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August 30th, 2016

Mercedes Benz T 80 Was Hitler’s Pursuit For Speed

In this present age and time, thinking about a Mercedes designed by Porsche may seem to be a bit weird. However, the iconic Mercedes Benz T 80 was that exactly. It was a possibility in 1930s and the big factor behind it was Adolf Hitler. We all know how relentlessly Hitler had pursued his beliefs in politics, but it is a lesser known that Hitler loved automotive racing and wanted German companies to be at the top of the game. In fact in 1933, after becoming Germany’s Chancellor, he declared that German auto makers will enter and win at worlds prestigious racing events, which would have showcased Germany’s technological might around the world. To facilitate this automotive dominance, German government announced subsidy for a racing program to be put in place by the best German manufacturer at the time.

Mercedes Benz T 80 Frame

Hitler was impressed by German racer Hans Stuck’s achievement and his pet project. Hans wanted to attempt a land speed record and he had convinced Mercedes-Benz to help him build a car.  The Mercedes Benz T 80 was officially sanctioned by Adolf Hitler in 1937. The responsibility of designing the car was given to the legendary automotive designer, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche. In the initial phase of the project, the Mercedes Benz T 80 was targeting a speed of 342mph (550kmph). However, it was revised to 373mph (600kmph) when in 1938 George Eyston and John Cobb successfully breached the existing record. The project completed in 1939, however, by that time the target speed was set at a staggering 470mph (756kmph). Interestingly, the state of world’s peace meant that the original plan of making the speed run at Bonneville Salt Flats was shifted and it was now to be held on the Autobahn.

Mercedes Benz T 80

Though, Autobahn was already being used to set speed records of lower capacity classes, an attempt of absolute land speed was a different ball game altogether. The Mercedes Benz T 80 also seemed to be packed with all the necessary ingredients to achieve its mammoth target as well. It was powered by a monstrous 44.5 litre Daimler-Benz DB 603 inverted V12 engine. Interestingly, this engine was a bored out version of the same engine used in the German DB-601 aircraft. This meant that the engine powering the Mercedes Benz T 80 was Germany’s largest displacement inverted V12 aviation engine during WWII era.  The engine produced a staggering 3,000bhp and was designed to run on a special mixture of fuel with methanol-water injection. The MW Injection was required for charged cooling and as an anti-detonant.

Mercedes Benz T 80 Engine

Mercedes-Benz T80 Engine

Even in its dimensions, the Mercedes Benz T 80 was a monster. It measured over 27 ft, and weighed over 2.7 metric tons. The T 80 also had three axles out of which two were live ones. This meant that with such size and such powers, Aerodynamics were to play a key role in the design of the Mercedes Benz T 80. This was handled by specialist of aerodynamics, Josef Mickl while the cars enclosed cockpit, low sloping hood, rounded fenders, and elongated tail booms were designed by Porsche. The level of expertise working on the project meant that the Mercedes Benz T 80 achieved a drag coefficient of just 0.18. The side wings in the middle were designed for downforce and the rear part for streamlining.


Mercedes Benz T 80 Side View

The Mercedes Benz T 80 was scheduled to attempt its record run in January, 1940 during RekordWoche or Record Week. It was nicknamed Schwarzer Vogel or Black Bird by Hitler himself. For the run, the Mercedes Benz T 80 was to be painted in German nationalistic colors, complete with German Eagle and Swastika. Sadly on September 1, 1939, WWII broke out and the car never got to attempt the run it was made for. The car was towed to storage in Kärnten, Austria, and the engine was removed and put on duty. Having survived the war, the car was finally shifted to Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.

Mercedes Benz T 80 Cockpit

Mercedes Benz T 80 Cockpit

At the museum the car remains on display permanently as if waiting to see the day it gets to spread its wings. Do let us know what you think of it in the comments section below.


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