Mercedes-Benz W 165 racing car, 1939

Mercedes-Benz W 165 racing car, 1939
1.5-liter racing car designed for the Tripoli Grand Prix

The W 165 racing car with its 1.5-litre V8 engine was developed by Mercedes-Benz for a single race – the Grand Prix of Tripoli in Libya, then a part of Italy, in 1939. The reason was the decision taken by the organisers to hold the race in the Italian colony only for vehicles of the so-called Voiturette formula with 1.5-litre engine. The intention behind this decision was to displace German competition, because neither Mercedes-Benz (Tripoli winner in 1935, 1937, and 1938) nor Auto Union (winner in 1936) were able to present a racing car for this class. However, the racing department in Stuttgart accepted the challenge and built an entirely new “monoposto” for the 1.5-litre formula in less than eight months.

In many design details, this W 165 was based on the current 3-litre W 154 Grand Prix car. The mechanically supercharged V8 engine with a displacement of 1,493 cc delivered 187 kW (254 hp) at 8,000 rpm and reached a top speed of 272 km/h. The calculation of the developers in Rudolf Uhlenhaut’s team succeeded: The two cars that on the 7th of May 1939 started the race in Tripoli against an overwhelming number of competitors, 28 red-painted voiturette Alfa Romeo and Maserati racing cars, achieved a triumphant double victory. Hermann Lang won the spectacular desert race for the third time, incumbent European Champion Rudolf Caracciola finished second, while the fastest Italian car crossed the line a good four minutes later.

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