|This article needs additional citations for verification. (March 2009)|
Silver Arrows (German: Silberpfeil) was the name given by the press to Germany's dominant Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union Grand Prix motor racing cars between 1934 and 1939, and also later applied to the Mercedes-Benz Formula One and sports cars in 1954 and 1955.
For decades until the introduction of sponsorship liveries, each country had its traditional color in automobile racing. Italian race cars are still famous for their rosso corsa red color, British ones are British racing green, French blue, etc.
German cars like the Blitzen Benz were white, as were the three Mercedes that won the 1914 French Grand Prix 1-2-3. On the other hand, in 1922 (Giulio Masetti) and 1924 (Christian Werner), Mercedes won the Italian Targa Florio with cars painted red, blending in with the local competitors. The big supercharged 200 hp Mercedes-Benz SSK with which Rudolf Caracciola won the 1931 Mille Miglia was called White Elephant.
Origin of the name
A story exists that the origin of the Silver Arrows was accidental. The international governing body of motor sport prescribed for 1934 onwards a maximum weight limit of 750 kg for Grand Prix racing cars, excluding tyres and fuel. It is said that when in spring 1934, the Mercedes-Benz team placed its new Mercedes-Benz W25 on the scrutineering scales prior to the Eifelrennen at the Nürburgring, it allegedly recorded 751 kg (1,656 lb). Racing manager Alfred Neubauer and his driver Manfred von Brauchitsch, who both later published their memoires, claimed that they had the idea of scraping all the white paint from the bodywork. The story continues that the next day the shining silver aluminium beneath was exposed and scrutineering was passed. After the 350 hp (260 kW) car of von Brauchitsch won the race, the nickname Silver Arrow was born, according to the legend.
This story did not appear until Alfred Neubauer's biography was published in 1958, and no reference to it has been found in contemporary sources. It since has been established that von Brauchitsch in 1932 had raced a streamlined SSKL on the AVUS, which was called Silver Arrow in live radio coverage. Also, in 1934, both Mercedes and Auto Union had entered the Avusrennen, but the Mercedes cars were not able to start, and Auto Union did not succeed either. The next big event was the Eifelrennen, but as few cars complying to the new rules were ready, it was held for Formule Libre, so weight was no issue at that time.
Mercedes-Benz W154 at Goodwood Festival of Speed 2009
|Problems playing this file? See media help.|
By 1937, the supercharged engine of a Mercedes-Benz W125 attained an output of 646 hp (475 kW), a figure not exceeded in Grand Prix Racing until the early 1980s, when turbo-charged engines were common in Formula One. The Silver Arrows of Mercedes and Auto Union cars reached speeds of well over 300 kilometres per hour (186 mph) in 1937, and well over 400 km/h (249 mph) during land speed record runs.
The superiority of these vehicles in international motor racing established the term "Silver Arrow" as a legend, for example by usually winning the first race in which they were entered. The names Rudolf Caracciola, Bernd Rosemeyer, Hermann Lang, and later Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio, will forever be associated with the eras of these racing cars.
Other car companies
Now a traditional color for road-cars in reference to the Silver Arrows, most German car companies have a shade of silver in their catalogues conforming to Silberpfeil-Grau, or Silver Arrow Grey.
However, the Audi and Mercedes-Benz are not the only ones who dye their cars in a silver color. Porsche has also inherited the tradition of silver arrows. But the company BMW still paints its cars in the traditional white color.
- three infamous Mercedes-Benz CLR
- two British-built LM-GT1 Audi R8C
- two Joest Racing LMP Audi R8R that scored third and fourth.
In 2012, Nico Rosberg drove the W03 - 2012's Silver Arrow - to Mercedes' first victory in Formula One since 1955.
- Chris Nixon, Racing the Silver Arrows: Mercedes-Benz versus Auto Union 1934-1939 (Osprey, London, 1986) pp. 30–37, 164-168
- Grand Prix History, Die Silberpfeile
- The Silver Arrows
- The Silver Arrows 75th Anniversary, Carsguide Historical article