“Magical moments”: The motor sport history of Mercedes-Benz

Dec 3, 2013
  • TV series with a playing time of 500 minutes on DVD and Blu-ray disc available on the retail market from December 2013
  • Silver Arrows at the core of the Mercedes-Benz racing legend
  • A unique combination of historic film scenes and authentic re-enactments with contemporary documentation
Stuttgart. – The film project “ Magical moments. The hour of the Silver Arrows” brings the unique motor sport history of Mercedes-Benz to life in a new format. In a year-long project together with his team, Cassian von Salomon, internationally renowned television producer and until 2011 editor-in-chief and managing director of “Spiegel TV”, has created a brilliant portrait of the Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows and their pilots. In order to show this legend to full effect, “Magical moments” looks beyond the actual time of the Silver Arrows from 1934 to 1955: The series begins with the birth of motor sport and extends to the present day, so that collectors, racing drivers and protagonists of the sport are also seen and heard.
This is one of the greatest stories in the history of motor sport: The Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows and their pilots impressed their seal on motor racing culture in the mid-20th century in a most unique manner. This legend, which to this day inspires the power of fascination of the Mercedes-Benz brand, is the subject of the ten-part television series “Magical moments. The hour of the Silver Arrows”. In a playing time of around 500 minutes, renowned TV producer Cassian von Salomon, until 2011 editor-in-chief and managing director of “Spiegel TV”, and his team, take viewers on a breath-taking journey through the history of motor sport.
With Saskia Weisheit (director) and Florian Dennert (author), producers Cas-Film realised a film project that for the first time skilfully combines historical images from the Mercedes-Benz Classic archives with meticulously reconstructed scenes (“re-enactments”) and contemporary interview elements. In December 2013, “Magical moments. The hour of the Silver Arrows” will be available on the retail market as DVD box and as Blu-ray disc.
“At Mercedes-Benz Classic we not only made the exclusive vehicles of our collection available for this production, we also provided support with the unique knowledge contained in the Mercedes-Benz Classic archive and the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center, making the project possible,” says Michael Bock, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic. “It is indeed our philosophy, not just to preserve the Mercedes-Benz tradition and legend, but also for as many people as possible to be able to experience it,” adds Michael Bock. The head of Mercedes-Benz Classic appears in the television production as a modern-day witness to the fascination of the Silver Arrow.
Authenticity and originality in the re-enactments
The result of the close cooperation between Mercedes-Benz Classic and the Cas-Film team is an exceptionally high degree of authenticity and originality. This is particularly visible in the re-enactments, which comprise over a dozen speaking parts. Among the main characters of the Silver Arrow era presented this way are extraordinary Mercedes-Benz race drivers such as Rudolf Caracciola, Hermann Lang, Manfred von Brauchitsch, and Juan Manuel Fangio. But legendary racing manager Alfred Neubauer and Silver Arrow designer Rudolf Uhlenhaut are also leading characters in “Magical moments. The hour of the Silver Arrows”. In order to find the most convincing performances, the filming team cast over 100 actors. The atmospherically dense re-enactments were filmed over two weeks with more than 50 people on the set and with a large range of props – by far the most valuable of which were the original Silver Arrows from the Mercedes-Benz Classic collection.
The re-enactments were combined with documentary scenes in which collectors, racing drivers and Silver Arrow contemporary witnesses can be heard. Just as fascinating is the contrasting of historic footage and newly-shot scenes on film. The material is from the period extending from 1900 to 1955 and consists of silent films on nitrocellulose and eight-millimetre rolls.
Historic films and modern digital technology
Modern procedures such as digitalisation of old films and subsequent restoration of the images on the computer using special software allowed the makers of “Magical moments. The hour of the Silver Arrows” access to a vast selection of racing scenes. A great part of the historic films comes from Mercedes-Benz Classic itself. Among these, the so-called Monkhouse material is exceptionally relevant: George Monkhouse, an employee of film manufacturer Kodak, already filmed motor races in colour as early as the 1930s when the general standard was still black and white. Many of the colour sequences from “Magical moments. The hour of the Silver Arrows” will be seen by the general public for the very first time. Apart from the Mercedes-Benz Classic Archives, the Cas-Film specialists made use of archives all around the world for their extensive research. Images were acquired in particular from England and the United States.
With modern recorders a setting is provided for the Mercedes-Benz racing cars with great sensitivity and understanding for the balance between the conservation of automotive cultural heritage and the fascination of historical engineering genius. To achieve this the film-makers work in part with flowing transitions between historic and modern-day scenes showing the same vehicle – as if the car came thundering down the decades across the screen. Naturally, the possibilities open to modern day filming are much greater than those that existed 80 years ago: In “Magical moments. The hour of the Silver Arrows” aerial photography and cranes, finger cameras and miniature cameras attached to the vehicles were used, to which can be added the technology for high-resolution slow-motion films. A total of up to twelve high-definition (HD) cameras in parallel were used by the film team. The exciting relationship between the present and the past becomes particularly tangible contrasting the most up-to-date technology with history in comparisons made possible by cutting edge technology, when classic racing cars are studied in the Daimler AG driving simulator and in the wind tunnel of the oldest motor car manufacturer in the world.
An international film event
The project “Magical moments. The hour of the Silver Arrows” is an international film event not only thanks to the world-famous Silver Arrows and their forerunners. Its production in different European countries and the USA contributed, as did the work with historic film material from legendary racecourses from all over the world. An important part was also played by collectors, witnesses and experts: in the series they provide information about the unique significance of the racing cars and racing sports cars from Mercedes-Benz for automotive history – and about their own personal relation with these vehicles.
Among those portrayed in the series are renowned collectors Dieter Dressel, George Wingard, Franz Maag, and Evert Louwman, owner of the Louwman Museum in The Hague, which is at the same time national motor museum of the Netherlands. Hans Herrmann is a witness of the time who himself lived the era of the Silver Arrows at the wheel of the famous car. Racing driver Jochen Mass allows spectators to participate in the overwhelming thrill conveyed by driving one of the original Silver Arrows, seen from the perspective of a brand ambassador who is active today in historic motor sport.
A story as thrilling as a Grand Prix
“Magical moments. The hour of the Silver Arrows” is a dashing time travel starting with the birth of the Mercedes brand from the spirit of motor sport at the dawn of the 20th century and taking you up to the last great victory of the W 196 in 1955. The documents used present the journey with its multi-perspective narrative style in a dynamic manner worthy of one of the great Grand Prix races, which are shown over and over as highlights of the production. From the spectacular Mercedes victories in 1908 and 1914 and the triumphant record runs of the 200-hp Benz, the film series takes the viewer to the victorious years of the Mercedes-Benz supercharged sports cars and finally to the two brilliant periods of the Silver Arrows from 1934 to 1939 and from 1954 to 1955 – including the return of Mercedes-Benz to international racing from 1952 with their successes in sports car racing.
The individual episodes of “Magical moments. The hour of the Silver Arrows”
  • 1 – A star is born:
    The origins of motor sports; the 1908 and 1914 Grand Prix victories; records set by the 200-hp Benz
  • 2 – The beginning of an era: Rudolf Caracciola and the supercharged sports cars of the 1920s
  • 3 – The birth of a legend:
    The first Silver Arrow, W 25, 1934/1935
  • 4 – The most powerful one of its time: Rudolf Uhlenhaut and the development of the W 125, 1937
  • 5 – The quest for records:
    Record runs with the Silver Arrows, 1936 to 1939
  • 6 – A gentleman in the Silver Arrow: Richard Seaman and the W 154, 1938/1939
  • 7 – Rivals at the wheel:
    Rudolf Caracciola versus Hermann Lang, W 165 in Tripoli, 1939
  • 8 – Comeback on the course: Return to motor sports with the 300 SL (W 194), 1952
  • 9 – A virtuoso from overseas:
    Juan Manuel Fangio and a new beginning in Formula 1 with the W 196, 1954/1955
  • 10 – Farewell of the victors: The 300 SLR racing sports car; Uhlenhaut Coupé; a farewell to motor sports
Mercedes-Benz racing driver Manfred von Brauchitsch (left) talking to his teammate Luigi Fagioli at the international Eifelrennen race at Nürburgring on 3 June 1934. Von Brauchitsch won the race in a Mercedes-Benz W 25 750-kilogram formula racing car.
German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, August 1, 1954. Winner Juan Manuel Fangio at the wheel of the open-wheel Mercedes-Benz W 196 R with start number 18.
The 300 SLR "Uhlenhaut Coupé" (W 196 S) racing car prototype on the test track in Untertürkheim.
Mercedes-Benz W 125 formula racing car, 1937.
Mercedes-Benz SS sports car dating from 1928.
Juan Manuel Fangio in the Mercedes-Benz W 196 R formula racing car with streamlined body. Fangio drove the car to victory on 5 September 1954 in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
Formula 1 debut at the French Grand Prix in Reims on 4 July 1954: Hans Herrmann is seen here familiarising himself with his new "office" in the streamlined Mercedes W 196 R.
3rd Carrera Panamericana in Mexico, 1952. The winning team: Karl Kling and Hans Klenk with the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing car (W 194) after the legendary accident with the vulture.
Stirling Moss
Stirling Moss (right) and his co-driver Denis Jenkinson before the start of the Mille Miglia on 1 May 1955 in Brescia, Italy. The team won in the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR racing sports car (W 196 S) with the best time ever achieved in the Mille Miglia
Pierre Levegh (centre) in discussion with John Cooper Fitch (left) and racing director Alfred Neubauer at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 1955.
Pierre Levegh
Rudolf Caracciola after his victory at the Swiss Grand Prix in Bremgarten, 21 August 1938.
Manfred von Brauchitsch (1905 - 2003).
Tripoli Grand Prix, 15 May 1938. Rudolf Caracciola and mechanics preparing for the start of the Mercedes-Benz W 154 formula racing car.
Klausen race, 9 to 10 August 1930: category winner for sports cars was Rudolf Caracciola in a Mercedes-Benz SSK.
Le Mans Classic, 6 to 8 July 2012. Mercedes-Benz Classic celebrates „60 years of SL“ and the legendary double victory of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing car (W 194, 1952) 60 years ago in Le Mans (14/15 June 1952). Jochen Mass.
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing cars (W 194 series, 1952), Rudolf Uhlenhaut, on the Rotenberg in Stuttgart, 1953
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing car (W 194 series, 1952). Rudolf Uhlenhaut beside a space frame in a rotating welding rig. This welding rig is a special version belonging to the testing department in Untertürkheim, 1952
Mille Miglia, 3 to 4 May 1952. Driving team Karl Kling and Hans Klenk (No. 623) with a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing sports car (W 194, 1952)
Grand Prix of Bern, 17 to 18 May 1952, triple victory for Mercedes-Benz. 300 SL racing sports car (W 194 series, 1952). Rudolf Caracciola (starting number 16) led right from the start but had to yield to Karl Kling (starting number 18), who then stayed in the lead until the finish line.
Bern Grand Prix, Bremgarten, 18 May 1952. Rudolf Caracciola in his Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W 194, 1952)
Mercedes-Benz racing prototype 300 SLR “Uhlenhaut Coupé” (W 196 S, 1955, extreme left) together with (from right) racing car 300 SL (W 194, 1952), racing prototype 300 SL (chassis number W 194 011) for the 1953 racing season and 300 SL “Gullwing” (W 198, 1954).
Mercedes-Benz Classic Brand Ambassador Jochen Mass, pictured in 2010.
Mercedes-Benz racing sports car 300 SLR (W 196 S), Mille Miglia version, 1955.
Mercedes-Benz W 196 R Formula One racing car with streamlined body, for the 1955 season on the test track in Untertürkheim. Photograph from 1972.
Test drives on the Hockenheimring, 1955. Mercedes-Benz racing car transporter "Blue Miracle" carrying a W 196 R Monoposto Formula One racing car.
Belgian Grand Prix, 25 June 1939. Richard Seaman on Mercedes-Benz W 154 (number 26) in persuit of H.P. Müller on Auto-Union.
Prague hill climb Königssaal-Jilowitsch “The European hillclimb championship”, 11 May 1930. Rudolf Caracciola (starting number 144) at the start in a Mercedes-Benz model SSK. Caracciola wins in the sports car class up to 8 litres. He achieves the day’s best time and sets the sports car track record.
German Grand Prix for sports cars at Nürburgring, 15 July 1928. Triple win for Mercedes-Benz. The Mercedes-Benz team in the first and second rows with a type SS racing touring car. In starting position (from left to right): Starting number 1 - Georg Kimpel/Adolf Rosenberger. Starting number 5 - Otto Merz and co-driver Eugen Salzer. Starting number 4 - Christian Werner/Willy Walb.
Nice Week in April 1902. E. T. Stead in a Mercedes-Simplex 40 HP, winner of the Nice–La Turbie hill climb, photographed on the Promenade des Anglais.
French Grand Prix near Lyon on 4 July 1914. The Mercedes Grand Prix racing car of the eventual winner, Christian Lautenschlager (start number 28), entering the Piège de la Mort (“Death Trap”), around three kilometres from the starting/finishing line. Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft achieved a triple victory with its Mercedes Grand Prix racing cars, in the sequence Christian Lautenschlager, Louis Wagner and Otto Salzer.
John Richard Beattie Seaman (1913-1939)
Start of the Monaco Grand Prix, April 22,  1935. Threei Mercedes-Benz formula racing cars  W 25 in the startin line. start number 4 - Luigi Fagioli, the winner. start number 6 - Manfred von Brauchitsch. start number 2 - Rudolf Caracciola.
John Richard Beattie Seaman (1913-1939)
German Grand Prix on the Nürburgring, July 23, 1939. From the left: Hermann Lang, racing director Alfred Neubauer and Rudolf Caracciola, who was to win the race.
German Grand Prix, JUly 24, 1938. The Mercedes-Benz crew, from left: Manfred von Brauchitsch, racing director Alfred Neubauer, Richard Seaman, Hermann Lang and Rudolf Caracciola.
Hermann Lang (1909-1987)
Hermann Lang (1909-1987)
Coppa Acerbo, Pescara, August 1937. Manfred von Brauchitsch (start number 14) finished in second place at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz W 125.