1938 Mercedes-Benz W125 top-speed record runEnlarge Photo
Mercedes-Benz isn't too upset over the fact that the Koenigsegg Agera RS has broken its 8-decade-long title for the fastest land-speed vehicle on a public road. Actually, the German automaker is pretty darn proud over the fact it took 80 years for someone else to oust it.
What are we going on about? On January 28, 1938, racing driver Rudolf Caracciola drove a specially modified Mercedes-Benz W125 grand prix racer on a stretch of German Autobahn near Frankfurt and clocked an average top speed of 268.8 mph for more than a kilometer. The feat is extraordinary even in the present, but downright insane for 1938. Sadly, a shadow was cast on this success by the fatal accident of a competitor, Auto Union racing driver Bernd Rosemeyer, on the same day.
The W125 accomplished the record with a 5.6-liter V-12 with 765 horsepower and featured a handful of novel engineering specs. For example, the engine used an ice-cooling system rather than ambient air. Engineers cooled the massive engine with 11 pounds of ice and 12.6 gallons of water. It also helped keep the drag coefficient as low as possible.
Designers and engineers also tweaked the exterior design to boast rounder shapes and sharp tapers to keep crosswinds at bay at high speeds and also reduce axle lift. The covered wheel arches only add to the futuristic look of the land-speed record car.
Koenigsegg's Agera RS with its 5.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 with 1,341 hp was finally enough to take the mighty Merc down. Koenigsegg broke the record last November on a closed 12-mile section of Highway 160 just outside of Pahrump, Nevada.
Even though Mercedes is out a record, 80 years is one hell of a run. The W125 used in the land-speed record run proudly sits in the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany these days.