Cars

Watch Jay Leno drive the original Silver Arrow, the 1932 Mercedes-Benz SSKL

Racing legends typically have questionable histories equally rooted in myth and fact.

Not so with the Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows. The name traces its roots to several legends, but just one legendary race car: the 1932 Mercedes-Benz SSKL.

The racer that appears on this episode of Jay Leno’s Garage is a reproduction of the 1932 SSKL, which was produced from an original SSK racer—the “L” stands for lightweight. The car is accompanied by Michael Kunz, manager of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center.

The SSKL was a lighter weight, aerodynamically improved version of the road-going SSK, which stood for “Super Sport Short,” model of the day. The SSKL was 275 pounds lighter than the SSK, due to a drilled chassis. The SSKL’s nose is part of the aerodynamic process, a longer hood that was more sculpted with a 2-foot indent to feed the radiator tasked with cooling a massive engine. The SSKL is powered by a 7.0-liter inline-6 supercharged to about 300 horsepower.

The top speed was around 150 mph, according to Kunz, mostly limited to the tire tech of the era.

The SSKL’s bare-metal finish was born out of necessity—the race car was finished just in time to race in Germany without time to paint the body white. The SSKL competed in the mostly straight-line Avus race, where it won. Radio broadcasters at the time called it a “silver arrow” and the name stuck.

Twin carburetors fed by a massive supercharger boosted the engine—reportedly for only 10 seconds at a time.

Jay and Kunz dive deep into the car‘s history. Only four were made, and it’s an automotive legend in its own right.

The payoff comes in the last few minutes, when Jay gets to drive the car on the streets of Los Angeles (we doubt it’s titled) and we get to hear a legend at work. The SSKL howls in the video above, and it’s worth a watch.

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