Talking of Supercars

21 May 2022

The Blitzen Benz was an early 20th-century Supercar. It was known as a legendary race car with a roar like thunder.

The Blitzen Benz was a race car built by Benz & Cie in Mannheim, Germany; for its first outing in 1909, the engine was situated within the body of the Benz Grand Prix automobile of 1908, the Benz 150.

The new 200hp Blitzen car made its first appearance on 17 October 1909 in a sprint race in Brussels, which it promptly won.

Benz & Cie had just one objective: a maximum speed of more than 125mph. By widening the bore, the displacement of the four-cylinder racing engine increased from 15.1 litres to a colossal 21.5 litres. No racing or record-attempt car from Mercedes-Benz has ever had a larger engine displacement.

At Brooklands, on the 9 November 1909, the Blitzen, driven by race driver Frenchman Victor Hémery
achieved the Land Speed Record with an average speed of 126mph over one kilometre. On 23 April 1911, the Blitzen Benz achieved an absolute speed record (at that time, absolute meant speed over land, air or water) driven by Bob Burman at Daytona Beach when it successfully attained an average speed of 141.7mph.

None of these incredible achievements had the blessing of Carl Benz; in his opinion, motor racing did not add anything of value to the production of regular automobiles. However, Julius Ganss, a board member at Benz & Cie, had different ideas; he realised the mass power of publicity.

Only six Blitzen Benzes were made. Only two survive; one is on view at the Mercedes-Benz museum, while the other belongs to a Californian collector, William Evans Jr and his Blitzen is still driven competitively at events like the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

The definition of Blitzen is ‘a sudden, swift, and overwhelming military attack’, which seems remarkably apt.

On the other hand, it was also the name of one of Santa Claus’s reindeers!