Shelby McLaren Mercedes-Benz 300SL-R
Shelby McLaren would often travel by steam train with his father from Edinburgh to the Aston Martin workshops in Feltham England. Shelby’s father had started on the workshop floor at Aston Martin but by the early 1950’s was designing racing cars, almost exclusively for Aston Martin. The pair travelled to the new Tickford workshop’s on a few occasions in the early part of 1955 as David Brown, the owner of AM, had a victory in his sights in a very particular race.
The Mille Miglia was a 1000 mile motor race held on a course made up entirely of public roads between Brescia and Rome in Italy. The race was part of the World Sportscar Championship and was the pinnacle of roadrace’s the world over.
Shelby’s father travelled to Italy for the race with the AMR team in 1955 but victory evaded them. The man who stood atop the podium that year was a driver who would come to be known as ‘Mr Motor Racing,’ one of the greatest drivers of all time, (Sir) Stirling Moss. The 25 year old Moss had entered the race as something of a favourite even though he had not yet scored a win in Formula 1. His ability to take a car well beyond its natural limits was already well established though and his fearless yet precise driving style would sustain him over such a long and arduous race.
Over 500 cars started the event leaving at 1 minute intervals with the cars bearing the number of the time they left Brescia. In the case of Moss and his co-driver Denis Jenkinson, it was car 722 (designating 7:22am). Jenkinson had made significant navigational notes prior to the event, proving to be pivotal to their success. Moss would approach blind crests at speeds north of 170mph (280kph) and rely on Jenkinson’s hand signals to ensure a left or right turn as required. Three people died in the race of ’55.
Moss achieved something in that race that was never eclipsed, he completed the round-trip in 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds. Moss drove at an average speed of 99mph (160kph). The car that made this historic win possible was the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL-R, the Sport Leicht-Rennen (Sport Light-Racing), a fuel-injected 3 litre, 8 cylinder, two seater that was by far the fastest road car in the world in its day.
Only nine 300 SLR’s were ever made and seven were present at The Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2015 where Moss drove the 722 car. Shelby attending this event is our recreation today.
Scalextric produced four Mercedes-Benz 300SLR’s, the #722 car (C2828), the #658 car (C2814) and the #19 car (C3024), the latter two being driven by Juan Manuel Fangio. The coupe (C2914) was the car owned by the architect of the 300 SLR, Rudolf Uhlenhaut. The beautifully detailed cars look very realistic but the unique, front-mounted motor position did not help them to be the best performers on track. They do however, capture a significant time in motorsport!