Mercedes Targa Florio is back on the road after 100 years

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Mercedes has restored the 100-year-old Mercedes Targa Florio racing car that took part in the Targa Florio race in Sicily in 1924 and has been in the German manufacturer’s possession since 1937.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of its participation in the Targa Florio race in Sicily, Mercedes has restored the Mercedes Targa Florio racing car, which has been in the company’s museum since 1937. German classic car magazine Motor Klassik followed the restoration process up to the first test drive on the road.

On 27 April 1924, Daimler took part in the Targa Florio race in Sicily for the third time, winning with Christian Werner at the wheel. He crossed the finish line first after 8 hours, 17 minutes and 3 seconds.

Mercedes has won the Targa Florio in the Sicilian mountains three times. Giulio Masetti won in 1922 with a privately owned Mercedes car with 115 PS, painted dark red instead of white. Christian Werner was the first non-Italian driver to win the Targa Florio in 1924, and Stirling Moss and Peter Collins won in a 300 SLR, followed by Jan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling in 1955.
Few people know that the Mercedes Targa Florio was developed by Ferdinand Porsche, who was then chief engineer at Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG), who used a platform from the Mercedes ‘Indianapolis’ racing car with a four-cylinder supercharged mechanical compressor engine designed by Paul Daimler and optimized it.

The Mercedes Targa Florio has been in Mercedes’ possession since 1937 and is exhibited in the German Museum in Munich and later in the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart. The restored car is not the winning number 10, which disappeared without a trace, but the number 32, driven by Christian Lautenschlager, who finished 10th in the same race.

In 1922, Masetti painted his car dark red to avoid possible obstruction from Italian fans, and Mercedes copied the idea in 1924.

Complex restoration process

For a short time, the car was owned by Wilhelm Eberhardt, who modified it for street use. That’s why, in the restoration process, Mercedes restored the car’s body to its original plans, according to the original drawings in the Mercedes-Benz Classic archives. Traces of the original red paint were carefully revealed and analyzed. The Mercedes-Benz Classic specialists spent 200 hours just experimenting with the paint, with the car being painted with linseed oil paint using a brush.
The original aluminum bodywork has been 95% restored to the original.

The engine, a masterpiece of its time, was in a bad stage. The cylinder block was in disrepair, the cooling jacket had rusted, and one cylinder had blown. Sure enough, there had been another attempt to rebuild the engine long ago. Valves, pistons, and valve springs had to be rebuilt, water pump, oil pump, and Roots compressor bearings were repaired. The crankshaft and camshaft were rebuilt and then refitted.

An attempt was made where possible to keep the original parts, which was successful on the steering and rear axle, while in the gearbox, only the sealing rings are new.

After complicated operations, the engine and transmission were mounted on the car, which was ready for the first test drive. At the wheel was former F1 driver Karl Wendlinger.

The transmission and steering have been perfectly restored and are almost identical to the original car. The unrivaled grey cast-iron brake shoes of the four-wheel cable-operated brakes are characteristic of Mercedes racing cars of the time. The camberless rear axle was developed by Ferdinand Porsche, and the gear ratio of 1:5 was specially adapted for the Targa Florio race, where the top speed was 120 kph. Drivers drove in third and fourth gear for most of the race.

The interior is very cramped, but it did fit Karl Wendlinger, who is 1.87 m tall, and the 1.83 m tall editor of Motor Klassik.

On the left side of the side wall are two fuel taps and the hand pump, which the passenger uses to create pressure so that fuel is pumped from the main tank into an intermediate tank above the engine, where it flows into the carburetor.
Then, a pump on the engine takes over the pumping, and if it fails, the passenger can step in. Below is a reservoir from which the water pump can be lubricated. The left front wheel brake can also be adjusted using a knurled wheel.

The 4-cylinder engine cranks and sounds throaty and deep, unusual for a four-cylinder. The racing driver needs a period of accommodation because the throttle is in the middle, the brake pedal on the right, and the clutch on the left. Benefiting from mechanical supercharger supercharging, the engine is springy but doesn’t go over 3000 rpm. The wind blows with hurricane force even at low speeds, and every transverse bump is felt up the spine. It’s unbelievable in what conditions the drivers were racing in those days.