Mercedes Benz T80


The Mercedes-Benz T80 was a six-wheeled vehicle built by Mercedes-Benz, developed and designed by Ferdinand Porsche. It was intended to break the world land speed record, but never made the attempt, having been over-taken by the outbreak of World War II.


World-renowned German auto racer Hans Stuck's pet project was to take the world land speed record and he convinced Mercedes-Benz to build a special racing car for the attempt. Officially sanctioned by Adolf Hitler (a race car fan influenced by Stuck), the project was started in 1937, while the Nazi Third Reich was at the height of its powers. Automotive designer Dr. Ferdinand Porsche first targeted a speed of 550 km/h (342 mph), but after George Eyston's and John Cobb's successful LSR runs of 1938 and 1939 the target speed was raised to 600 km/h (373 mph). By late 1939, when the project was finished, the target speed was a much higher 750 km/h (470 mph). This would also be the first attempt at the absolute land speed record on German soil, Hitler envisioned the T80 as another propaganda triumph of German technological superiority to be witnessed by all the world, courtesy of German television. The same Autobahn course had already been proven ideal for record-breaking in smaller capacity classes, Britain's Goldie Gardner having exceeded 200 mph (320 km/h) there in a 1,500 cc MG.


The massive 44.5 litre Daimler-Benz DB 603 inverted V12 was selected to power the record-setting car. The engine was an increased displacement derivative of the famous DB-601 aircraft engine that powered the Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter in production at the time. The DB-603 fitted was just the third prototype (V3) engine of this variant and tuned up to 3,000 hp (2,200 kW), roughly twice the power of the Bf 109 or the Supermarine Spitfire. The engine ran on a special mixture of methyl alcohol (63%), benzene (16%), ethanol (12%), acetone (4.4%), nitrobenzene (2.2%), avgas (2%), and ether (0.4%) with MW (methanol-water) injection for charge cooling and as an anti-detonant.


The difficulty of the challenge was met with money and engineering genius. By 1939, the T80 was fully completed at a cost of RM 600,000. The car was over 8 meters long (27 ft), had three axles with two of them driven, weighed over 2.7 metric tons (three short tons), and produced 3,000 hp (2,200 kW) together with the aerodynamics of specialist Josef Mikcl to attain a projected speed of 750 km/h (470 mph). Aerodynamically, the T80 incorporated a Porsche-designed enclosed cockpit, low sloping hood, rounded fenders, and elongated tail booms. Mid-way down the body were two small wings to provide down-force and ensure stability. The heavily streamlined twin-tailed body (forming the fairings for each pair of tandem rear wheels) achieved a drag coefficient of 0.18, an astonishingly low figure for any vehicle.


As ambitiously planned, Hans Stuck would have driven the T80 over a special stretch of the Reichsautobahn Berlin — Halle/Leipzig, which passed south of Dessau (now part of the modern A9 Autobahn) between the modern A9 freeway's exits 11 and 12, which was 25 metres (82 ft) wide and almost 10-kilometre (6.2 mi) long with the median paved over as the Dessauer Rennstrecke (Dessau racetrack). The date was set for the January 1940 "RekordWoche" (Record Week), but the outbreak of the war prevented the T80 run. In 1939, the vehicle had been unofficially nicknamed Schwarzer Vogel (Black Bird) by Hitler and was to be painted in German nationalistic colors, complete with German Adler (Eagle) and Hakenkreuz (Swastika), but the event was cancelled and the T80 garaged.


The DB 603 aircraft engine was subsequently removed during the war while the vehicle was moved to safety and storage in Kärnten, Austria. The T80 survived the war, unlike many German artifacts, and was eventually moved into the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart for permanent display.

After the war, John Cobb drove the Railton Mobil Special to a land speed record of 634 km/h (394 mph) in 1947, a speed which was 116 km/h (72 mph) slower than the 750 km/h (470 mph) projected for the T80 in 1940. It took until 1964 for Art Arfons to hit 875 km/h (544 mph) in the turbojet-powered "Green Monster" to attain and surpass the T80's speed target, purely on the jet thrust for the Arfons vehicle, and the wheel-driven record of 409 mph (658 km/h) set by the four-Chrysler Hemi-engined Goldenrod American land speed record car in 1965, which is still the piston-engined land speed record for non-supercharged, wheel-driven cars — as the T80's DB 603 engine possessed a mechanically-driven centrifugal supercharger in its normal form (and as used in the T80), the T80 would been classed differently from theGoldenrod. No wheel-driven land speed record vehicle exceeded the T80's maximum design velocity until 2001, when Don Vesco's turboshaft-powered "Turbinator" attained 458.440 mph 


The T80 is currently on display at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt. Many people over the decades have urged Mercedes-Benz to fully restore the T80 and test run it to see if it would have reached 750 km/h (470 mph).


Total weight: 2,896 kg (6,385 lb)
Power: 3,000 PS (2,210 kW) @ 3200 rpm
Engine: 44.5 liters
Wheels: (6) 7 X 31
Length: 8.24 meters (27 feet 0 inches)
Width: 3.20 meters (10 feet 6 inches)
Height: 1.74 meters (5 feet 9 inches)
Drag Coefficient: 0.18
Speed: estimated at between 550–750 km/h (340–470 mph)


Hanz Stuck

The fatal flaw in mythical Mercedes T 80 land speed record car

Dominic Tobin, JULY 25TH 2020

It was meant to be the pinnacle of Germany’s racing dominance. A Silver Arrow that really was quicker than anything else on the planet.

With an engine from a Messerschmitt, Ferdinand Porsche-designed bodywork honed in a wind tunnel, and Hans Stuck behind its leather steering wheel, the Mercedes T 80 was poised to wrest the land speed record from Britain: the crowning jewel for the Third Reich’s propaganda strategy.

Its target was 375mph, but the record attempt — on a stretch of autobahn — was never made, as war broke out during the car’s final year of testing. The potential of this ultimate Stromliner would remain a mystery — until now.

New analysis, to be broadcast this Sunday by Channel 4, reveals that the T 80 would almost certainly have been capable of hitting the target, in a coup for Hitler over the traditional land speed record powerhouses in France, Belgium and Britain.

However, it also reveals that the car carried a flaw, which could easily have proved fatal during the attempt to beat Surrey-born John Cobb’s mile record of 367.9mph.

CFD modelling of the T 80 was commissioned by the production team behind Hitler’s Supercars, a documentary that charts Germany’s motor sport propaganda campaign in the 1930s.

Using images and designs of the car, and conservative assumptions of its power, Silverstone-based TotalSim found that it could well have reached 400mph, helped by the low rolling resistance of the autobahn surface — compared with the Bonneville Salt Flats used by Cobb.

But lift at the front combined with downforce at the back, behind the rear axle, would have risked the car flipping during the attempt — an outcome the modern Mercedes outfit knows all too well after bringing its CLR to Le Mans in 1999.

“This car is the absolute apex of where everything was before the war,” says Jim Wiseman, director of Hitler’s Supercars. “They were using windtunnels to get these speeds. They had the manpower, the inventive engineers.

“It was also Hitler’s project, with his pet driver, his pet designer, who had developed the People’s Car, and his pet company.

“The fact that it didn’t run has given it a mythical status — would it have broken the record or not? From the figures we’ve done, I think it would.”

Wiseman says that the T 80’s instability came about because engineers had accidentally invented the rear diffuser, which increased downforce behind the rear axle, creating a significant imbalance.

The 8.2-metre machine accommodated a DB 603 V12 aircraft engine, developed for aircraft including the Messerschmitt Me 309 and Me 410. Mercedes says that the power output of the fuel-injected engine could have been as high as 3,550bhp when used with a special blend of fuel containing methanol and nitrobenzole.

Wrapped around it was a spaceframe weighing just 124.5kg, with two axles and four 1.17m diameter wheels at the back, covered in steel bodywork, that had been shaped in a wind tunnel, with side fins for downforce.

Mercedes had hoped to run the car in the autumn of 1940 but, as the year rolled on and war intensified, the engine was returned to the Luftwaffe, as the Nazi regime became more focused on the skies above Britain than records set on the ground.

The T 80’s bodywork is now displayed in the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart, its lines still other-worldly, more than 80 years after its creation.

It’s the final evolution of a project that began in 1933, when Hitler took power and began promoting Germany’s might through motor racing. The documentary charts the rise of the Nazi-funded Mercedes and Auto Union grand prix teams, and the rivalry that drove them to greater dominance and higher speeds.

The battle would play out each January in ‘Reich Record Week’ as ever-faster cars from each factory looked to break public road records on newly-built autobahn.

In 1938 it would claim the life of Bernd Rosemeyer — killed in an Auto Union Type C as he attempted to beat a 268mph benchmark set by Rudolph Caracciola in his Mercedes W125.

It was the end of Auto Union’s speed runs, but Mercedes continued developing, with help from Stuck and Porsche, to create the T 80. Testing continued beyond the outbreak of war but this was a car that was ahead, and out of time.

Hitler’s Supercars will be shown on Channel 4 at 8pm on Sunday 26 July 2020

Mercedes T 80 bodyshell in the Mercedes-Benz museum
Streamlined shape would have helped the T 80 to the land speed record
Modelling by TotalSim: red at the front shows lift; blue and purple at the rear is downforce
TotalSim's analysis found the rear of the car acted as a diffuser
Mercedes' T 80 with a streamlined W125 and 1.5-litre car
The leather steering wheel to keep the T 80 steady at 375mph
V12 DB 603 aircraft engine would have provided up to 3,550bhp