Mercedes W196R Streamliner

Mercedes W196R Streamliner

by Luca Dal Monte

In its Streamliner configuration, the Mercedes W196 is so futuristic that it resembles a flying saucer. However, the W196R is actually much more than an extremely sophisticated car and indeed unbeatable in the two seasons it was deployed on the track. It is the calling card of a historic company that played a significant role in car racing but had been absent from the scene since 1939. And above all, it is the calling card of a Germany that returns to the family of nations after the tragedy of the Second World War.

The W196R races for two seasons with two different bodyworks. One version with open wheels, for slow circuits and generally mixed tracks, such as Monaco or Bern. And a streamlined version – the famous Streamliner, as it’s called – which is instead used on faster circuits like Reims and Monza.

Mercedes W196R Streamliner Image 1


Juan Manuel Fangio: In 1954, the Argentine driver brings the W196R to victory in the debut race at Reims and then three more times on the highest step of the podium at the Nürburgring, Bern, and Monza. Fangio also conquers four victories the following year in Argentina, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy. And for two consecutive years – 1954 and 1955 – he is world champion.

Hermann, Kling e Lang: Hans Hermann, Karl Kling, and Hermann Lang are the three German drivers who take turns alongside Fangio in the 1954 season and, only Kling, also in the following one. Kling’s best results are the second place in the 1954 French Grand Prix and the third place in the 1955 British Grand Prix. Hermann finishes third in the 1954 Swiss Grand Prix. For Lang, who raced for Mercedes before the war, there is a nostalgic appearance at the Nürburgring in ’54.

Stirling Moss: The rising star of international motorsport joins Fangio in the 1955 season. The apprentice grows quickly. Moss finishes second at Spa and Zandvoort and achieves the first success of an extraordinary career in the British Grand Prix at Aintree.

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Mercedes W196R Streamliner Image 2

Beyond its beautiful shapes, the W196R is a very interesting single-seater even under the bodywork. The chassis, extremely lightweight, consists of a lattice structure made of welded magnesium tubes. The suspensions are independent on both axles. The brakes are drum brakes and are placed inside the car in an attempt to reduce masses.

The engine is a 2.5-liter twin-cam inline 8-cylinder with desmodromic valve control, producing power ranging from 260 hp in 1954 to 290 hp in 1955. The engine technology is remarkable, starting with the absolute novelty represented by direct injection, developed based on the experience gained from Luftwaffe fighters during the Second World War.

The W196R will prove unbeatable and will conquer two consecutive world titles in 1954 and 1955.

Mercedes W196R Streamliner Image 3