Any event that fueled nationalism that the Pre-war Nazi Germany He was not only welcomed, but sought after. Even more so if what has been achieved has demonstrated a certain global supremacy. What’s better then than build the fastest car in the world.
The German state sought to obtain any result that marked superiority both from a technical and sporting point of view. This is why he has allocated millions of marks to promote projects that demonstrate that avant-garde.
Automatic merge (now Audi) e Mercedes Benz They received these investments and developed prototypes, evolving into racing models. The government was in charge of closing sections of the brand new highways and companies fought to take all the prestige of being the fastest.
This is the story of T80He Mercedes six-wheeled aircraft engine, designed by Ferdinand Porsche and financed by Adolf Hitler’s government.
In those years, car racing flourished all over the world and the Germans were not the only ones trying to be the fastest. Their great enemies were the English, who had improved their results.
A war for speed
Early 1938, with the pilot Rodolfo Caracciola in command, a Mercedes W125 with a 736 horsepower engine and a futuristic faired figure, it reached 432.7 km/h on a stretch of the motorway between Frankfurt and Darmstadt.
For its part, Auto Union responded with Bernd Rosenmeyer behind the wheel, but the car failed on the third attempt he lost his way at more than 400 km/hwhich caused the accident that cost the German pilot his life.
But that hasn’t stopped the quest for more speed. another pilot Hans Stueck, He was a friend of Hitler and got the money to finance what would be the project that aimed for maximum glory. We had to prevail against the Englishwhich she had already managed to achieve at the end of 1937 502 kilometers per hour.
In a Mercedes W125 specially adapted for this speed test, Rudolf Caracciola reached 432.7 km/h on a stretch of motorway between Frankfurt and Darmstadt, Germany.
Already in 1936 Stück had contacted Mercedes to have a meeting. On that occasion he suggested to the star brand to build a vehicle designed exclusively to achieve the world speed record. For this reason it had to be powered by a Daimler aircraft engine.
And the person in charge of designing the car was no more and no less than Ferdinand Porschewho had been chief engineer of Mercedes until 1928. And on March 11, 1937, a contract was signed uniting Daimler-Benz AG and Porsche in all areas of engine and vehicle design.
So, in addition to working together on some racing cars, commercial vehicles and engines, the design of T 80, called the fastest car on the planet.
To revive development, Hitler’s government invested 600 thousand markswhich at that time represented a huge sum.
A development like no other
On April 6, Porsche presented its plans for the T 80. These outlined a multi-stage development process, from an initial twin-engine proposal to a final single-engine concept. This last idea already showed most of the characteristics of a truly unique vehicle, even taking into account current standards.
The car would have three acesone front and two rear, and was to be driven by a 12-cylinder V-shaped aircraft enginein a central position but with the reverse arrangement.
Porsche then calculated that, to reach the record speed of 550 km/h, it would be necessary to travel a distance of 5 kilometres, so the engine power would have to be at least 2,200 horsepower or, better yet, 2,500.
The T 80 took shape during 1938. In October Ferdinand Porsche saw the wooden model of the bodywork together with his employees. The time had come to define the types of steel panels for the bodywork and decide on the details of the seat and cab.
At the same time it was necessary to formulate the structure that would support the bodywork. On October 26, 1938 the Mercedes-Benz racing department recorded in a report that the first welded chassis weighed 224 kilograms.
Both the chassis and body structure were completed by the end of November 1938, and all larger parts of the vehicle were expected to They would be ready by the end of January 1939. A note dated November 26, 1938 documented that if the aircraft engine was delivered by that date, the chassis could be assembled by the end of February 1939. The body would be completed in May of that year.
The wheels also had to be special. The tire manufacturer Continental tested the tires intended for the T 80 on a test bench and found severe deformation of the spoked wheels during a high-speed test at 500 km/h.
Meanwhile, Porsche continued with calculations on power and distance to travel. He thus came to a new conclusion: reach 600 km per houra distance of 13.73 kilometers and a power of 2,750 horsepower would have been necessary, i.e. 11.48 kilometers with 3,000 horsepower.
That’s why the engine was installed. DB-603, the same as the Messerschmitt Bf-109, a fighter jet. The engine was an inverted V12 with a displacement of 44.5 liters, supercharged by a huge compressor. Although it originally delivered 1,750 hp, according to previous calculations they managed to achieve the ideal figure: 3,000 HP at 3,200 rpm.
Aerodynamics were key. The measurements were carried out with a model of the T 80 in the wind tunnel of the Zeppelin company, the same as the airships. The goal was to find the optimal level of downforce, loud enough to get all the engine’s power to the road, but as low as possible so as not to overload the tires with their thin tread surfaces.
For this reason two huge side wings were used to provide aerodynamic support, as well as two tails, a flat bottom and a fully faired cabin.
The T 80 measured 8.24 meters long, 3.20 meters wide and 1.74 meters high. Despite its size it weighed only 2,896 kilos, of which 920 were the engine alone.
Hitler had christened him with this nickname “Black Bird” and his record attempt would take place in Recordwoche (Record Week), 1940. It was to be painted black, sporting the eagle and swastika emblem of the National Socialist Party.
The speed goal was ambitious: to become the fastest car on the planet. And the forecasts of the time agree that it would have succeeded easily: it was estimated that the T 80 it could have reached 650 km/h without problems. Others claim that 750 km/h was possible.
But in September 1939, Germany invaded Poland and World War II began.
In June 1940, there it was a final report for the project and the T 80 was filed. And the DB 603 engine for achieving the world speed record for a car was returned to the Ministry of Aviation.
The vehicle parts were stored, first together and then separately. Since 2006, the T 80 has been on display in the German brand’s museum in Stuttgart, with the original bodywork, tubular structure and wheels, but without the heavy chassis.
But in 2018, the T 80 left the confines of Mercedes and was exhibited outside Germany for the first time. As fate would have it, his first international foray took place in Goodwood Festival of SpeedEngland, exactly the place of origin of those who were then the possessors of speed.
Ben Stock is a journalist working for News Rebeat, where he covers the automobile section. With a passion for cars and the industry, Ben brings insightful and in-depth reporting to his readers.