This is one of the cars in the Donington Collection which I photographed when I visited the museum at Donington Park in September last year.
This car certainly looks like a 1937 Mercedes Benz W125 and by all accounts it sounds and smells like a Mercedes Benz W125, but in fact it was specially built for the Donington Collection from original working drawings as the board in front of the car explains:
Replica of 1937 W125 Grand Prix Car
It was long coveted by the Donington Grand Prix Collection founder and owner,
Tom Wheatcroft, to own a Mercedes W125 Grand Prix car. However, a lack of
availability and sky high prices stopped this from becoming a reality. Never one to
miss an opportunity (even though he was already in his 80's!), Tom and his son
Kevin embarked on a project to reconstruct this legendary Grand Prix car.
In order to set the project in motion, Kevin Wheatcroft spent a considerable
amount of money and many hours scouring the world for parts. During this
exhaustive search, he stumbled across a complete set of working drawings. The
drawings were in the process of being carefully restored and redrawn, when an
opportunity arose to borrow an original untouched example of a 1937 Grand Prix
Mercedes W125 – this was through the kind co-operation of the Schlumpf
Collection (Cité de l'Automobile).
Over the next year, the car was painstakingly measured and data collected –
a tireless effort to ensure all details of the car were accurately recorded. An
interesting fact was that the car borrowed was in fact the 1937 Donington Grand
Prix car, driven by Hermann Lang – his name and race number still being written
on the underside of the seat cushion. This car had the benefit of never being
touched and therefore completely original. The project was further enhanced by
the generosity of Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula 1 Supremo, in that he allowed
access to his original restored example, the only one in private hands.
With this wealth of data and information, thousands of photographs and original
engineering notes, the long task of producing a replica began (Tom and Kevin, no
strangers to exceptional recreations, had previously built the Bugatti Royale,
where over 100,000 manhours went into producing the patterns, jigs, drawings
and build programme).
The result of such dedication is this truly wonderful replica, which exudes all the
charisma, sound, sight and smell of the original machine. It was just possible for
the late Tom Wheatcroft to hear and smell the car start for the first time, before
he sadly passed away. It was left to his son, Kevin, to prove the car for the first
time, thundering round Donington Park, imagining the echoes of a yesteryear…
The only thing it seems to lack is the Mercedes Benz badge above the radiator grille