In 1955, the Mercedes-Benz testing department built a racing car transporter to carry the legendary W 196 “Silver Arrow” grand prix car and the 300 SL sports car.
It was a quirky vehicle painted bright blue with a long loading bed that was specifically shaped for the precious cargo it would carry.
Below the loading bed sat naked spare wheels in case of a breakdown, and on it sat a car that would go on to sell for R460,374,712 in 2013.
Called the Rennabteilung, it was entrusted with special Mercedes deliveries – and it would go on to become a special Mercedes itself.
A 3-metre wheelbase
The Rennabteilung was constructed using three different vehicles from the Mercedes line-up.
A modified chassis from the 300 S passenger car was chosen for the frame, the 3.0-litre, six-cylinder direct-injection engine from the 300 SL was selected for its power, and body panels along with interior bits from the 180 sedan were fitted.
The single-cab truck had a 3-metre wheelbase, and the frame of the passenger vehicle had to be extended and strengthened to accommodate the long bed.
A special suspension setup with coil springs was also placed at the front below the cabin, and between it sat the powerful motor that was mated to a four-speed transmission through a single-plate dry clutch.
At the rear, another specialized suspension setup with harder springs was fitted as it did not have to cater for human comfort.
In order to slow the 2,994kg truck down, pneumatically-boosted drum brakes were placed at each wheel, an additional disc brake was placed on the driveshaft, and an exhaust brake system was used on the engine.
A sedan’s cabin
The entire driver’s cabin was constructed from the 180 passenger car of the time.
The front end was steep and didn’t extend too far in front of the steering wheel – ending in two rounded headlights, two square fog lights, a chrome bumper, and a small rectangular grille with the Mercedes star planted in the centre.
Additional bits on the fenders were constructed from the 180’s sheet metal, and chrome strips with Mercedes branding were placed on the doors.
The inside of the cabin remained subdued – it was a utility vehicle after all – but saw a fashionable rear split window added and plaid inserts on the doors included.
Behind the window, a sprawling bed was covered in tracks and tie-down spots specifically built and shaped to accommodate the cars they would hold.
The “Blue Wonder”
This racing car transporter had some racing genes itself, and pushed out 141kW of power and 252Nm of torque at 5,500rpm.
It was also able to deliver cars to the track at speeds of up to 171km/h.
The original truck, which the engineers called the “Blue Wonder”, was a one-of-a-kind vehicle and sadly didn’t make it into the 1990s.
Mercedes felt this pain, and in 1993 went through the effort of reconstructing a modern tribute using archive documents.
The reconstructed example took nearly 6,000 hours to complete and is almost an exact copy of the first – with the exception of modernised brakes.
This tribute truck can be found at the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart, Germany.