With Europe ravaged by six years of fighting,
finding intact Mercedes-Benz W154s at
the end of World War II seemed unlikely.
And yet, eight of the 16 built survived
the maelstrom, having been spirited to
the far-flung corners of eastern Europe.
Chassis No. 9, Hermann Lang’s
winning car at the non-championship
1938 Coppa Ciano, was found in what is
now the Czech Republic and shipped to
the U.S. in 1946 by Tommy Lee, who’d
inherited a number of L.A.-based radio
stations from his father, Don.
The mighty V12-powered machine
was entered for the 1947 Indianapolis
500, Duke Nalon driving. After major
(ABOVE) Duke Nalon qualified Tommy
Lee’s newly-acquired Mercedes-Benz W154
18th for the 1947 Indianapolis 500.
(ABOVE) Juan Manuel Fangio explains his
non-finish in heat two to Argentine president
Juan Peron and his wife, Eva, AKA “Evita.”
AN AMERICAN CODA
W154’S FINAL FLOURISH
engine problems necessitated casting a
new piston, Nalon started 18th, but
retired after 119 laps when the part failed.
In 1948, Chet Miller qualified the
same car 19th, but it retired on lap 108
with relief driver Louis Tomei on board.
A year later, ol’ No. 9 was entered by
owner/driver Joel Thorne, who’d fitted a
straight-six engine but failed to make
the field. Interestingly, Mercedes team
manager Alfred Neubauer was in
attendance to gather information for
a mooted 1951 “500” entry by the
Three-Pointed Star and its W154s.
That never happened, but the W154s
did get one final runout, in 1951, when
M-B sent cars to Argentina for Lang, Karl
Kling and local hero Juan Manuel Fangio
to race in the non-championship, two-heat
Buenos Aires Grand Prix. Lang and Kling
each earned a second place, with Fangio
taking a third followed by a non-finish.
Reducing frontal area to minimize drag was key in
the design of the Mercedes-Benz W154. A smaller
radiator and a redesign of the low-line bodywork on
the 1939-spec car further refined the theme.
for its era, the
W154’s cockpit still
provided plenty of
room for its driver
to manhandle the
steering wheel in
style, albeit in
comfort... (LEFT) The
1939 Swiss GP was
the last European
victory for the W154.
Hermann Lang leads
Rudolf Caracciola at