The setting, vehicles and dates speak for themselves: on the third weekend in May, Lake Como is the hub of the classic world. There, several events on 20 and 21 May 2023 will present vehicles that are rarely seen.
Among them are highlights from the brand history of Mercedes-Benz, which stand for milestones in motorsport and aerodynamic development: the Group C racing sports car Sauber-Mercedes C 9 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1989 with a one-two victory.
The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W 194) racing sports car achieved the same triumph in 1952. The Mercedes-Benz 540 K Streamliner (W 29) was built as a spectacular one-off in 1938.
“I am delighted that selected vehicles from Mercedes-Benz history can be experienced at the automotive events on Lake Como. In the special ambience of Lombardy, these concours events continue a long tradition of such events since the beginning of the 20th century.” – Marcus Breitschwerdt, Head of Mercedes-Benz Heritage
Marcus Breitschwerdt will also take part in the series of events. On Sunday, he will appear as a guest for a panel discussion on the importance of automotive museums at Villa Sucota. The focus will be on their role in society, the relationship between car manufacturers and private collectors, and visions for car museums in the future.
300 SL racing sports car (W 194) at the Concorso Villa d’Este
The Le Mans winning car of 1952 is a 300 SL racing car (W 194). It takes part in the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. The racing car belongs to a private collector. After the Second World War, Mercedes-Benz made a spectacular return to racing with the W 194. The new racing car won in Bern, at the Nürburgring and at the legendary Carrera Panamericana in Mexico.
There was an outstanding victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1952 with Hermann Lang and Fritz Rieß in car 0007 with starting number 21 and a blue border around the radiator grille. Second place went to Theo Helfrich and Helmut Niedermayr, also with a 300 SL racing car.
The axles, transmission and base engine of the W 194 came from the Mercedes-Benz 300 (W 186) representation saloon. A completely new feature was a lightweight but very torsionally rigid roll cage. Because this was set high, the 300 SL could not be fitted with conventional doors.
The Mercedes-Benz engineers came up with a solution in the form of the characteristic gullwing doors hinged on the roof. This and many other features were adopted from 1954 onwards by the 300 SL (W 198), the production sports car developed from the W 194.
Le Mans winner in front of Villa Erba
Villa Erba, not far from Villa d’Este on the eastern shore of Lake Como, presents the special exhibition “100 Years of Le Mans”. Successful racing cars from various manufacturers from the history of the legendary 24-hour race can be seen here. In 1989, the Sauber-Mercedes C 9 Group C racing car achieved a spectacular one-two victory in Le Mans.
In the car with the starting number 63, Jochen Mass, Stanley Dickens and Manuel Reuter won the most famous endurance race in the world. They were followed in second place by their teammates Mauro Baldi, Kenny Acheson and Gianfranco Brancatelli in the C 9 with starting number 61 – this vehicle is presented by Mercedes-Benz Classic at Villa Erba.
in 1988, Mercedes-Benz officially returned to international circuit motorsport in Group C. From 1989 onwards, the Sauber-Mercedes team also visually continued the legendary era of the Silver Arrows: for the first time, the C 9 was entered in the World Sports Car Championship with silver paint.
The chassis was built by Peter Sauber in Hinwil (Switzerland), and Mercedes-Benz supplied the very reliable five-litre V8 engine M 119 with turbocharging. The power output was 520 kW (720 hp). The Sauber-Mercedes team easily won the 1989 World Sports Car Championship with the C 9.
540 K Streamliner (W 29) at the FuoriConcorso
In Como itself, on 20 and 21 May, there will be a fairly young event that is also highly attractive, the FuoriConcorso, founded in 2019. Very close to the city centre, the 2023 event is themed “Aerodynamic”. On the extensive grounds of the Villas Grumello, Sucota and Olmo, selected cars demonstrate the development of aerodynamics over the decades. A star here is the Mercedes-Benz 540 K Streamliner.
The one-off car, which can reach speeds of up to 185 km/h, embodies the great efforts made by Mercedes-Benz for optimum aerodynamics in the 1930s. It was delivered to the tyre manufacturer Dunlop for high-speed tyre testing in June 1938. Its eight-cylinder engine with a displacement of 5.4 litres produces 132 kW (180 hp) with a compressor. Mercedes-Benz Classic rebuilt the vehicle in 2014 as part of an authentic reconstruction. The drag coefficient measured afterwards is cd = 0.36. That is an excellent value for a 1930s car.
The history of automotive beauty contests on Lake Como dates back to 1929. This is when the international Concours d’Elegance “Coppa d’Oro Villa d’Este” was held for the first time. The competition was initially organised by the Automobile Club of Como, the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este and the Spa Committee.
In Germany, too, automotive beauty contests, for example in Baden-Baden and Wiesbaden, thrilled the public at the same time. The prize-winners often included vehicles from the still young Mercedes-Benz brand. It was founded in 1926 when Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft merged with Benz & Cie. to form Daimler-Benz AG.