A Merc, as we all know, has an alphanumeric name where the numeric part represents one tenth of the displacement. So an E200 is a 2 litre. Except that nowadays that’s not usually the case. E220d? Also a 2.0. E350d? A 3.0.E63AMG? 4.0. And so on.

In the past it was so straightforward. Except when it wasn’t, obviously.

It’s time we met the T80. An 800 cc microcar? Er, no. Not even close

Before the Second World War, the Germans decided to elect that nice Mr Hitler and his party into power. Once in power, that nice Mr Hitler spared no expense in supporting projects that would enhance the prestige and invincible power of the Third Empire and one of those was the world land speed record. Hans Stuck, father of the more recent Hans and in the same line of work, wanted to achieve the record on German soil with a German car and persuaded Hitler to back him.

Mercedes got to work on the Rekordwagen.

To go really fast you need a very slippery design. You also need a really powerful engine and Mercedes (yes, I know they were actually called Daimler-Benz) had just the thing.


This is a DB 603. It looks quite odd, which would be because it’s an inverted V12. Upside down, in everyday language. Usually this lived in aircraft, but for Rekordwagen duty the third prototype was cranked up to 3,000 bhp and was intended to be fed a remarkably mixed diet of methanol, benzene, ethanol, acetone, nitrobenzene, conventional aero fuel and ether with a dash of methanol/water mix for charge cooling purposes.


It was fitted into this chassis. Note the three axles (two driven), the huge drum brakes, the absence of any suspension and the apparent lack of cockpit. The driver in fact sat in a constricted space at the front.


On top of this was built a slippery and bewinged body which we see in all its glory in this remarkable picture.


The intention was that Stuck would make the attempt on what’s now the A9 near Dessau in 1940 and would aim for a speed of 750 kmh (470 mph), thus putting the record far ahead of any conceivable opposition. Perhaps fortunately for him war intervened and the car never ran at speed.

It survived the war and is now on display, minus its engine, at the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart.