THE ULTIMATE SILVER ARROW
standings, the W154 took three out of five
non-championship GPs entered. All good,
but Uhlenhaut and Mercedes-Benz racing
manager Alfred Neubauer wanted more.
Over the winter of 1938-’ 39, M-B
developed a new engine, the M163, that
reduced oil consumption and featured a
higher compression ratio. In the early part
of the season, a two-stage supercharger
was added, ultimately increasing power to
483hp, as well as delivering a wider, more
consistent band for the drivers to work with.
Detail changes on the 1939-spec W154
(often incorrectly called a W163) included a
smaller radiator that resulted in a reduced
frontal area, new bodywork, small fins on
the edge of the brake drums that acted as
cooling fans and a larger, 185-liter saddle
tank. Sadly, with another 235 liters in the
rear tank, the W154’s enormous fuel
capacity (420 liters/110 U.S. gallons) would
add to the severity of the blaze that claimed
the life of Seaman after he hit a tree in a
soaking Belgian GP at Spa-Francorchamps.
Still, despite the brutality of the cars and
the rough and ready nature of the tracks,
the British racer was the only driver to die
in a Mercedes during the pre-war period.
Factory W154s ran in just seven races in
1939, winning three out of four European
Championship GPs held and two of three
non-championship events, the third of
which, the Belgrade City Race, ran Sept. 3,
two days after the start of World War II (see
sidebar, page 35). Lang was the season’s
dominant driver, but with the advent of
hostilities and confusion over the points
system, the French-based AIACR never
officially declared the German as champion.
In the fall of 1939, based on the bluster
and bombast of Adolf Hitler and his cronies,
Germany expected a short, successful war
– indeed, M-B’s racing department initially
hunkered down on preparations for 1940 –
yet the reality proved rather different.
As the conflict escalated and dragged on,
the cars were lost, stored or dispersed
piecemeal (a story in itself). For the Silver
Arrows and their fearless drivers, it was the
end of a golden era, but not quite the end
of the W154 story (see sidebar, RIGHT).
Dull and repetitive
PR duties come with
the territory when
you’re a Formula 1
driver. But one perk
of being on Mercedes’
F1 payroll is getting
to play with some of
the jewels from the
in Stuttgart, and all
in the name of PR.
In 2013, Lewis
Hamilton was given
a chance to drive
a 1938 ex-Rudolf
Caracciola W154 on
Was he impressed
by the ultimate
pre-war Silver Arrow?
That would be an
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