German Racing Silver, cover

Racing Colours are histories of a nation's motor racing drivers, designers, manufacturers and teams. German Racing Silver is the story of the legendary "Silver Arrows".

History of International Motor Racing and Legendary Silver Arrows

Many motor racing enthusiasts believe that the “Silver Arrow” term was first coined for the dominant Mercedes Grand Prix cars of the period immediately before and after the Second World War.

In German Racing Silver Karl Ludvigsen tells the story that “Silvery Arrow” (Silberne Pfeil) was used earlier, in 1932, to describe the Mercedes-Benz W25 although at least one was painted white which may have been scraped off to get the car down to the 750kg weight limit.

Later in in the 1930s the press shortened it to “Silberpfeil” – the now legendary “Silver Arrow” nickname. It has more recently been used as the nickname for the Mercedes endurance cars and for the Mclaren-Mercedes Formula 1 cars until Mercedes-Benz launched their own team, in silver of course.

National Racing Colour – White or Silver?

The original national racing colour for German cars was white with red racing numbers. It was used in the Gordon Bennett races of the early 20th century which established national colours. Until the late 1920s white continued to be used although some teams used a very thin coat of paint, to save weight, which allowed the aluminium bodywork to show through. It was then only a short step to polish the unpainted aluminium coachwork – silver thus became the racing colour for Germany and it persists despite corporate sponsorship. However away from Grand Prix racing white continued to be used as well as silver in international motor racing.

Germany manufacturers and teams have had long-term success away from Formula 1. The German Touring Car championship is one of the great national championships for touring or saloon cars. It has provided a platform for success in international touring and sport car championships. In particular BMW dominated saloon car racing as have Porsche in endurance racing.

In the 1980s Mercedes-Benz returned, after a long break , to endurance racing before returning to Formula 1. Audi then took over the German role in endurance racing and have dominated for many years becoming the first team to win the Le Mans 24 hour race with a diesel engined car.

Building a Definitive History of Motor Racing

German Racing Silver is part of the Racing Colours series which form a definitive history of early motoring and motorsport. As such a set should be on every motor racing enthusiast’s bookshelf.

German Racing Siilver is a tightly written and detailed history of Germany's role in international motor racing. It is a good read that forms an important reference for anyone interested in motor sport. Like British Racing Green, Italian Racing Red and French Racing Blue German Racing Silver is a slim large format volume. Hopefully Ian Allan will follow up with further volumes to build the definitive history of motor racing.

The Author

Karl Ludvigsen is a noted motoring historian and archivist. He has an extensive career in the motor industry and as a consultant. He has published some fifty books on motoring matters and has edited major car magazines such as Car and Driver. He is the Series Editor for Racing Colours.

German Racing Silver (2009, ISBN: 978-0-7110-3368-9) by Karl Ludvigsen is published in hardback by Ian Allan at £24.99 ($39.95).

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