Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Global Automobile Industry and the Decline of American Economic Power

Automotive news today focused on the possible purchase of Chrysler-Fiat by Great Wall Motors, and US states vigorously competing for a Toyota-Mazda plant that promised the hiring of 4,000 workers. Chinese interests have already gained control of Volvo, and to their credit have been excellent stewards of that venerated brand. Several years ago Tata from India took possession of British Jaguar, and have also done an excellent job in protecting jaguar's reputation. The center of the automotive world is clearly moving to south and east Asia, because that is where the market is growing and will continue to do so for the immediate future.

Is recent automotive history a critical lens from which too view the decline of the west? Of course Oswald Spangler wrote on this topic in the 1920s, in the wake of the cataclysm of World War I.  Since the late 1960s the USA has experienced a gradual economic decline with reference to the rest of the world, and its auto industry no longer dominates this important manufacturing sector. With China now possibly acquiring FCA -- primarily because of SUV production -- is the decline becoming irreversible. Perhaps so!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Symbol of the German post-WWII Economic Miracle and Democracy: the Mercedes-Benz Star Comes Down in Bonn

The Mercedes star on the "Bonn-Center“ of the former German capital was not only a trademark, but also a distinctive symbol of the Federal Republic of Germany. It was installed on the high-rise building in the late 1960s and rotated – brightly illuminated at night – for more than 45 years. On 24 February 2017, it was removed and stored initially due to the pending demolition of the building. The star was now presented to the Mercedes-Benz brand club vdh e. V., which will make it the centrepiece of its planned museum in Ornbau, Germany. Photo from April 1994. Photo source: City Archive and City History Library Bonn/Friedhelm Schulz.

The Mercedes star on the "Bonn-Center“ of the former German capital was not only a trademark, but also a distinctive symbol of the Federal Republic of Germany. It was installed on the high-rise building in the late 1960s and rotated – brightly illuminated at night – for more than 45 years. On 24 February 2017, it was removed and stored initially due to the pending demolition of the building. Today, Mercedes-Benz presents the famous signet to the officially recognized Mercedes-Benz brand club vdh – www.mercedesclubs.de/ e. V., which will make the Mercedes star the centrepiece of its planned museum at the location in Ornbau, Germany. The opening of the exhibition in honour of the Mercedes-Benz brand and its vehicles in a specially built building is planned for 2019.
Stuttgart. For almost 50 years, the Mercedes star of the former "Bonn-Center" shone above the erstwhile German capital. It was a particularly present symbol for the seat of government of the Federal Republic – not just in Bonn itself, but through photos and television images in the whole world.
This important cultural asset will get a new future home in the planned museum of vdh e. V. With this project, Mercedes-Benz underscores the engagement in the active cultivation of the brand history twofold: On one hand, it benefits the work of a dedicated brand club. On the other, the Bonn Mercedes star is also significant from the perspective of the brand history. This star is a white star as was used in earlier days. Today, the trademarks have a silver-metallic shine, just like the Mercedes stars used as bonnet ornaments have always done.
"The fact that this Mercedes star will be exhibited in a museum dedicated to our brand is of great significance to us“, says Christian Boucke, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic. "It is part of our brand history and at the same time an important contemporary witness of the "Bonn Federal Republic’. In future, everybody will be able to visit it for the first time and admire it almost at eye level".
The Mercedes star has a diameter of eight metres and is thus about as tall as a two-storey house. On the "Bonn-Center", it completed one full turn in two minutes. Powerful lighting ensured the star radiated brightly at night from the roof of the former high-rise building.
"We are delighted that we are presented with this historical Mercedes star and that we will be able to exhibit it in our new museum as the centrepiece", says Horst Stümpfig, First Chairman of vdh – www.mercedesclubs.de  e. V. "It will be a key exhibit of the exhibition concept that features a host of vehicles. It will contribute to creating an impressive and unique setting“ .
With some 7000 members, vdh e. V. is one of the largest officially recognised brand clubs in Germany and is dedicated to the cultivation of the cultural assets that classic Mercedes-Benz vehicles represent. The planned club museum in Ornbau, Middle Franconia, a little under 20 kilometres south of Ansbach, will play a key role in the work of the club in future. The opening is planned for 2019.
The famous trademark will also celebrate an anniversary in 2019: On 24 June 1909, Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) applied for a design patent on the three-pointed star. It is used as a bonnet ornament since 1910 – and continues to be one of the world's most famous trademarks to this day. During the merger between DMG and Benz & Cie. in 1926 to form then Daimler-Benz AG, the product signets of the two companies were merged as well: Since then, the three-pointed star on the badge of every Mercedes-Benz is surrounded by the laurel wreath – on passenger and commercial vehicles.
Worldwide, there are 80 brand clubs officially recognised by Mercedes-Benz, with around 100,000 members in all. Mercedes-Benz Classic honours and supports their work through the professional Club Management and provides services such as establishing important contacts for workshops, parts supply, vehicle trade and the archives of Mercedes-Benz Classic.
The Mercedes star on the roof was the shining symbol on the "Bonn-Center“ visible for miles around. The high-rise building was built from 1968 to 1969 based on a design by Berlin architect Friedrich Wilhelm Gerasch as the first large commercial centre in the former parliament and government district. With 18 storeys and a total height of 60 metres, it was one of the tallest buildings in Bonn. In addition to public businesses and a hotel, the reinforced concrete construction housed numerous office floors, whose tenants included members and staff of the nearby German Federal Parliament and other governmental institutions, embassies, and associations. This made the "Bonn-Center" an important institution in the former government and business life in Bonn. To make room for a new construction project, after being gutted it was demolished with explosives and collapsed as planned on 19 March 2017.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Bill Grauer and Riverside Records: Capturing the Sounds from Sports and Race Cars

From the dust jacket of Riverside Records RLP 5002 [1957?]

"The theme here, then is engine noise: exhaust, valve, camshaft.  The variation on the theme are endless. As long as men design and build engines, there'll be enthusiasts trying to make them perform better. When they blow up, they'll simply build engines that won't blow up. The automobile is unique in the history of civilization. It has provided man with effortless transportation -- freed him, as it were, from the bounds of his physical limitations. And to the men who own own and run these cars, it is given, more than to most men, to create as well as to savor the magic bouquet of speed."

I have often wondered how  working-class kid from Kenmore, New York became obsessed with sports cars as a teenager.  I finally realized that obsession at age 18 with the purchase of a 1959 MGA in 1966. Now, at age 69, I look back at that time in my life and am trying to understand my thinking at a time in life when I did little deliberate thinking.

It may have been that my fascination with sports cars -- ironic since my family never even considered foreign cars -- can be traced to a record that I owned as a child. Between the ages of 12 and 14 I went with my friend Steve Kelley and family to Toronto, where at the Eaton's Department store I acquired a copy of Riverside Records "Vintage Sports Cars in Stereo." On one side the record featured the sounds of a number of vintage cars I had never heard of before: a Frazer-Nash; Type 51 Bugatti; E.R.A.; P3 Alfa Romero; Alta; V16 Maserati. On the other side a vintage race was narrated by the famous David Scott Moncrieff. I can't tell you how many times I listened to that record, but it was important enough to take it to Davidson College with me and to give this prized possession to my roommate, Paul Garrigus.

Most recently, due to a contact from David Williams, editor of the Ferrari Club magazine, "The Prancing Horse"  I ended up buying a copy of "Vintage Sports Cars in Stereo" on Ebay, and will give you my thoughts on listening  it as soon as it arrives from Great Britain.

The Riverside Records story is worth telling.  Well-known for its remarkable 1950s and early 1960s Jazz labels, Riverside was the result of the efforts of Bill Grauer and business partner Orrin Keepnews.

Grauer was a 1943 graduate of Columbia University (1944 MA) , and was  known as a jazz aficionado. Additionally,until his death in 1963,  he led an effort to capture car and aviation engine sounds, producing by 1961 some 24+ albums on race and sports cars along with fighter jet engine sounds and WWI aircraft. He brought to enthusiasts 8 LP's featuring Sebring endurance races and the sounds from Bonneville Salt Flats. Other sounds included hot rods, drag racers and vintage sports cars.

The technology used to capture these sounds improved over time.  Early on, mention was made of a mobile recording unit using a specially modified Magnacorder equipment and a Stevens "True-Sonic" microphone.

More on this and other related topics in the very near future.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bonneville Salt Flats Restoration Efforts

10-Year Salt Delivery Program
Proposed for Bonneville Salt Flats 

Coalition Unites to Restore Historic Racing Site

Wendover, Utah (August 9, 2017) – Three separate organizations representing racers and industry are in discussions with Intrepid Potash-Wendover, Inc., a potash mine operator, on ways to increase the amount of salt brine being pumped onto the Bonneville Salt Flats.  As Speed Week celebrates its 68th anniversary, the racing community is exploring ways to help restore the historic site to its former glory.

According to the groups, the goal is to create a 10-year pilot program to pump at least 1.2 million tons of salt a year, more than double the current amount being pumped. The program should help better understand Bonneville’s complex geology while simultaneously improving the racing surface.  The expanded laydown will build upon a 1997-2002 program which averaged 1.2 million tons yearly and increased the salt surface and underground aquifer that supports it.  The focus will be on sustaining that volume over a longer time frame and carefully measuring the results.

“Bonneville’s premier racing venue is actually the densely-packed salt remnants of an ancient lake bed formed over thousands of years,” said Doug Evans, Chairman of the Save the Salt Coalition. “The salt crust has been shrinking and thinning for decades due to both human and environmental factors. We welcome this team effort approach to helping return Bonneville to its former glory.” 

The racers are represented by three organizations.  The “Save the Salt Foundation” is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to restore the Bonneville Salt Flats.  The “Save the Salt Coalition” is an umbrella group comprised of automotive and motorsports companies and organizations with a vested interest in this national treasure.  The “Utah Alliance” is a volunteer Utah-based advocacy group using its expertise and contacts at the local level.  All three organizations are collaborating to keep Bonneville available for future generations.

Details about the 10-year pilot program are being refined and will be released in the coming months.  The parties are working with the U.S. Congress to develop appropriations legislation necessary to implement the plan.  The racing venue is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, and identified as the Bonneville Salt Flats Special Recreation Management Area.

for more information, visit www.savethesalt.org

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

An interesting old (1949?) Packard Limo

A 1949? Packard custom limo as seen in the Napa Valley.   Thanks to Randy Hughes!

Life is good in California.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

2nd Edition of The Automobile and American Life will be Available in Winter, 2018

This 2nd edition has plenty of new material scattered over many of the chapters. There is a new chapter 10 on the critical decade of the 1970s!!

Dr. Magoo Behind the Wheel of a 1904 Vehicle at the Swigart Museum

Here I am in a photo taken by Ed last week at the wheel of a 1904 car  I cannot identify at the Swigart Museum.  Boy, I need to improve my photogenic appearance!

At the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance: a 1907 Mercedes Simplex and a 1957 Mercedes 300 SL

Mercedes-Simplex 40 PS, 1903. Photo from Goodwood Festival of Speed 2017.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster (W 198), factory restoration, at the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center, 2011.

Mercedes-Benz Classic is taking two automotive gems to California. A factory-restored 300 SL Roadster (W 198) from 1957 will compete in the renowned Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance on 20 August 2017. As an accompaniment to the Concours, a Mercedes-Simplex 40 PS, manufactured in 1903, from the company's own collection will also be on view. This outstanding vehicle is synonymous with the birth of the modern automobile. As part of the Monterey Car Week, it will likely also take part in the Pebble Beach Tour d'Elegance on the peninsula between Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea on 17 August 2017.
Stuttgart. This Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster has what it takes to play a star role at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance 2017. It boasts a complete history since first being delivered to New York in 1957, with its chassis, body and engine having been fully preserved in their original form. In addition, since 2014 the experts from Mercedes-Benz Classic have carefully restored the vehicle with the utmost authenticity based on extensive searches of the archives.
The absolute summit meeting of exquisite automobiles from all over the world takes place on 20 August 2017 at the 18th hole of Pebble Beach Golf Club on the peninsula between Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea in California. The automotive beauty pageant involves around 200 classic vehicles of supreme exclusivity submitting themselves to the critical gaze of the judges. The 300 SL Roadster of the W 198 model series is made available by ALL TIME STARS.
The Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance made its debut in 1950 – at that time still as a fringe event to a road race. This founding myth of the Concours is today also attested to by the Monterey Car Week, which starts on the Tuesday before the Concours d'Elegance and includes the Pebble Beach Tour d'Elegance. In 2017, this regularity rally will revert to its original route, featuring a section of the legendary 17 Mile Drive coast road, which runs from Carmel via Pebble Beach to Pacific Grove. The Tour d'Elegance begins on Thursday, 17 August 2017, with the vehicles taking up their places on the starting grid in Pebble Beach from 7 am onwards. The starter waves his flag at 9 am.
Witness of the birth of the modern automobile
A 1903 Mercedes-Simplex 40 PS from the company's own collection will likely compete in this regularity rally. The vehicle manufactured by Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) is synonymous with the birth of the modern automobile, as well as the birth of the Mercedes brand from its motor sport origins. Brought out in 1902, the Mercedes-Simplex model series was based on the Mercedes 35 PS, which was victorious at the then internationally outstanding Nice Racing Week in March 1901. Mercedes-Simplex models played a key part in the corporate success of DMG. Their role at the very beginning of the 20th century is comparable with the current and future electrically powered EQ models from Mercedes-Benz.
The Mercedes-Simplex 40 PS will be regularly on view during the Monterey Car Week at the Mercedes-Benz Star Lounge, not far from "The Lodge" on the third fairway above Stillwater Cove. The vehicle will be shown out of competition at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. The beauty pageant is the crowning finale to this week of classic automobiles with exclusive exhibitions, competitions, regularity rallies and auctions. Some 200 absolute classic cars from all over the world will come together on Sunday, 20 August 2017. They will be assessed by the judges with regard to their historical authenticity, technical significance, aesthetics – and, of course, their condition. Beginning at 7 am, the contestants will take up their positions at the 18th hole of Pebble Beach Golf Club. Judging starts at 8.30 am. Finally, the visitors will be allowed in at 10.30 am. The prizes will be awarded between 1.30 pm and 5 pm.
This field of automotive excellence will include the factory-restored 300 SL Roadster, made available by ALL TIME STARS. Painted in blue-grey with a blue leather interior, the vehicle was built in 1957 in a special version for the North American market. Accordingly, it features the "sealed-beam" headlamps prescribed in the USA. The roadster was delivered through a dealer in New York. After leaving its first owner in New York City, the vehicle passed through various hands, yet always within New York State, before being sold to Europe a few years ago.
Manufactured between 1957 and 1963, the open-top sports cars of the W 198 model series were chiefly inspired by Maximilian Hoffman. Born in Austria and living in the USA, he was a businessman with the initiative and vision that were instrumental to the Mercedes-Benz 190 SL Roadster and 300 SL "Gullwing" Coupé production super sports cars, which made their debut on 6 February 1954 at the International Motor Sports Show in New York. With this, Hoffman paved the way for the brand to enter the US market after the Second World War. In 1947, he opened his first showroom, in Park Avenue in New York, for exclusive automobiles imported from Europe. From September 1952, he acted as an importer for Mercedes-Benz cars in the eastern states of the USA. In September 1953, Hoffman, invited to a board meeting of the then Daimler-Benz AG, suggested that Mercedes-Benz should include attractive and powerful sports cars in its model line-up – including a production version of the successful 300 SL racing car of 1952. This gave rise to the family of SL sports cars. From the outset, Hoffman saw the 300 SL "Gullwing" as an interim solution, his main focus being on a roadster version, which finally made its debut in spring 1957. On the North American market, this open-top 300 SL, with 158 kW (215 hp) and up to 242 km/h top speed, was to become one of the most powerful sports cars of its era as well as an especially successful model of the Stuttgart brand – like the "Gullwing" before it.
Established in 2015, ALL TIME STARS is the vehicle trading platform of Mercedes-Benz Classic. Under this name, the Stuttgart brand offers its customers young and old Mercedes-Benz classic cars of special quality – and with maximum-possible transparency, as each of the vehicles on offer is subjected to a thorough inspection based on a 160-item checklist. And each comes with a Classic Data Certificate showing that it has scored at least 2 for technical condition. A part of the ALL TIME STARS portfolio is displayed in the showroom at the Mercedes-Benz Museum. Potential buyers can view and purchase the vehicles here. A team of expert advisers is on hand to assist with detailed information and vehicle descriptions. Potential buyers will find the complete range at http://www.alltime-stars.com/.
Pebble Beach 2017:
Mercedes-Benz Classic vehicles
Mercedes-Simplex 40 PS (1903)
The Mercedes-Simplex 40 PS was launched in March 1902, superseding the legendary Mercedes 35 PS. The suffix "Simplex" was intended to indicate how easy the new model was to operate for its time. Its direct predecessor had defined the motor car's distinctive form for the first time. Characteristic features included the long wheelbase, the light and powerful engine installed low down and the honeycomb radiator integrated organically into the front end, which was to become distinctive for the brand. The Mercedes 35 PS marked the end of the "horse carriage" style that had dominated the industry and is thus considered to be the first modern car. The new Mercedes-Simplex, like its predecessor one year before, was immediately successful in motor sport, with the Englishman E. T. Stead winning the Nice–L a Turbie hill climb in April 1902. In the mile race, Degrais, in a Mercedes-Simplex 40 PS, posted the, at that time, incredible speed of 103.4 km/h over a flying mile. Delivered in 1903, the white example from the Mercedes-Benz Classic collection is one of the oldest-preserved vehicles bearing the Mercedes brand.
Technical data of Mercedes-Simplex 40 PSProduction period: 1902 to 1905
Cylinders: 4/in-line
Displacement: 6785 cc
Output: 29 kW (40 hp) at 1050 rpm
Top speed: 75 km/h
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster (W 198, 1957 to 1963)
At the Geneva Motor Show in March 1957, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the 300 SL Roadster (W 198) as the successor to the 300 SL (W 198) "Gullwing" Coupé, which made its debut in 1954. On a technical level, the open-top sports car was very like the Coupé, although the modified space frame allowed the installation of conventionally attached doors, which were necessary for open-top driving. The suspension was likewise modified: the single-joint swing axle with lowered pivot point superseded the classic two-joint version on the 300 SL Roadster, which was equipped for the first time with a compensating spring. From autumn 1958 onwards, the roadster was also available on request with a detachable coupé roof. It was from the standard-production 300 SL Roadster that the Mercedes-Benz engineers developed the 300 SLS racing variant with which Paul O'Shea won Category D of the American Sports Car Championship in 1957. This completed the circle, as the 300 SL was based on the racing car of the same name (W 194), which was used very successfully in motor sport in the 1952 season. In 1961, the 300 SL Roadster was provided with disc brakes, and a cast-aluminium engine block in 1962. Production of the 300 SL Roadster was discontinued in 1963 after seven years. Those seven years saw a total production of just 1858 units of the highly exclusive sports car, which is today an especially sought-after classic car.
Technical data of Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster
Produced: 1957 to 1963
Cylinders: 6/in-line
Displacement: 2996 cc
Output: 158 kW (215 hp)
Top speed: up to 242 km/h

Monday, August 7, 2017

Society of Automotive Historians Sponsored American Historical Association Panel, January, 2018

Hi folks -- A little -known fact is that the SAH is an affiliate of the AHA. From time to time the SAH sponsors a panel at the AHA annual meeting, and below is the one approved for this coming January. If you are in the Washington area and an SAH member, or a historian attending the meeting, please consider attending!

Automobility and Political Identity in a Neoliberal Age

Friday, January 5, 20181:30 PM-3:00 PM
Marriott Wardman Park, Roosevelt Room 4
Chair: Kathleen Franz, National Museum of American History and American University
Populist Politics and Automobility: Policy Activist Michael Parkhurst and the Use of Film to Advance Neoliberal Ideology
James Todd Uhlman, University of Dayton
Automoibles, Global Warming, and the Triumph of Liberal Individualism: A Bright Future for Automotive Historians
Tom McCarthy, United States Naval Academy
Driving the Neoliberal Surround
Cotten Seiler, Dickinson College
Comment: Kathleen Franz, National Museum of American History and American University

A Little-Known Fact -- Volkswagen almost set up a transplant in New Brunswick, NJ, in 1955

In 1955 the Volkswagen organization bought an assembly plant in New Brunswick,New Jersey from Studebaker. VW expected to assemble cars partly from US components and partly from German components.

The facility was erected in 1951, and intended as an assembly plant, but with the Korean War coming along and steel restrictions, for a time Studebaker shifted to the manufacture of jet engine parts.

VW, and its CEO Heinz Nordhoff, soon discovered, however, the Volkswagen components required separate tooling, and with that suppliers raised their prices. Six months after purchase VW gave up on the idea, and re-centered its activities  to Wolfsburg operations. Thus foreign entry in the U.S. was thwarted at this time.

The plant was acquired by Okonite Co. makers of high voltage steel cables, and continued there until 1997, when it closed. After a Superfund clean up, the facilities were later housed a number of smaller companies until July 22, 2015, when a fire destroyed the plant.

The former Okonite plant a blaze in 2015.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

American Cars in Sweden

A Contribution from Dr. Juan Santamarina:


We've been traveling around Denmark, Norway, and Sweden the last couple of weeks. Some great driving here--spectacular scenery. Wonderful all around though super expensive!

Anyway, one of the very interesting things I've discovered is the Swedish love of American cars, from brand new to old. Last night we were eating outside at renowned fish restaurant (Sturehof) in the center of Stockholm on the luxury shopping street (Birger-Jarlsgatan) and discovered that it's a major "cruising" scene for people with US cars-by the hundreds!  It was extra entertainment the whole time we ate. Classic 1950s onward, pre1950s ones made into hot rods, lots of 60s-70s muscle cars, plus new Mustangs, Camaros, F-150 to 350s, a couple of them diesels with the truck exhausts, and classic 911s mixed in with Ferraris, R8s, etc. though the majority were the old US cars of every type imaginable!  Amazing. Attached are a couple of pics. One favorite of mine was a perfect late 1950s Continental.

I've read a few popular articles on the topic so far and also looked up dealers in Stockholm. One I ran across is called "Exclusive Cars of Stockholm" and specializes in new Corvettes, Mustangs, Camaros, Cadillacs, Chargers, etc. Fascinating.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Beavercreek Cruise In, August 4, 2017: a 1957 Fiat Abarth

Hi folks -- not many photos this time around. My batteries died and my backup batteries were also dead!

The one car that struck me as most interesting on Friday night was a 1957 Fiat Abarth.  Why that car?

When I was about 12- 14 years of age I used to go down my street to visit my two cousins.  Next to their home lived Tony, and his home was a double with an upstairs apartment. For a time there lived a guy with a green Fiat Abarth.  It seemed that every time visited my cousins this Abarth owner was in Tony's driveway working on this Abarth. He was hot, sweating, and looking mighty frustrated.

I thought it was an interesting-looking small car, but what I remember most is this guy always working on it. Much later in life -- I was 22 and a graduate student -- I remember a similar kind of situation with an apartment neighbor always working on a Lotus Europa. Perhaps these memories are warnings from God to avoid certain cars!

Friday, August 4, 2017

IMSA SportsCar Championship at Road America, Elkhart Lake, WI, August 6, 2017

The storied 6.515-kilometre circuit not far from Elkhart Lake in the US state of Wisconsin is regarded as the birthplace of American sports car racing. The Porsche GT Team tackles round eight of the IMSA SportsCar Championship fielding two 911 RSR in the extremely competitive GTLM class against BMW, Chevrolet and Ford. Based on the high-performance 911 sports car, Porsche Motorsport in Weissach designed the 911 RSR for this season as a completely new development. Porsche customer teams tackle the GTD class with the 911 GT3 R, which rounded off Porsche’s triumph at Lime Rock with a second class victory after Daytona.
The race
Road America, which was opened in 1955 and is located halfway between Milwaukee and Green Bay on Highway 67, enjoys a long tradition. It is one of the oldest racetracks in the United States and one of the few circuits to have retained its original layout. It’s not surprising that it is called “America’s National Park of Speed”. With its long final straight and 14 corners, Road America is the longest circuit on the IMSA SportsCar Championship calendar and the most challenging. In 2015, Porsche celebrated a double class victory with the predecessor model of the new 911 RSR.
The Porsche drivers
The Lime Rock winners Patrick Pilet (France) and Dirk Werner (Germany) again share the #911 Porsche 911 RSR at Elkhart Lake. Lime Rock polesitters Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) and Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) man the second 911 RSR (#912) fielded by the Porsche GT Team. The four customer squads that will campaign the 911 GT3 R are Alegra Motorsports, CORE Autosport, WeatherTech Racing as well as Park Place Motorsports with Jörg Bergmeister at the wheel.
The Porsche vehicles
911 RSR, IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, Lime Rock, USA, 2017, Porsche AG

The new 911 RSR

The 911 RSR, which clinched its maiden victory at Lime Rock on July 22, 2017, is a completely new development. Depending on the size of the restrictor, the motor, which is now positioned in front of the rear axle, puts out around 375 kW (510 hp). The level of downforce and the aerodynamic efficiency were significantly improved. The 911 GT3 R, mounted with the ultra-modern four-litre, flat-six engine with direct fuel injection, was designed by Porsche for worldwide GT3 series on the basis of the 911 GT3 RS production sports car. The more than 368 kW (500 hp) customer sports racer kicked off the 2017 season with a class victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona.
The schedule
The 2:40-hour race in Elkhart Lake takes off on Sunday, 6 August, at 13.35 hrs local time (20.35 hrs CEST). Outside the USA, the race can be seen live on  www.imsa.com.
Pre-race quotes
Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars: “Road America is a fast and demanding racetrack where the drivers make the difference. But to perform well they need a competitive and well set-up vehicle. And that’s exactly what we’ll give them with our new 911 RSR. We nailed our colours to the mast at Lime Rock recently by securing pole position as well as a brilliant double victory and even overall honours. I’m sure that after this fantastic success they’ll also do their utmost at Road America. Our team will again give them their full support.”
Marco Ujhasi, Director GT Factory Motorsports: “In order to be fully prepared for this race we went testing with two cars on the racetrack. Road America is a traditional street circuit with many fast corners and that makes it a challenge. It’s a difficult task to find a perfect setup for our 911 RSR and to ensure that we have the grip that’s needed for the slow corners. The insights we gained during testing will certainly help overcome these challenges.”
Sebastian Golz, Project Manager GT Customer Motorsport: “Road America is one of the fastest racetracks on the calendar. Spectators can reach almost every part of the track and they can witness up close how the GT racers push the limits of traction in the corners. After a strong performance at Lime Rock with victory for Park Place Motorsports and third place for Alegra Motorsports, our customer squads are again eager to finish at the front with the 911 GT3 R.”
Patrick Pilet (911 RSR #911): “Road America is a racetrack with loads of character and a long tradition. A great challenge. It’s fast and demanding, and the way it follows the contours of the surrounding hills reminds me a little of Spa. Of course at Road America I always think of 2015 when we had a fantastic race there. We started from the very back of the field and went on to win. You don’t forget such things. But Road America was my all-time favourite racetrack in America long before this sensational victory.”
Dirk Werner (911 RSR #911): “I think Road America is the most beautiful racetrack in the USA. It has everything a racing driver could wish for – long straights, fast and at times very unusual corners, hard braking zones. I celebrated my first win in the American Le Mans Series here. To return now as a Porsche works driver is something very special, especially after having just clinched our first victory at Lime Rock. With this victory, we’re now in a good rhythm and we’re determined to maintain this momentum for the rest of the season.”
Laurens Vanthoor (911 RSR #912): “Road America is a very difficult yet incredibly fascinating racetrack. It’s one of those old-school circuits with a great tradition that I love and that can only really be found in the USA these days. We went testing there with the 911 RSR, which will definitely have a positive effect on the final setup of our car for the track. What I like about Road America is that if you dare to hold off a bit longer before braking for the corners, you can easily overtake in some places.”
Gianmaria Bruni (911 RSR #912): “I turned my first laps with the 911 RSR at Road America during our extensive test programme here in June. They were wonderful days. I received a very warm welcome from the team and I immediately felt at home in the Porsche Motorsport family. Now I’m looking forward to returning to this great racetrack. I’d like to turn the many positive test experiences into a good race result. Since Lime Rock at the latest, we know that everything is possible with the new 911 RSR.”
Jörg Bergmeister (911 GT3 R #73): “Road America is my favourite circuit in the USA. It’s very fast, very hilly and very challenging – and it’s always guaranteed to provide gripping action and interesting fights for positions. It’s good turf for Porsche. We’ve pretty much always done well there in the past.”
The Balance of Performance (BoP)
The “Balance of Performance” applies to the GTLM class of the IMSA SportsCar Championship. “BoP” was introduced by the IMSA ​​with the aim of achieving a level playing field for the different vehicle concepts in this famously competitive class, and thus ensure balanced and fair races. It should not make a fundamental difference if a vehicle is powered by a turbocharged or normally aspirated engine, or if the engine is mounted on the front axle or in front of the rear axle. The basic aerodynamic shape of the vehicles should also not play a decisive role.
After an initial grading by the IMSA, the performance data of the vehicles are acquired during the races via telemetry – not only lap times but, for example, acceleration profiles and engine mappings. This data input is then analysed and incorporated into the “BoP”. The most frequently used means of adjusting the performance level is through adding or subtracting weight as well as increasing or limiting the engine output through a restrictor or boost. In keeping with the rule-makers’ intention, the key to success on the racetrack is not about the individual potential of a vehicle, instead it’s about the performance of the drivers, the race strategy, a perfect setup or the skill of the team with their pit stops. 
This is the IMSA SportsCar Championship
The IMSA SportsCar Championship is a sports car race series contested in the USA and Canada, which was run in 2014 for the first time. The series was formed from the merger of the American Le Mans Series and the Grand-Am Series. Sports prototypes and sports cars start in four different classes: GTLM (GT Le Mans), GTD (GT Daytona), P (Prototype) and PC (Prototype Challenge). The new Porsche 911 RSR runs in the GTLM class, with the Porsche 911 GT3 R contesting the GTD class.

Mercedes-Benz: The Pioneer in Automobile Safety

Sindelfingen plant, production: measurement technology in body construction, 1967. The deformability of the impact absorber between steering wheel and steering column tube is measured in numerous tests. The impact absorber – a new element of Mercedes-Benz safety – has been standard equipment on all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars since August 1967. In the test, the dummy on the sled impacts against the steering wheel. In the process, the 90-millimetre-long impact absorber collapses to around half its length and absorbs a large proportion of the resulting kinetic energy.

Compressed-air catapult, Untertürkheim plant, 1971. This test device simulates the impact of the driver against the steering wheel. The purpose of the set-up is to test the impact absorber, steering and telescopic gearshift tube of the steering column gearshift.

Compressed-air catapult, Untertürkheim plant, 1971. This test device simulates the impact of the driver against the steering wheel. The purpose of the set-up is to test the impact absorber, steering and telescopic gearshift tube of the steering column gearshift.

Crash test for the rigidity of the passenger compartment. Such safety tests have been conducted since 1959 at the Mercedes-Benz testing facility in Sindelfingen. The photo shows a frontal-impact test with a Mercedes-Benz 220 S (manufactured from 1956 until 1959, W 180). Result of the test, for which the doors were removed: the safety cell withstands the impact; the unbelted driver is thrown against the steering wheel, the impact absorber of which reduces the force of the impact. As the seat slides forward and the rear bench comes loose in the impact, the respective anchor points are reinforced.
Sectional drawing of the Mercedes-Benz safety steering system, introduced in 1967, with impact plate in the steering wheel and deformable impact absorber; steering column and gearshift tube telescope into each other in the event of an impact.
Patent specification No. 1 229 860 "Safety steering wheel", patent applied for in November 1960. The safety steering system with impact absorber and telescopic steering column went into series production in August 1967.

An important step on a long journey: from August 1967, all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars were equipped as standard with a new safety steering system including impact absorber. These were two of numerous key modules of the Stuttgart-based brand in the holistic development of vehicle safety. This included details such as the conical-pin safety door lock, which was patented in 1949, and the retractable Mercedes star from 1957 as well as fundamental concepts, such as the safety body with crumple zones (1959), anti-lock braking system ABS (1978), airbag (1981) and Electronic Stability Program ESP® (1995). Setting safety standards – this was a special concern of the inventor of the automobile. Today, Mercedes-Benz continues to advance its vision of accident-free and autonomous driving with the integrated Intelligent Drive concept, which also includes solutions for connected, autonomous, shared and electrified driving.
The quest for increased safety for driver, passengers and all other road users was a key theme in the brand history of Mercedes-Benz. This vision has always been realized in an ongoing process of safety development. The result was a host of innovations that set standards for the entire automotive industry.
With the goal of vehicle safety becoming ever more complex, since the 1960s engineers and researchers have made a distinction between active safety (driving safety, physiological safety and operational safety) and passive safety (interior and exterior safety). Today, the focus is on holistic solutions for integrated vehicle safety that combine various systems. With Intelligent Drive, Mercedes-Benz offers its customers assistance and safety systems that guarantee maximum safety, comfort and driver stress reduction.
Safety development for every era
A key element in the long history of safety development at Mercedes-Benz is the safety steering system with telescopic steering column and impact absorber. It was introduced as standard 50 years ago – in August 1967 – for all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars. It comprises two innovative components that reduce the specific risks to the driver in the event of a collision: in the event of a frontal collision, the telescopic steering column, consisting of several parts, collapses so that it does not penetrate into the interior of the vehicle. The additional impact absorber in the centre of the steering wheel is designed to absorb and reduce the kinetic energy when the driver is thrown against it in a crash. Its development dates back to a first patent granted in 1954.
The advantages of the safety steering system were apparent at first glance in 1967. But what exactly is vehicle safety in all its facets? Each era in the history of the automobile has answered this question in its own way – and has placed corresponding demands on the manufacturer. Before the Second World War and in the early post-war years, for example, the main focus of the purchasers of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars was on ride comfort and high rigidity. For, so people considered at the time, a vehicle of maximum possible robustness was most likely to protect its occupants in an accident.
Yet the engineers and researchers at Mercedes-Benz were already thinking much further ahead. This is because, from as early as the late 1940s, they developed targeted solutions for vehicle safety – an ever more important goal in their work. Today's excellent standard of safety at Mercedes-Benz – and therefore a key pillar of the brand – is the result of an ongoing process involving a long series of innovations. Hence, the safety steering system did not stand in isolation in the summer of 1967. Instead, it was the product of an era in which the company's in-house safety research brought a host of important developments to maturity and introduced them into the production of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars.
The journey to vehicle safety
It was as early as 1959 that the safety body with rigid passenger cell and crumple zones made its debut in Mercedes-Benz "fintail" saloons (W 111). The father of this pioneering design was the Mercedes-Benz engineer Béla Barényi, who applied for a patent on the system in 1951. Barényi was hired in 1939 at the recommendation of the then head of experimental body development, Karl Wilfert. There, he was given the task of developing new vehicle concepts.
Barényi worked for Mercedes-Benz until 1974 and patented over 2500 of his inventions in that period. Many of them became the basis for pioneering solutions in automotive safety for the entire industry. In the 1950s, however, vehicle safety experts were also at work on minor, yet refined details that were to become the hallmark of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars.
Retractable Mercedes star
An example is the retractable Mercedes star, which made its debut 60 years ago in the summer of 1957. Although the underlying technology is relatively simple, it represents an important safety factor for pedestrians in the event of an accident. Thus, the trademark star, which has its origins in the classic radiator mascot, can still be used to this day – despite the ban on fixed radiator mascots in Germany, which was imposed in April 1959.
A June 1957 communication from the then Daimler-Benz AG to its branches and agencies stated the following about this innovation: "We are able to inform you that a 'retractable' Mercedes star has been developed for our vehicles [...]. The star is held under tension by a strong spiral spring in a ball bed of the now entirely flat holder and retracts when subjected to strong pressure. This innovation, which will be introduced before the end of June, reduces the risk of injury in an accident."
Safety with the star: this still applies to the history of innovation by the Stuttgart brand. Alongside the solutions already mentioned, further highlights in the 1950s and 1960s included the following innovations:
  • 1954: Single-joint swing axle with thrust arms in the 220 model (W 180)
  • 1957: Optionally available lap belts
  • 1958: Application for patent on wedge-pin door lock with double detent
  • 1961: Disc brakes at the front on the 220 SE Coupé (W 111) and on all four wheels on the 300 SE (W 112) and 300 SL Roadster (W 198)
  • 1961: Anchor points for front seat belts in all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars and diagonal shoulder belts as an optional extra
  • 1963: Dual-circuit braking system as standard on all Mercedes-Benz passenger car models