Car:Mercedes SSKL / Engine: 6-Cylinder In-line supercharged / Maker: Mercedes / Bore X Stroke: 100 mm X 150 mm / Year: 1931 / Capacity: 7,069 cc / Class: Sports / Power: 300 bhp at 3,300 rpm / Wheelbase: 116.1 inches / Track: 55.9 inches front and rear / Weight: 1500 kilo / 3306.9 lbs
The early twenties was a period of consolidation in the German Automobile manufacturing community. Daimler and Benz, rival firms that could rightly claim the invention of the motor car chose to merge after having cooperated on a number of projects. The former Daimler factories at Untertürkheim an Sindelfingen were used to produce passenger automobiles which Benz’s Mannheim plant was given over to light trucks. Though Daimler was the principle partner in the merger the person placed in charge of the combined firms was a 38-year old Benz executive by the name of Wilhelm Kissel. When he arrived at the former Daimler headquarters he was greeted with suspicion if not open hostility. His office as Managing Director had room for a desk, a chair an a file cabinet an little else. Kissel showing a keen sense of diplomacy never moved from the tiny office and immediately set to work.
Kissel was a firm proponent of competition building the breed as well as providing good publicity but he also felt that there needed to be a direct line between the race track and the showroom that the public could understand. Unfortunately the board of directors, and particularly the Benz board members.
Kissel directed Ferdinand Porsche to produce the successor to the Mercedes 28/95 the Mercedes K of 1926. What Porsche actually did was conduct a complete overhaul of the previous year’s car though how much of this information was leaked back to the board is unknown. What is known is that the new S-model was as close as Porsche and his engineers could come to a pure racing car. Porsche or Dr Porsche as he insisted on being called, though the title was only honorary, revised the K-model by lowering the hood as well as designing a new chassis that was much lower as well. The engine was moved one foot back and totally re-designed. This resulted in a much sportier and faster looking car. But improving the looks was only part of the package, Kissel was determined to go racing and if he could not have his racing cars he would producing passenger cars that could go racing.
In front of a half-million spectators the Mercedes S conquered the 172-turn Nurburgring in the hands of Rudolf Caracciola and caused an immediate sensation. 1928 saw the introduction of the SS or super sport model fitted with a 7-litre engine and finally the SSK the most famous version of all and one of the greatest sports cars of all time. This car would cement the reputation of Mercedes-Benz once and for all. Gleaming in an all white paint scheme (Germany’s colors before the Silver Arrows) with silvery exhaust pipes it seemed to dwarf all of it competitors. The wheelbase was shortened to 116 inches while output was increased to 225 bhp.
The effects of the Wall Street crash and subsequent depression worked its way across the ocean and on November of 1930 Daimler-Benz ceased all major racing activities. Alfred Neubauer desperate to maintain his relationship with the new German Ace, Rudolf Caracciola and sensing that the German company’s withdrawal was only temporary approached Dr William Kissel, managing director at Daimler-Benz with the idea of a personal services contract with the young driver whereupon the manufacturer would provide the equipment and support in exchange for a portion of all prize monies collected. This “support” included a generous stipend as well as use of a company car. With this Neubauer put together a small racing team which included Caracciola, his wife Charley, mechanic Willy Zimmer and co-driver Wilhelm Sebastian. It was said that Sebastian would later convince Caracciola to take the inside ditch of the Karussell at the Nurburgring. the car was a limited specially lightened model the SSKL producing what was for that period an astounding 300 bhp with which Caracciola would win the Mille Miglia , the first non-Italian to do so.