The Argentine Touring Car Grand Prix, 28 October to 7 November 1964: one-two-three victory for Mercedes-Benz. The perilous fords, known as vados, were popular places for spectators to gather. The water sprayed high in the air as Eugen Böhringer and Klaus Kaiser, the eventual winning team, drove through one in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SE (W 112).
Fifty years ago Mercedes-Benz dominated the 8th Argentine Touring Car Grand Prix — VIII Gran Premio Internacional de Turismo Super Nafta YPF — with yet another sparkling performance. At the end of the race, which ran from 28 October to 7 November 1964, the model 300 SE ‘Tailfin’ Saloons (W 112) occupied the first three places in the overall rankings. It was the fourth win in a row for the Stuttgart-based brand in this prestigious long-distance competition, which was considered to be the toughest road race in the world at the time. Previous winners included Walter Schock and Manfred Schiek in 1961, the female team of Ewy Rosqvist and Ursula Wirth who pulled off a spectacular victory in 1962, and Eugen Böhringer and Klaus Kaiser who secured 1st place in 1963 – a feat which they repeated in 1964.
Eugen Böhringer crossed the finish line of the Argentine Touring Car Grand Prix on 7 November 1964, beaming victoriously. This was the second time that the Mercedes-Benz rally driver had won this, the toughest long-distance race in the world at the time, together with his co-driver Klaus Kaiser. Böhringer led a triple victory for the Mercedes-Benz 300 SE Saloon (W 112), following six stages covering a combined distance of 4,779 kilometres. This was even the fourth consecutive victory for Mercedes-Benz in this race, officially known as the Gran Premio Internacional de Turismo Super Nafta YPF.
The start on 28 October 1964 was marked by great expectations and stiff competition: would the German brand with its strong ‘Tailfin’ saloons be able to come out on top again over the route described as the “track with a thousand bends”, as it had done in the three preceding years?
The success story began in 1961, when Walter Schock and Manfred Schiek triumphed in their Mercedes-Benz 220 SE. The same vehicle was driven to victory a year later by the female team of Ewy Rosqvist and Ursula Wirth. Then, in 1963, Eugen Böhringer and Klaus Kaiser crossed the line in 1st place in a 300 SE, spearheading a quadruple victory for the ‘Tailfins’.
At the end of October 1964, four near-standard Mercedes-Benz 300 SE vehicles started the race in Buenos Aires. The only modifications made to the cars used in the race involved the installation of larger fuel tanks and changes to the engine characteristics as well as the transmission or final-drive ratios. The 300 SE had proved itself as a racing vehicle. In the 1964 season alone, Eugen Böhringer won the ADAC International Six-Hour Race at the Nürburgring and the Macao Touring Car Grand Prix in this car.
A total of four vehicles, all painted light blue with white roofs designed for tropical climates, set off from starting line of the Argentine Touring Car Grand Prix. Dieter Glemser and Martin Braungart had the number 605, Hans Herrmann and Manfred Schiek’s car bore the number 607, Ewy Baronin von Korff-Rosqvist and Eva-Maria Falk started with the number 609, and Eugen Böhringer and Klaus Kaiser – the eventual winners – drove the car with the number 617.
A total of 268 vehicles entered this, the 8th Touring Car Grand Prix involving six stages. Every two days of racing was followed by a day of rest. After only the first stage of 781.5 kilometres, all four Mercedes-Benz vehicles were already at the top of the rankings, with Eugen Böhringer setting a new record with an average speed of 181 km/h. At the same time, 91 vehicles were already out of the competition due to accidents or technical defects.
The start of the second stage, which was 731.9 kilometres long, became a celebration of the Mercedes-Benz rally cars. The “Tailfins” from Stuttgart also raced through the finish line in quick succession. Through stages three (729.4 kilometres), four (630 kilometres), five (the longest section of the race at 961.1 kilometres) and six (945 kilometres to the finish line), the route of the Touring Car Grand Prix led the competitors west and north, before turning back east to Buenos Aires.
Eugen Böhringer and Klaus Kaiser won the race with an average speed of 138 km/h, having overcome steep mountain passes, tight bends and seemingly endless scree-strewn slopes. The rally cars trailed long plumes of dust behind them as they drove along many of the unsurfaced roads.
While the car driven by Hans Herrmann and Manfred Schiek pulled out during the sixth stage, the three other Mercedes-Benz 300 SE vehicles drove on to achieve the brand’s last major victory for that era of motor sports. The 1964 Argentine Touring Car Grand Prix marked the end of an outstanding period in which “Tailfin” saloons achieved numerous victories in touring car rallies and long-distance races. Supported by team manager Karl Kling and the Argentine Mercedes-Benz Champion Juan Manuel Fangio, the vehicles with their characteristic profiles once again showed the outstanding performances they could help their drivers to achieve in that autumn 50 years ago.