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Автором Karl Ludvigsen

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Автором Karl Ludvigsen

184 pages
1 hour
Aug 6, 2014


“ In view of the number of volumes that have been produced in recent years about Germany’s most famous auto maker, it must seem presumptuous to add yet another to the stack. Being relatively thin, this one had to be different. It devotes itself to Mercedes-Benz cars and the most specific and personal aspects of their development, performance and maintenance, at the unavoidable sacrifice of portions of the long history of this great firm. The fascinating story of Mercedes racing has been told by George Monkhouse, Laurence Pomeroy Jr. and S. C. H. Davis, among others, while the fine successes of 1954 and 1955 are still familiar to most readers. I’ve chosen to concentrate on several Mercedes and Benz racing machines that were extremely interesting and productive yet remain virtually unknown today. At the other end of the performance scale the distinctive Mercedes diesels are covered completely…”
(1959 - Karl E. Ludvigsen)
Aug 6, 2014

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MERCEDES-BENZ - Guide - Karl Ludvigsen



Caratch, the T.T., Muroc match races, Le Mans, a blower’s shriek and a gear set’s wail. The Big White Gars . . . visions sweeter than sugar plums and much more to my taste danced in my head as my good friend Tom Mix (no relation to the original but no less an enthusiast) laid out the latest results of his compulsive searches through the classified columns of Motorsport magazine: "This fellow’s last, letter says that the K-Type lost its bodywork sometime during the war and for a while was even used for ‘agricultural purposes’, worse luck. But he’s recently given it some mechanical attention and fitted it with some kind of a two-seater body. No doors, aero screen, and so forth. Very sporty. The engine and blower are supposed to be in fine shape, though the generator and starter aren’t working and there’s something about a split clutch plate. Doesn’t disengage too well, he says. He’s written out the starting drill, which is supposed to work without fail, and here’s the address of my shipping broker in New York.

I’m counting on you to get it up here in one piece, Tom concluded cheerily. It can’t be too bad, I mused, since it’s a Mercedes— though just a year old enough to be a Mercedes-Benz. Boston isn’t too far from New York, and the roads are good most of the way. And don’t forget the brakes, Tom called, as I set out toward my rendezvous with destiny. Forget them? Even today I can’t forget them. Not to mention the clutch.

Armed with starting drill, goggles and sou’wester, I confronted the personnel of Cunard Pier number 90. Their incredulity was ill-concealed. Yes, they said, the old crate would run. No, I said it wasn’t bound for a museum; I was going to drive it to Boston. Yes, I guess I was nuts. They humored me, though, and shortly the long, white machine was at a nearby garage, looking very much in one piece.

A K-Type touring car was an imposing machine, high and lofty in a prewar tradition, and its performance lived up to the promise of that lofty hood.

After various liquid elements were added and the battery's hiding pace found out, I tried the starting sequence, as follows:

1. Hand throttle shut

2. Ignition fully retarded

3. Mixture control full rich

4. Op:n fuel shut-off under cowl

5. Prime by lifting float lever under hex nut on back of carburetor

6. Open hand throttle six notches

7. Turn on magneto

8. Turn on coil

9. Pull up smartly on crank (five turns will be necessary)

10. Set spark at full advance

11. Mixture control full lean

None of the several score bystanders were more dumbfounded than myself when the Merc burst into life on precisely the fifth twirl, but I merely assumed a knowing look and went about the rest of my preparations.

Finally l clambered up and lowered myself into the ample bucket seat, behind a cord-wrapped steering wheel on the right-hand side.

My right knee had to make room for the magnificently crafted handbrake and gear lever, the latter sliding smoothly and precisely in its machined gate and requiring downward pressure for access to reverse. Fun and games were promised by the classic pedal arrangement of accelerator between clutch and brake. My first concern was mastery of the gear selection system, a problem which was to remain with me. Starting from rest was greatly simplified by a transmission countershaft brake, which brought the heavy whirling cogs to a halt when the clutch pedal was fully depressed.

The action of the clutch was remarkably smooth and not at all difficult, but the split disc in this car caused drag even when fully disengaged. This drag promptly brought heat, which compounded matters with more drag. A gear couldn’t be disengaged except at that precise instant when the car was passing from acceleration to overrun, or just when no power was being transmitted, as is usual when shifting without the clutch. Frankly I wasn’t in control of the situation until a few miles south of Hartford, where a smooth and silent progression through all four speeds gave me a deep inner satisfaction.

Lever travel between third and top gears was pleasantly short, making double-clutched downshifts very successful.

This model K has stripped to reveal its high frame line and very functional exhaust pipes. Fortunately it's a right-hand-drive version, like the car featured in this chapter, so the sturdy shift gate and hand brake lever can be seen.

Each gear set had its own distinctive screech, whine, growl or grumble, but the lever and other controls were rock solid at all times. To a degree I had been forced to learn to downshift by the brakes, which on these Mercedes aren’t good to begin with and which on this car weren’t even up to par. They’d just barely halt the K-Type in time if a heavy foot was combined with a long view ahead. The latter I did have, thanks to a lofty driving position from which I could look truck drivers straight in the eye.

On smooth surfaces the steering was among the best I’ve ever handled. About one and three-quarter play-free turns were required from lock to lock, making direction changing at speed a matter of thought rather than effort. Over bumps, however, this same sensitivity causes strong steering wheel kickback which called for a loose grip on the thick rim. A lot of muscle was naturally necessary at low speeds, but not so much as some old-timers would have you believe.

The general handling feel was very sure and solid, the 3,700 pound weight and very stiff springs making the K the original road locomotive. Small irregularities were readily absorbed by the tires and suspension, but the light bodywork had reduced the sprung/unsprung weight ratio at the rear, causing the tail end to be more sensitive. Combined with the long wheelbase this made the chassis susceptible to pitching, and on one unusually bumpy bend I was really motoring until the car and steering wheel both started leaping about alarmingly. There was very little I could do until the oscillations died down. On that one occasion the K definitely had a mind of its own, indicating that it would be most at home on typically English smooth and winding roads.

As the Merc and I trundled out of New York, merely idling up the West Side Drive, I was initially disappointed by the loose, noisy and rather disjointed feel of the car and engine. When a cruising speed of 2,000 rpm or 60 miles per hour was reached, though, individual disturbances seemed to blend and smooth out as the K got into its stride. The big six responded instantly to the throttle with a sharp and regular exhaust note. Wonderful though this was, it felt as nothing once the blower had been engaged.

Here’s the villain of the piece, the multi-plate dry clutch which remained tolerably effective in spite of a split disc. A massive coil spring serves to apply it, while a deep cone withdraws.

A Unique Experience

There’s a definite stop in the throttle travel past which things begin to happen. Audible evidence was provided by the whistling wail of the supercharger and a new crackle from the tailpipe, while the whole car seemed to receive the stimulus. All its components became as one as the Mercedes surged forward with renewed purpose, having received a very real second wind. Handling those massive controls, blasting along with the wind howling over the racing screen, is an unique motoring experience.

It’s hard to put the feeling into figures,

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