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21 August 2019

Merc's winged warrior than never flew

By James ClearyJames Cleary

It’s wild, winged, and never turned a wheel in anger, but the sheer scale and scope of the Mercedes-Benz T 80 world record prototype is enough to turn your brain inside out.

Designed and built in the late 1930s, this bizarre beast was set to shatter the absolute world land speed record before a certain global conflict got in the way.

The brainchild of Grand Prix driver Hans Stuck, and designed by none other than Ferdinand Porsche, the T 80 measures a mammoth 8.24m long, 3.2m wide (including side fins), sits 1.27m high, and weighs in at 2.8 tonnes.

The T80 was designed and built in the late 1930s. The T80 was designed and built in the late 1930s.

Configured as a 6x4, with drive going to both rear (swing) axles, each if its six equal-size wire spoke wheels measures 1.17m in diameter. Turning circle is 32 metres!

Powered by a Daimler-Benz DB 603 44.5-litre fuel-injected V12 aero engine producing 2574kW (3500hp) its maximum velocity was calculated at 650km/h, scheduled to be achieved on the autobahn near Dessau in north-east Germany in February 1940.

Powered by a Daimler-Benz DB 603 44.5-litre fuel-injected V12 aero engine producing 2574kW (3500hp). Powered by a Daimler-Benz DB 603 44.5-litre fuel-injected V12 aero engine producing 2574kW (3500hp).

Fuel mix to develop maximum horsepower was 86 per cent methanol, 8.8 per cent acetone, 4.4 per cent nitrobenzene, and 0.8 per cent ether. Bang!

A scale model was tested in the Zeppelin company wind tunnel in Friedrichshafen to determine the optimum level of downforce: enough for maximum power down, but not enough to overload the custom Continental tyres. Overall Cd figure is an amazing 0.18.

If you’re thinking why don’t they just light this bewinged candle and get that monster V12 cranking, it’s a no-go. The engine currently installed in the car (which resides in the Mercedes-Benz collection) is a cut-away display version, the original was handed over to the German Ministry of Aviation and lost during the war.

The T80 is the brainchild of Grand Prix driver Hans Stuck and was designed Ferdinand Porsche. The T80 is the brainchild of Grand Prix driver Hans Stuck and was designed Ferdinand Porsche.

Hans Stuck’s son, former F1 and touring car ace Hans-Joachim Stuck, has often joked that he’s pleased the record attempt didn’t go ahead because he suspects his father wouldn’t have been around to conceive him.

The T 80’s body and chassis, the latter complete with reconstructed spaceframe (made from original drawings, of course) are on display separately at the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart.