1931 Mercedes-Benz SSKL Diecast Model

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CMC 1931 Mercedes-Benz SSKL Mille Miglia diecast car
Customer Rating: 10 stars
  • Year: 1931
  • Brand: CMC
  • Make: Mercedes-Benz
  • Code: CMC055
  • Model: SSKL Mille Miglia
  • Scale: 1:18
  • Points to redeem: 43

Adversity is sometimes the engine of innovation. There have been few more adverse conditions in the racing world than that of the great depression of the 1930s.

The financial conditions were so crippling, that Mercedes Benz threatened to withdraw from racing for the 1931 season. Alfred Neubauer proposed a Draconian solution – field a team made up of just six people – including the driver’s wife – to compete in the Mille Miglia. There was only one problem – well, other than the money - the driver (and by extension a crew member) wasn’t under contract to Mercedes, he was promised to Alfa Romeo. But the Alfa works team had their own cash problems and graciously let Mercedes “borrow” Rudolf Caracciola as they could only afford to field the two works cars promised to Nuvolari and Arcangeli.

While Neubauer had to finagle to get a driver, he knew he had a car. The Mercedes SSK (short for Super Sport Short), engineered by Ferdinand Porsche, had been the dominant car in road racing since 1927. As modeled here by CMC, it is the 1931 SSKL with the “L” standing for “light”. Since Neubauer did not have the resources to tinker much with engine development, he instead found every solid body, chassis and suspension piece possible and drilled holes in it to minimize weight without compromising rigidity. When all the air had been created where metal used to be, the car had shed 125kg. Looking at this brilliant CMC model, you see this evidenced everywhere, not only the louvered hood, but rocker panels, minimal fenders and lightened suspension. So, the famed “White Elephant”, as the Mercedes racers were commonly known, became more puma than pachyderm. The simple white color with contrasting paint copper brown fenders and the black tampo graphic 87 white body is elegantly presented on the model.

At the start of the initial run from Brescia, 33 of the 99 starters lined up running Alfas led by their premiere model the Tipo 8C 2300. Lesser Alfa teams ran an assortment of previous models, including an entry from Scuderia Ferrari. There was Varzi piloting a new Bugatti T50 with a ground pounding engine developed by Miller, the famous American Indy car maker that had been acquired by the Molsheim firm. Among other lights were OM, running what turned out to be their final Mille Miglia, and an Austin 7 piloted by Charles Goodacre. When the race started at 3:20 on April 11, ahead lay treacherous road, hence the need for a unique combination of horsepower, sturdy suspension, reliable wheels and tires and a co pilot that was good with a tool box.

You can see the attention to detail on all these parts of the model; the hand strung stainless steel knock off wheels, with each supple spoke connected to the rim by a nipple stem. The tires are real rubber, have extruded markings and real stems. Knockoffs can be removed for closer inspection. There are two tires packed on the back with a functional lock down mechanism. Consider that Nuvolari had to manage eighteen tire changes during the race and you’ll understand why two tires were a necessity. Gigantic copper enclosed drum brakes provide the stopping power. There are two tool boxes outfitted with miniature tools, one made of genuine wood with steel fittings, the other leather strapped steel.

In the cockpit with Caracciola sat his co-pilot/engineer William Sebastian and their ribbed leather seating on the model is butter soft. The leather wrapped sterring wheel and glass covered dials and gauges are sophisticated. There are movable hand levers for ignition and acceleration though the posable windshield was not in place on my review sample. Another issue was the nonfunctioning steering - the steering wheel did not pivot with the wheels.

Not far into the race, it became evident the SSKL was going to outlast some of the more generously supported competitors. Varzi's new Bugatti engine was quickly exhausted. Nuvolari was haunted by an endless series of tire failures. All the while, the Mercedes straight six ran reliably and true. Undo the leather tie down, the hood pivots easily to view the miraculous miniature engine. It is primarily metal but also includes detail like copper plumbing and cotton wrapped headers. Massive exhaust headers flare out of one side. The proud grill made of fine mesh and white headlights with chrome trim gives the car a majesty that typifies the best Mercedes.

On the last leg, Caricciola picked up a “second wind” according to contemporary accounts. That sudden burst of energy due in part to the ingenious suspension, a combination of leaf springs and trailing arms. Sturdy and enduring, it kept Caracciola hurtling through the night while several competitors crashed out. Following all the intricacies of the working suspension, fuel, exhaust and oil systems – all with a high content of metal parts - will give hobbyists much enjoyment. I wish the drive shaft was functional – a feature generally available in other precision models but it’s certainly not a showstopper.

When the SSKL crossed the finish line in Brescia in P1, it is said that Caricciola won not only the race, but also won the Mille Miglia a stay of execution as an international driving event. Another foreign competitor would not win the race for 24 years, and it would take a driver the caliber of Sir Stirling Moss to do that. In 1931, for a brief shining moment, the German "White Elephant" was the most important race car in Europe. It says here that 75 years later, CMC has produced a model that is just as legendary.

-Rusty Hurley

  • Our Price: $548.00
  • Deposit Required: $3.00
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