Sunday, July 5, 2009
What would Buck Rogers Drive?
The New York Times points out that this weekend Mercedes-Benz is marking the 75th anniversary of die Silberpfeile — the racecars known as the Silver Arrows. From the Times story, here:
“As the story goes, technicians from Mercedes-Benz stripped the white paint off its grand prix cars at the 1934 International Eifel race at the Nürburgring track in Germany to bring the cars below the maximum weight permitted by the new racing formula of the time, 750 kilograms, or 1,650 pounds.
True or not, the Silver Arrows were born. Manfred von Brauchitsch delivered a win in the debut of the W 25 race car at the Nürburgring. And until 1939, when World War II put a halt to racing in Europe, the Silver Arrows were dominant on the track, matched only (and only occasionally) by race cars from its arch competitor, Auto Union.”
It was the Silver Arrows, as it happens, that brought about The Racecar Alphabet. When I came across an image of one of those cars a few years ago, a switch went off in my head. I had never been much of a racing fan, but suddenly I appreciated how extraordinarily beautiful these cars could be. Here was sculpture, nothing less. It just happened to be sculpture you could drive through scenic European settings at extraordinary speeds. The desire to spend time with those shapes and forms was the genesis of the book.
A few good pictures of Silver Arrows can be found by clicking here and scrolling down to the wallpaper images near the bottom of the page, and of course more are on the Web if you feel up to the image search.
Above: An early and unused cover painting for The Racecar Alphabet, with a Mercedes-Benz W154 in the lead and a couple of Alfa Romeos and a Bugatti playing catch up.