Mercedes-Benz has a factory located in Bremen, so it should have come as no surprise to see a small but high quality display from them at the Bremen Classic Motorshow. The marque has a competition history stretching back over 120 years, to the very beginning of motoring. Indeed both a Benz and a Daimler took part in what has become recognized as the first motor race, the Paris to Rouen event held on July 22, 1894.
In the '30s the Silver Arrows dominated Grand Prix racing with Mercedes-Benz usually getting the better of Auto Union. However, by the end of the Second World War, mere survival was all that could be hoped for - and though things improved as Europe rebuilt itself with aid under the Marshall Plan, it would be 1952 before the team from Stuttgart would be seen at the tracks again.
The Mercedes-Benz in question was the 300 SL and in 1952 it enjoyed considerable success in major endurance events around the world. The 300 SL was based on the running gear from the 300 saloon, funds were not available for developing a separate sporting prototype. After a promising début in the Mille Miglia with second and fourth places, there was a lock out on the podium positions in the Swiss Grand Prix at Bern. Next on the calendar was Les Vingt-Quatre Heures du Mans - the trio of 300 SLs were not the fastest, but the Mercedes-Benz team were clearly the most professional outfit in the race.
It was a race that went down in history as Pierre Levegh attempted to drive his Talbot Lago T26 to victory single-handed, only to retire with engine failure in the 23rd hour while holding a lead of four laps. That left Hermann Lang and Fritz Reiss to take victory for Mercedes-Benz, backed up in second place by Theo Helfrich and Helmut Niedermayr. The only blot on the Mercedes-Benz copybook was the retirement of the third car driven by Karl Kling and Hans Klenk.
The 300 SL on display at Bremen was in the colors that it ran in November 1952, while competing on the Carrera Panamericana.
The road race on public highways in Mexico lasting five days and covering almost 2,000 miles was widely regarded, at the time, as the most dangerous event of them all.
It was another triumph for Mercedes-Benz and the 300 SL, though not without its problems. During the race eventual winner Karl Kling hit a buzzard while flat out around 135 mph, co-driver Hans Klenk was stunned.
The team fitted some bars to protect the drivers if such an incident should happen again.
Kling was not to be denied, along with Klenk he took victory at an average speed of over 102 mph.
The 300 SL on display at Bremen finished in second crewed by Hermann Lang and Erwin Grupp, it was another dominant display from the Stuttgart marque.
The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL holds a special place in the long history of Daimler in motorsport, after the dark days of the Second World War and its aftermath, it took the company right back to the top, where it still can be found today.
See the 300 SL in action in the following historic video...
Additional photography courtesy of and copyright Daimler AG, Mercedes-Benz Classic.