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Mercedes-Benz W165 Grand Prix engine in 1:3 scale

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1       A short history of the Mercedes-Benz W165, 1.5 litre racing car  

Throughout the 1930’s, the German Mercedes Benz and Auto Union ‘Silver Arrows’ cars were an unbeatable force in Grand Prix racing.

The W165 racing car with it’s 1.5 litre V8 engine was developed by Mercedes-Benz for a single race – the 1939 Tripoli Grand Prix in Mellaha (Libya), then part of Italy. In those days the Tripoli Grand prix was a prestigious event in a prosperous Libya.

The Italian officials issued special regulations for the 1939 race in the Italian colony. The entrants were to be limited to the ‘voiturette formula’ for supercharged 1.5 litre engines. The intention was to sideline the German competitors, because both Mercedes-Benz (Tripoli winners in 1935, 1937 and 1938) and Auto Union (winners in 1936) had powerful 3.0 litre engines and thought not able to present a racing car for this class.

The managing director of Mercedes-Benz, Max Sailor, accepted the challenge and set the factory to work day and night to build two cars. The Untertürkheim plant was off limits to anyone without a special pass. They were left with the impossible task of developing cars in just eight months in time for the Tripoli Grand Prix. What emerged was the type W165, a scaled down version of their highly successful 3.0 litre Grand Prix cars.

In many design details, the W165 was based on the then current V12, 3-litre W154 Grand Prix car. The mechanically supercharged V8 had a displacement of 1,493 cc delivered 187 (254hp) at 8,000 rpm, and reached a top speed of 272km/h (160 mph) powered by a cocktail of alcohol, nitrobenzene, ether and acetone.

The development team under Rudolf Uhlenhaut achieved miracles. Two Mercedes-Benz W165 cars started the race in Tripoli on 7 May 1939, against an overwhelming number of competitors – 28 red-painted Alfa Romeo and Maserati voiturette racing cars. The W165’s achieved a triumphant double victory. Herman Lang won the spectacular, high speed, race for the third time, Rudolf Caracciola finished second, while the fastest Italian car with Emilio Villoresi at the wheel, crossed the finish line a good four minutes later.
It was to be their only victory, indeed their only race. Shortly after, war broke out in Europe, bringing motor racing to a halt for many years. Both cars survived the hostilities in neutral Switzerland and were eventually returned to MB. Motor racing would resume after the end of the war. Grand Prix racing was to run under the new Formula 1 regulations, which permitted either 1.5 litre supercharged or 4.5 litre un-supercharged engines.

After the war, a young British engineer, Cameron Earl, was sent to occupied Germany by the British Intelligence Objectives Sub committee (BIOS) to investigate and report on the development of Grand Prix racing cars before the war. The finished report, BIOS Report 1755, contained many detailed Mercedes-Benz blueprints of the W165 car and it’s 1.5 litre engine. The report was made available to the British motor industry and greatly influenced the design of the BRM V16, 1.5 litre, Grand Prix car.

I have obtained a copy of the British Intelligence report and have used the Mercedes-Benz blueprints as the basis of my CAD drawings for my 1:3 scale models of the W165 engine. Today, some 75 years after it was designed, the W165 engine is still an exciting engine, a technical masterpiece.

That's my 1/3 scale Supercharger sitting on top of the real thing.

We are going to enjoy this  :whoohoo:

Mike the forum software doesn't seem to like your first four photos I think it could be because they are BMPs  :(


Nice to see you in the photograph with the engine  ;)


The driver in the white helmet with the tartan band is non other than Sir Jackie Stuart. He was the guest driver for the only running W165 at last years Goodwood Festival of Speed. The only other surviving W165 is on permanent display in the MB museum in Stuttgart.

Hi Mike, thanks for reminding me of the history of this great race car. Waiting for the next steps of your build report.


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