfully combines historical images from the Mercedes-Benz Classic archives with meticulously reconstructed scenes (“re-enactments”) and contemporary interview elements. In December 2013, “Magical moments. The hour of the Silver Arrows” will be available on the retail market as DVD box and as Blu-ray disc.
“At Mercedes-Benz Classic we not only made the exclusive vehicles of our collection available for this production, we also provided support with the unique knowledge contained in the Mercedes-Benz Classic archive and the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center, making the project possible,” says Michael Bock, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic. “It is indeed our philosophy, not just to preserve the Mercedes-Benz tradition and legend, but also for as many people as possible to be able to experience it,” adds Michael Bock. The head of Mercedes-Benz Classic appears in the television production as a modern-day witness to the fascination of the Silver Arrow.
Authenticity and originality in the re-enactments
The result of the close cooperation between Mercedes-Benz Classic and the Cas-Film team is an exceptionally high degree of authenticity and originality. This is particularly visible in the re-enactments, which comprise over a dozen speaking parts. Among the main characters of the Silver Arrow era presented this way are extraordinary Mercedes-Benz race drivers such as Rudolf Caracciola, Hermann Lang, Manfred von Brauchitsch, and Juan Manuel Fangio. But legendary racing manager Alfred Neubauer and Silver Arrow designer Rudolf Uhlenhaut are also leading characters in “Magical moments. The hour of the Silver Arrows”. In order to find the most convincing performances, the filming team cast over 100 actors. The atmospherically dense re-enactments were filmed over two weeks with more than 50 people on the set and with a large range of props – by far the most valuable of which were the original Silver Arrows from the Mercedes-Benz Classic collection.
The re-enactments were combined with documentary scenes in which collectors, racing drivers and Silver Arrow contemporary witnesses can be heard. Just as fascinating is the contrasting of historic footage and newly-shot scenes on film. The material is from the period extending from 1900 to 1955 and consists of silent films on nitrocellulose and eight-millimetre rolls.
Historic films and modern digital technology
Modern procedures such as digitalisation of old films and subsequent restoration of the images on the computer using special software allowed the makers of “Magical moments. The hour of the Silver Arrows” access to a vast selection of racing scenes. A great part of the historic films comes from Mercedes-Benz Classic itself. Among these, the so-called Monkhouse material is exceptionally relevant: George Monkhouse, an employee of film manufacturer Kodak, already filmed motor races in colour as early as the 1930s when the general standard was still black and white. Many of the colour sequences from “Magical moments. The hour of the Silver Arrows” will be seen by the general public for the very first time. Apart from the Mercedes-Benz Classic Archives, the Cas-Film specialists made use of archives all around the world for their extensive research. Images were acquired in particular from England and the United States.
With modern recorders a setting is provided for the Mercedes-Benz racing cars with great sensitivity and understanding for the balance between the conservation of automotive cultural heritage and the fascination of historical engineering genius. To achieve this the film-makers work in part with flowing transitions between historic and modern-day scenes showing the same vehicle – as if the car came thundering down the decades across the screen. Naturally, the possibilities open to modern day filming are much greater than those that existed 80 years ago: In “Magical moments. The hour of the Silver Arrows” aerial photography and cranes, finger cameras and miniature cameras attached to the vehicles were used, to which can be added the technology for high-resolution slow-motion films. A total of up to twelve high-definition (HD) cameras in parallel were used by the film team. The exciting relationship between the present and the past becomes particularly tangible contrasting the most up-to-date technology with history in comparisons made possible by cutting edge technology, when classic racing cars are studied in the Daimler AG driving simulator and in the wind tunnel of the oldest motor car manufacturer in the world.
An international film event
The project “Magical moments. The hour of the Silver Arrows” is an international film event not only thanks to the world-famous Silver Arrows and their forerunners. Its production in different European countries and the USA contributed, as did the work with historic film material from legendary racecourses from all over the world. An important part was also played by collectors, witnesses and experts: in the series they provide information about the unique significance of the racing cars and racing sports cars from Mercedes-Benz for automotive history – and about their own personal relation with these vehicles.
Among those portrayed in the series are renowned collectors Dieter Dressel, George Wingard, Franz Maag, and Evert Louwman, owner of the Louwman Museum in The Hague, which is at the same time national motor museum of the Netherlands. Hans Herrmann is a witness of the time who himself lived the era of the Silver Arrows at the wheel of the famous car. Racing driver Jochen Mass allows spectators to participate in the overwhelming thrill conveyed by driving one of the original Silver Arrows, seen from the perspective of a brand ambassador who is active today in historic motor sport.
A story as thrilling as a Grand Prix
“Magical moments. The hour of the Silver Arrows” is a dashing time travel starting with the birth of the Mercedes brand from the spirit of motor sport at the dawn of the 20th century and taking you up to the last great victory of the W 196 in 1955. The documents used present the journey with its multi-perspective narrative style in a dynamic manner worthy of one of the great Grand Prix races, which are shown over and over as highlights of the production. From the spectacular Mercedes victories in 1908 and 1914 and the triumphant record runs of the 200-hp Benz, the film series takes the viewer to the victorious years of the Mercedes-Benz supercharged sports cars and finally to the two brilliant periods of the Silver Arrows from 1934 to 1939 and from 1954 to 1955 – including the return of Mercedes-Benz to international racing from 1952 with their successes in sports car racing.
The individual episodes of “Magical moments. The hour of the Silver Arrows”
1 – A star is born:
The origins of motor sports; the 1908 and 1914 Grand Prix victories; records set by the 200-hp Benz
2 – The beginning of an era: Rudolf Caracciola and the supercharged sports cars of the 1920s
3 – The birth of a legend:
The first Silver Arrow, W 25, 1934/1935
4 – The most powerful one of its time: Rudolf Uhlenhaut and the development of the W 125, 1937
5 – The quest for records:
Record runs with the Silver Arrows, 1936 to 1939
6 – A gentleman in the Silver Arrow: Richard Seaman and the W 154, 1938/1939
7 – Rivals at the wheel:
Rudolf Caracciola versus Hermann Lang, W 165 in Tripoli, 1939
8 – Comeback on the course: Return to motor sports with the 300 SL (W 194), 1952
9 – A virtuoso from overseas:
Juan Manuel Fangio and a new beginning in Formula 1 with the W 196, 1954/1955
10 – Farewell of the victors: The 300 SLR racing sports car; Uhlenhaut Coupé; a farewell to motor sports
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.