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Solitude-Stuttgart, June 26-28 2008
Kurt Ahrens Jr., Carlos and Hans Herrmann enjoying life...

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The W196 introduced at the 1954 Reims Grand Prix not only looked like nothing else on the grid but under its streamlined body it was filled with innovations as well. The straight 8 cylinder engine was tilted 37 degrees resulting in smaller frontal area. There were no valve springs closing the valves as the W196 was equipped with a desmodromic valve operating systems, with one camshaft opening the valves and a second one closing them again. Bosch direct fuel injection developed for the 300 SL was used, a similar technology as found in the four time 24 Hours of Le Mans winning Audi R8, 45 years after it was first introduced. To decrease the unsprung weight the drum brakes were moved inboard. The W196 was as complex as it pre-war cousins and as successful.
Fangio drove the W196 to its maiden victory at its first Grand Prix, with his team mate Kling just a couple of meters behind him, the third place finishing Ferrari however was more than a lap behind. The low drag streamline body that had been so successful on the high speed Reims circuit blocked Fangio's view of the front wheels at Silverstone in the next Grand Prix. Not being able to point the streamlined W196 to the corners' apexes, he finished a 'lowly' fourth. For the Nurburgring GP a new open wheeled bodywork was ready, it didn't look quite as good as the streamlined version of the W196 but it was just as purposeful. Fangio went on to win the 1954 and 1955 World Championships. In 1955 Moss lead three other W196s to victory in the British Grand Prix at Aintree.
Various versions of the W196 were built during its lifespan, the streamlined version for highspeed tracks like Avus, Reims and Monza, a more conventional bodied version for the road racing tracks. Of that normal bodied version a short wheel base version was built for the 1955 season, and an even shorter one for the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix with outboard brakes for cooling reasons.

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Hans Herrmann in the W196 Streamliner while in the background, John Surtees in a W196
with a more conventional bodied version, has a chat with Vic Elford.

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