Designed by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, the SSK was Mercedes’ racing powerhouse from 1928 to 1932, winning a long list of significant victories, including the 1931 Mille Miglia in the hands of legendary driver Rudolf Caracciola. It also broke the pace record for the Mille Miglia at the time with an average speed of 62mph(101km/h). The SSK was seriously fast, in fact it was the fastest car of its time. Its top speed was 120mph (~190km/h), and the performance from its 7.1L straight 6 engine is still decently impressive by today’s standards. The key was its supercharger, which engaged via a clutch when full throttle was used. This design gave the power when it was needed (especially at higher altitudes, where air is thinner), but also helped keep the car reliable by not having the blower stressing the engine all the time. From what I’ve read, around 170hp was available before the supercharger engaged, and 225hp hit when the boost came on. I have also seen some reports of SSKs making as much as 300hp, so maybe in different specifications were used for different races. The car also had a massive amount of torque, with as much as 500ft/lbs available on those highest spec’d cars. Keep in mind, all of this performance is in a car with 1920’s technology, so tires, brakes, suspension, etc were all nowhere near the level of a normal modern car, and the SSK weighed nearly two tons. Racing back then took some serious bravery.
The SSK you see here was on display at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, during my trip to Europe last year. Regrettably, I don’t have too many details on this specific SSK because I was so focused on taking photos that day that I didn’t bother reading the signs. I do know there were only 30-35 SSks built, so it is very rare, and definitely worth a few million dollars.
I love looking at early racing cars because there is so much crude genius. All of the performance aspects of a modern car had to be developed, usually through trial and error, and driven by competitive spirit. The SSK was the pinnacle of automotive technology in the late 1920s, and it marks a significant moment in racing, as well as in the development of the automobile itself. Enjoy the pics.