The Record Mercedes Set In 1938 That Has Yet To Be Beaten

The lead up to the Second World War was tense and tragic as the German nation was led astray by opportunistic politicians and fearsome nationalist feelings. As part of this nationalist uprising great funds were poured into engineering projects Mercedes-Benz and AutoUnion benefitted especially from this program. In particular they needed to have the fast vehicle on a public road be a German car, piloted by a German, on a German road.


On the 28th of January 1938 Bernd Rosemeyer would pilot his Silver Arrow AutoUnion to his death.That same day his competition Rudolf Caracciola would set a record for the flying kilometer at 268.9 mph. Rosemeyers V-16 car, designed by Ferdinand Porsche, weighed less than 2100lbs and had around 545hp.  Carracciola’s W125 Rekordwagen had 750 hp from a V12.

W125 Rekordwagen
W125 Rekordwagen
Bernd Rosemeyer
Bernd Rosemeyer
Rudolph Caracciola
Rudolf Caracciola

Rosemeyer’s death overshadowed the new record and had a profound effect on Caracciola. The AutoUnion had supposedly been hit by a gust of wind at 250 mph and had rolled twice, throwing the driver from the vehicle. There is a theory that rudimentary aerodynamics produced excess downforce and could have caused suspension failure or change in shape at high speed, disrupting Rosemeyer at high speed.

Indeed as is common in such a Nazi sponsored program, information was controlled closely and it is apparent that wind tunnel measurements indicated that though the car was 7% faster than the 1937 body, it was an alarming 28% less stable, and this was at the fastest wind tunnel velocity of 300 kmph. For more engineering information click here

The record has never been attempted again, for good reason

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