The Porsche designed Land Speed Record Car.
Sanctioned by Adolf Hitler 80 years ago; designed by Ferdinand Porsche; built by Mercedes-Benz - the Type 80 would've been capable of 750kmh (470mph).
When I'm in Stuttgart, I always pay a visit to the Porsche Museum. When I was last there, I did a double hit - Porsche Museum in the morning and the Mercedes-Benz Museum in the afternoon. The latter is a much bigger space with lots of pre-war cars (which isn't my favourite era) - but there was one car that really captured my imagination - the T80.
It wasn't until a little later that I realised that this incredible Merc was actually designed by Porsche. The Mercedes-Benz T80 was a six-wheeled car developed and designed by Ferdinand Porsche which was created to smash the World Land Speed Record - but it never got to realise its ambition due to the outbreak of World War II.
The design still looks astonishing some 80 years later.
The project was sanctioned by Adolf Hitler himself, 80 years ago, in 1937. The leader of the Nazi Third Reich was in the height of his power when he approached Herr Porsche with world-renowned German racer, Hans Stuck. This was to be Stuck's pet project to show how Germany lead the way in automotive design and innovation - and the target was set at creating a car that could do 550km/h (342mph). However, after George Eyston and John Cobb's successful runs in 1938 and 1939, the target speed was raised higher by the Führer - to 600km/h (373mph).
By late 1939, when the project was completed, the target speed had increased somewhat - Hitler had now decreed the the rest of the World needed to be in awe of the German technological supremacy with a speed that would be no lower than 750km/h (470mph). This propaganda triumph would reflect well on Hitler and his regime - especially as it was going to break the record on German soil on an Autobahn course.
The massive 44.5 litre Daimler-Benz DB 603 inverted V12 was chosen to power the T80. This was derived from the DB 601 engine that powered the Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter that was in production at the same time. An aircraft that the British pilots were going to become quite familiar with over the coming years... The DB 603 had 3,000 hp, roughly double the power of our very own Spitfire.
There was no shortage of money made available for this project, and Porsche's engineering genius had created a 8 metre long, 2.7 metric ton, drivable missile. The cockpit of the car shares the same design influences as the first Porsche Type 64.
The T80 Cockpit
The Porsche Type 64, sharing the same cockpit design influences
Hans Stuck was due to drive the T80 over a special stretch of Autobahn which passed south of Dessau, which is now part of the A9 Autobahn between exit's 11 and 12. It was 25 metres wide and 10km long with the centre reservation paved over. This stretch was nicknamed the Dessauer Rennstrecke (Dessau Racetrack) and the date was set for the 'RekordeWoche'. January 1940 was the destined date. Hitler had named the car as the Schwarzer Vogel (Black Bird) and the car was painted with an eagle and Swastika. All best plans and that though... World War II broke out on September 01st 1939 and the car was garaged.
Such an incredible car. It really is quite captivating to see - and see it you must. It is on permanent display at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.